- Result: Galwegians Women 5 - Highfield 34
- Venue: Highfield RFC on Sun Oct 30th 2011
- Competition: AIL Womens League
Decimated player ranks rife with injury cast a pall over Galwegians’ fourth round league fixture away to Highfield in Cork on Sunday, but the 34-5 defeat was not without its virtues.
Foremost among which was a gargantuan performance from blindside Maire Murray. Murray typified many of the flankers who stole the Rugby World Cup show last month diving into her own work with characteristic gusto and assuming others’ jobs on occasion also. Safe and stoic on defence with ball-runners in front of her, Murray’s cover defensive workrate was without parallel, and solely responsible for denying Highfield two near-certain scores.
Taking their lead from Murray, tight forwards Sarah Brennan (prop) and lock Laura Feely upped their defensive workrate on the fringe and each scuppered two further Highfield tries inches from the line. With fellow engine-roomer Katie McDonagh, Feely and Brennan shored up any gaps on ruck and maul fringes and worked tirelessly throughout the first-half.
Galwegians was short five starting backs from last year’s Paul Flood final; newcomer Becky McPhilbin (10) and wing-cum-centre Sarah Healy the pick of Saturday’s crop.
Galwegians’ opened with a furious onslaught paying little heed to the hosts’ last year’s league runners-up, and while Highfield claimed more than 90percent possession (with corresponding territory stats), Galwegians forced mistake after mistake frustrating up to half a dozen scoring opportunities in the first quarter-hour.
Mistakes were not all Highfield’s however, the Galwegians’ forwards surrendered three turnovers on the ground, the backs’ catching and passing more characteristic of a first week than a fourth – frustrating for forwards and fans alike.
The second 20 of the first half, and first of the second was all Highfield, the scoreboard reflecting as much. Five tries, three conversions and a penalty in 45 minutes of football equates to several nails in a coffin, but the baby blue forwards managed to prise one nail out to post five points on the board.
Right wing Sandra Gannon latched on to an awkward Helen Brosnan clearance, evaded one would-be tackler and sought inroads away from the sideline. Gannon found ample support in Tosh Haywood and captain Emer O’Dowd for a maul right on halfway. There followed a concerted forward campaign which involved all eight, scrumhalf Anne O’Callaghan and McPhilbin outside which marched 46m toward the Highfield stronghold. Haywood and McDonagh’s slick handling freed the ball to open runners, and international Carol Staunton, Sarah Brennan, and Ruth O’Reilly sought to expose defensive weaknesses against tiring opposition.
The discipline and concentration, which so often lagged in last year’s final stages, was never more apparent than over Sunday’s closing seconds, and Sligo arrival Feely wound up with the ball for the final shunt over the line.