NUIG women travelled to UCD for the 2nd annual IURU Intervarsity Kay Bowen Cup competition on Saturday. The Connacht side took on University College Dublin, University College Cork and last year’s winners Trinity College Dublin in the pool stages and met Trinity again in the final. All ties were 20 minutes.
NUIG made a statement of intent in their first game against the hosts which finished up 25-0. Centre Orla Dixon started the day in superb form carving through the UCD defensive line to score three tries. Intelligent chips over the top from NUIG outhalf Rhona Julian were working well with effective chasing gaining ground for the Galway side. On form second row Grainne Donnellan made a great break through a centre, evading several tackles and making great yardage before being tackled short of the line. NUIG weren’t content with their lead and added tries from winger Alex Hennessy Allen and Louise “Paris” Kelly, NUIG number 8, before the full time whistle sounded.
UCC, who NUIG will meet again in the New Year as part of the SSI intervarsity league, played a very physical game. Scrums were uncontested giving both sides loose forwards an attacking platform and speeding up the pace of the game. NUIG benefited from having Julian back in action for the third fixture of the day. This left Eliza Kelly free to deal with UCCs kicking game. Kelly’s counter attacking was immense and a major contributing factor to NUIG retaining most of the territory for the game. UCC, however, had the majority of possession and the frantic pace which the game was played was exhausting for both sides. Julian relieved the pressure for the Galway students with a well taken try adding the extras herself.
The current title holders, TCD, were the next fixture. Trinity, keen to hold on to their title, attacked the wings well but wingers Barbara Oliveira and Hennessy Allen dealt with all that was thrown at them. An injury to outhalf Julian saw scrum half Hannah Smith come in at 10 and fullback Eliza Kelly filling in at scrumhalf. The Trinity defence was strong but struggled to contain Dixon, whose individual performance was stand out, throughout the entire competition. She scored two tries, one at the death which she managed to prize from TCD hands and dot it down beside the posts. The extras were added by Moylough legend Louise Kelly.
TCD beat UCC and UCD to book the other final spot. The two teams were well matched in the final but in the closing minutes the Galway women found themselves with both the possession and territory required to mount an attack. In the left hand corner slow yards were made with patient phases by the pack. Louise Fitzgerald, Elizabeth McKeever, Brid Reddington and Elaine Johnson all carried ball well. The ball eventually came again to Dixon who, with what turned out to be the last play of the game, made an unconventional dash to the opposite corner of the field crossing the line to win the cup for NUIG.
After a tough November that has seen NUIG play six fixtures it’s a performance the girls in Maroon can be proud of. A nine try haul in 80 minutes showed enterprise in attack but this was matched by a defensive clean sheet with not a single try conceded. While the side at the tournament was missing three of NUIGs most prolific players (Rita Breen, Edel McMahon and Heather Cary were part of the Connacht side which took on Ulster) senior players really stepped up their performance complimented by an array of new players who have joined the side this season and are already making their mark and pushing for starting spots. Grainne Donnellan, playing her best ever rugby currently, stood out and will be sorely missed next semester as her studies take her abroad.
Christmas starts here for the NUIG women with fixtures starting up again in late January.
Thanks to the organisers at the IURU, the hosts UCD, coaching staff and all the teams that took part.