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Rugby: Tullamore let Highfield off the hook in Women's All Ireland League

Late penalty secures bonus point for Tullamore

Women's All Ireland League

Tullamore 15 Highfield 20

Tullamore Ladies took on the might of Highfield RFC at the weekend. After a crushing defeat to Railway Union the previous weekend, Tullamore were on a mission to prove themselves worthy of AIL status.

Highfield set the tempo for the game on kick off with a thunderous tackle from Irish international Leah Lyons on Nichola Fryday. Tullamore are not a team to shy away from physicality and with that the game roared into action.

It was a ferocious encounter with both sides looking for their first win of this year's All Ireland League. It was to be Highfield who would break the deadlock on 10 minutes as they went 5-0 up after building the phases to dot down in the corner.

This was to be the only score of the first half as both teams battled for possession. Tullamore had most of the possession but lacked the finishing touches to make it count on the score board.

Highfield started the second half on the front foot and again picked off another try, this time with quick ball unleashing their winger to cross the whitewash. With two conversion missed, Tullamore were still in it and they kicked it up a gear, with Emer Phelan leading from the front.

Emer broke the Highfield line countless times driving onwards seeking out the try line. Highfield were put under massive pressure from the advancing Tullamore defence forcing Leah Lyons to kick from her own 22’. Clare Currams attacked the Highfield wall of defence after the misplaced kick and stepped inside to find some much needed space. Tullamore’s quick offloading released Clare Cantwell and Tullamore found themselves back in it at 7-10 on 50 minutes with Kim Cobbe kicking the conversion.

On the restart Tullamore again surged towards the Highfield try line. Momentum was with the Tulliers and Emer Phelan again carried at least 40 yards, managing to offload under pressure to Shannon Toughey. Quick hands and superb support play from Pauline Keating saw Tullamore cross the whitewash for their second try. This lifted the home team and their supporters and Tullamore saw themselves ahead for the first time this season.

It was not to be however as Highfield punished Tullamore for resting on their laurels after securing the lead. A well worked maul allowed Lyons to barrel over on 59 minutes for Highfield’s third try of the game, despite some superb tackling from Nichola Fryday, Moya Griffin and Kim Cobbe on the try line.

With the scoreline on 12-15 with 20 minutes to go it was a game that was there for the taking. Unfortunately for Tullamore it was Highfield who stepped up to steal the victory on the 76th minute. Irish international Heather O’Brien caught the tiring Tullamore defence on the hop, sneaking in on the blind side off a scrum on the 5 metre line.

With the scoreline at 12-20, Tullamore valiantly restarted and Ciara Farrell and Roisin Feighery combined brilliantly to win a turnover. Quick hands from Brigid Hyland unleashed the ever threatening Emer Phelan on another darting break. Phelan’s pace caught the Highfield defence napping and forced an error earning a Tullamore a penalty in the dying seconds of the match. With the win out of reach, Kim Cobbe opted for the posts. With the final kick of the game Kim converted leaving the final score 15-20, securing a losing bonus point for Tullamore.

The girls, their coaches and supporters were very disappointed on the final whistle. The game was certainly there for the taking. That being said, it took guts and determination to come out fighting after last week's tough defeat. This team has huge potential and this was demonstrated today with flashes of brilliance throughout the game.

The key to success will be in ensuring consistency throughout the game and being more clinical in converting possession to scores. Tullamore will learn from this experience and aim build on this performance as they take on Old Belvedere in two weeks time.

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