Emer Phelan, player of the match
Tullamore table topping ladies took on second place Tullow on a great December day for rugby, conditions were cold dry with a very slight breeze.
Tullamore got off to a slow start, and the opposite can be said of Tullow who flew out of the blocks. Tullow received kick off and immediately went on the attack, making ground into the Tullamore 22. Some resolute defence from Tullamore prevented the perfect start for Tullow, however, an infringement by Tullamore gave a way an easy penalty kick to give Tullow a 3 point lead after 5 minutes.
It was de-je-vu from the re-start, will Tullow receiving and again going straight on the attack moving the ball wide. This time solid defence from Tullamore was rewarded by an error from Tullow. Tullamore finally getting their hands on the ball, were a little guilty of being over eager to get their game going. A few handling errors from both sides made for an inconsistent few minutes, resulting in Tullow being awarded another kickable penalty in Tullamore’s 22. Fortunately for the home side, Tullow’s kicker was just wide with the attempt.
Tullamore sprung to life, it was Ayesha Roche, Tullamore’s try scoring hero the previous 2 weeks, leading the way in defence this week. She was a torn in Tullow’s attack all day, covered every inch of the pitch producing tackle after tackle and a number of turnovers, who forced an error from the re-start. Now in possession some glimpses of the talent in this Tullamore team were starting to show. Some strong carries from Connacht Inter Pro Ciara Farrell, who was immense throughout the game, Emer Phelan and Rachel Tierney made inroads into Tullow’s half. Interlinking with the backs Tullamore’s general at 10, Emma Kelly dragged Tullow from side to side, creating an overlap out wide right. Tullow were caught in defence with the sole defender making an excellent read to intercept what surely would have been a Tullamore try, unfortunately the intercept resulted in a break away try the other end, with the Tullow kicker converting from straight under the posts to give them a 10-0 lead after 30 minutes of play.
Tullamore’s heads could have dropped at this point but, throughout this season there is one thing with this group of players that is impossible to question, and that’s the sheer character in this team. After a swift telling off from Head Coach Dermot Tierney under the posts, Tullamore clicked into gear and what followed was a joy for all in attendance to see. From the re-start, suffocating defence from Tullamore resulted in Niamh Hickey producing an excellent chop tackle on one of Tullow’s big ball carrying forwards, and as always her ever present partner in crime Laura Sampson was there to complete the turnover. With ball in hand Tullamore built the phases, again menacing runs from Emer Phelan, Hannah Foxe, Ciara Farrell and Tullamore’s newly capped IrelandiInternational Shannon Tuohy were breaking the gain line consistently. Emma Kelly again pulling the strings dragging Tullow’s defence from side to side patiently waiting for an opportunity to show itself. And when it did, Tullamore made no mistake this time. Interlinking with the forwards Emma released her backline, slick handling and lines of running sent Caraoline Aherne who is in red hot form recently, over in the right hand side for Tullamore’s first score. An exceptional try scored with phases built, some classy offloading and sublime execution the ball must have passed through every Tullamore player’s hands in the build up to it the score. A brilliant team score, which supporters of this team are familiar with seeing.
This group having scored some real highlight reel tries in recent games. When this team clicks into gear with the mix of power and pace, they are devastating and absolutely brilliant to watch. Emma Kelly’s conversion attempt from wide right was struck lovely but hit the post leaving the score 5-10 to Tullow. Tullamore lifted the tempo for the remainder of the first half taking advantage of some quick tap penalties by scrum half Lucy Heckemann making her debut, keeping Tullamore on the front foot and going into half the stronger.
Tullamore started the second period strong with great carries from Shannon Touhy making huge after contact yardage. Tullamore built their way into Tullow’s 22 on a number of occasions with promising play, but to be fair to Tullow although starting to tire, they held strong in defence and managed a couple of turnovers, but each time were forced to kick under huge pressure from the well organised Tullamore defence line. These kicks were being fielded by Connacht Inter Pro player Sinead Rigney whose positioning at full back was inch perfect all day. Sinead as always carried back with real intent, always beating the first couple of defenders and putting Tullamore back on the front foot. The pressure resulted in a penalty under the posts. Emma Kelly stepped up and sent the ball straight through the posts, making the score 8-10 in Tullow’s favour after 10 minutes of the second half.
Tullamore introduced Orla Fox at scrum half at this point, who immediately raised the tempo of the game, her quick passing giving the backline extra time with the ball, and in defence playing like an additional wing forward putting her body on the line to make some important hits. The game went through a scrappy 5 minute period - although mainly played out in Tullow’s half neither team could manage to hold onto the ball for more than a couple of phases, this made for a hugely exciting spectacle for the viewers in the stands as both teams, like two boxers stood toe to toe, threw everything at each other neither side taking a backwards step.
Tullamore’s Saoirse Quinn who is growing week on week as a player, showed her ever willingness to making telling hits and bounce straight back up for the next one, supported in the second row now by Clodagh Thompson, who came on with, what is known in rugby circles as a “boom” with a shattering hit which left her and her opponent a little tender. Tullamore eventually did come out on top of this period, winning a penalty to the left of the goal posts, a quick leadership group meeting in the middle of the pitch resulted in Emma Kelly pointing to the posts. Another lovely struck effort from Emma put Tullamore in a 1 point lead at a score line of 11-10, their first time to lead in the game.
Rachel Conroy the youngest member of the team, had another bright showing, a couple of nice carries with the ball but has to be commended for her bravery in defence where she just refuses to let anyone get past her. She made way for Kim Cobbe who was making her first appearance of the season and was straight into action with some perfectly timed tackles stopping Tullow attacks.
Huge credit has to go to the Tullow ladies. From the resulting re-start they threw their all at Tullamore and fought their way into the Tullamore 22, setting up for a sustained period of pressure. It is these type of situations this group of players repeatedly step up and show their character. It has been seen in a number of games this season but maybe none so as important as this one. The girls just kept turning up for each other, tackle after tackle knocking back the big Tullow carriers. This was epitomised by front rower Caitriona Kielty who played the entire 80 minutes and was still standing strong in this defensive effort. This spirit was duly rewarded with Tullamore securing a turnover steal, and Emma Kelly making a great clearing kick.
The ref called last play at the resulting lineout, time for one more Tullow attack. Tullamore’s Niamh Hickey had other plans. Disrupting Tullow’s lineout all day, she sprung up for one last steal, knocking the ball back on Tullamore’s side and swiftly kicked into touch for the final whistle. A deserved but very hard fought win for Tullamore keeping them top of the table. Huge credit and thanks to Tullow ladies, who are a credit to themselves and their club they fought hard and fair all game, and have definitely provided the strongest challenge Tullamore have faced to date.
A massive team win for Tullamore, with standout performances in the pack coming from Hannah Foxe, Ciara Farrell and Rachel Tierney, and in the backline Emma Kelly and Ayesha Roche. Player of the Day was the outstanding Emer Phelan: watched on by her son Daniel, she has been consistently brilliant all season. Emer receives a gift voucher from KODE Clothing Tullamore, who have generously committed to awarding a gift voucher to the player of the day for Tullamore ladies home games.
Tullamore ladies face a huge game next Sunday in Spollenstown at 1pm against Railway Union. The winner of this game will possibly have a huge say in where the league trophy will end up come the end of the season. All support for this game and future games would be hugely welcomed by the team. Any parents with young girls playing or who have an interest in rugby come support the girls this weekend on their journey promoting ladies rugby. Tullamore Ladies team has a number of future stars, a number of Interpro players, and a fully-fledged Irish International in Shannon Tuohy. The girls play an exciting brand of rugby and are flourishing under the excellent coaching of Head Coach Dermot Tierney and Richie Hughes.
If anyone is interested in joining the Tullamore Ladies Rugby team, training is on every Wednesday and Friday at 7.30pm.
TULLAMORE: Catriona Kiely, Ciara Farrell, Emer Feighery, Saoirse Quinn, Laura Sampson, Hannah Foxe, Niamh Hickey, Rachel Tierney, Lucy Heckemann, Emma Kelly, Caroline Ahern, Ayesha Roche, Shannon Touhey, Rachel Conroy, Sinead Rigney. Replacements – Roisin Feighery, Clodagh Thompson, Kate Conroy, Rebecca Gavin, Orlaith Foxe, Ciara Dunican, Kim Cobbe.
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