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Sarah Daly (Mallow RFC) offloads under pressure
Munster Girls Just Short of the Mark
4 April 2008, 8:50 am
By Padraig Culbert
The Munster Under 18 Girls' team opened their season with a narrow loss to top English side, East Midlands at Cork Institute of Technology on Sunday last.

Munster 19 East Midlands 24

East Midlands held possession for the opening minutes of the game and excellent defence by Munster soon caused a turnover. With only four minutes played, Ashling Hutchings made a searing break down the right wing. She was tackled on the opposition 22 and offloaded to Rosie Lynch who crashed over for a great try. Sandra Keane duly added the extra points with an excellent conversion kick. With only 4 minutes played, Munster had started brightly and things looked good.

However, it soon became obvious that East Midlands had the advantage in the tight exchanges and out-muscled Munster in ruck situations. Some good tactical kicking with the advantage of a strong wind saw the English visitors take up position in the Munster 22 time and time again. Inexorable pressure from East Midlands with strong pick-and-go rugby eventualy created a gap and a try resulted under the Munster posts. The conversion kick brought the sides level on seven points all.

The English side showed their class in a very conservative style of rugby and added a further try two minutes later. The conversion kick was scored. Munster stepped up a gear and tried to play to their own strengths, spreading the ball wide at every opportunity and excellent attacking phases kept East Midlands under pressure. When the visitors had possession, a "red wall" of Munster defenders won turn-over after turn-over.

One such reversal saw the ball reach the hands of Freda Casey, who split the English side's defences and sprinted for a fine try under the posts. Again, Sandra Keane kicked the conversion and the half-time whistle yielded a fourteen points all scoreline.

The second half started with a sustained period of East Midlands possession, some of which was unfortunately gifted to them in the form of penalties by Munster indiscipline. After twenty minutes into the second half, the visitors commenced a series of pick-and-go rucks that brought them 60 metres to the Munster line and a well-deserved try. The conversion was missed.

On the 28th minute, full-back Ashling Hutchings crossed the English side's line for a fine try. Sandra Keane's conversion almost touched the right upright as it skimmed wide, leaving the sides level with 15 minutes to play. However, strong rucking and tight play by East Midlands saw them hold on to possession for extended periods of time and, with only minutes to go, they crashed over for a last unconverted try to win the game by a single score.

Munster Head Coach Padraig Culbert said afterwards that he was happy with many aspects of the Munster play and that it was a good start for the Munster girls after only a handful of training sessions. He said that he expects the team to improve in a small number of areas ahead of their clash with Leinster in two weeks time. "The Munster girls today showed so much potential and it is our job as coaching staff to help them to be the best they can be before the Leinster game" he said.

Munster will play Leinster in Dublin on Sunday 27th April. A venue and time will be arranged shortly.

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