Tuam RFC 0 – 45 Canterbury Warriors
The provincial club season concluded on Saturday with two absorbing finals which decided this year’s Connacht Invitational Cup competition winners.
The first, the Plate final, brought together Connacht League opponents Tuam RFC – late entrants after Dungarvan’s withdrawl – and Canterbury Warriors – the amalgamation of Carrick-on-Shannon RFC and Longford RFC. The Warriors, no strangers to big occasions having contested this season’s league final, were to make amends for that defeat with a dominant performance.
Played at the stunning Dangan home of NUIG RFC, it was the Warriors who started with the most urgency, carrying strongly deep into Tuam territory, and settling there for the duration of the first half. Full back Carol Manning opened their account with a strong finish out wide, a lead which increased to 24-nil at halftime.
Tuam’s enduring defence efforts were highly credited but could not halt the inevitable. Incessant Warriors attack was mitigated only for a quarter of the game when Tuam turned the tables but failed to manifest a score. Ultimately, the Warriors’ organisation ensured they were not to be denied. Strong running from the likes of Emma Dardis, Natasha Pennamon, and Yvonne Dowd contributed to a doubling of their lead to bring the final score to 45-0.
Tullamore RFC 5 – 3 Castlebar RFC
Meanwhile, Tullamore RFC and Castlebar RFC met for the first time in the Invitational Cup final, played in front of a large crowd at the Sportsgrounds. Those that attended were treated to an 80 minute contest of unbridled intensity usually reserved for the final phases of a championship game. Castlebar’s restricted foray into Tullamore territory for the latter 20mins of the first half resulted in a 3-0 halftime lead thanks to a well taken penalty from outhalf Darwyn O’Halloran.
The second half started as the first had ended – with Castlebar marginally in the ascendancy. But Tullamore ensured this was for a limited time; fantastic interlinking play between backs and forwards brought the Offaly outfit to within touching distance of the try line. Captain Ailsa Hughes obliged and crossed over to give her team a two point lead.
Thereafter, the intensity rose to fever pitch with promising attacks snuffed out by ferocious defence from both sides, with Tullamore centre Roisin Feighrey in particular giving a master class in defensive duties.
The end-to-end intensity and drama were a blessing for the neutral. However, relief and joy amongst the Offaly contingent were palpable when referee Jason Craughwell blew the whistle to end the game, crown Tullamore champions, and conclude a memorable day for women’s rugby in the region.