In what many had expected to be a very even contest, the two forward packs shared the honours with Munster dominating the scrums, Leinster controlling the lineouts and the loose battles being even. The match was won for the women in red by the superior pace and execution of the Munster backline.
Munster started strongly, pinning Leinster into their defensive third for the first 10 minutes, but rushed passes and a few nerves stopped Munster from creating scoring opportunities. Leinster took advantage of a number of Munster indiscretions to get out of danger and get into the Munster 22, however, their own ball retention problems allowed Munster to relieve the pressure.
With the game evenly poised heading into the second quarter, Munster struck with a relatively easy score from first phase possession. From a scrum just inside the Leinster 22, the Munster backs run a miss pass move in the centres. The Leinster defence drifted off the ball carrier to cover the outside backs and created a huge gap for Highfield s Deirdre Lynch to run through untouched from 15m out to score between the posts. Vivian Boland converted to give Munster a 7-0 lead.
Only a couple of minutes later Munster should have added to their lead when fullback Amanda Greensmith split the Leinster defence with a great run. With the fullback to beat she chose the unselfish option of passing to Grace Sheehy, unfortunately the winger had over run Greensmith and the try was called back for a forward pass. This was about the only blemish on both players report card all day, with both of them having strong games. Greensmith in particular was impressive, deputising for an unavailable Sarahjane Belton, the Shannon fullback was solid as a rock under the high ball and incisive all day with her runs.
It was fast thinking by captain Fiona Steed that lead to the second try on the 34 minute mark. Munster was hard on attack and looked to have stretched the Leinster defence. Leinster conceded a penalty under the posts, but Steed saw a gap in the retreating defenders and took a quick tap and snuck over with the help of the forwards. Boland missed the conversion to end the first half scoring at 12-0 to Munster.
Leinster could feel a little unlucky at the half-time score line as they dominated the lineouts through their captain Anne-Marie McAllister and forced Munster into a series of penalties that got them deep into Munster territory. However, Munster always seemed to tighten their discipline inside their defensive third of the field, and a shaky combination in the Leinster halves of Fiona Wise and Joanne O Sullivan lead to no real scoring opportunities.
The second half was virtually all one-way traffic with Munster tightening their grip on the game with every passing minute. However, strong Leinster defensive a couple of missed chances by Munster left the score unchanged up until the 60th minute. In the last 20 minutes of the match it was the Munster wingers that grabbed the limelight. Tries to Lynne Cantwell (60th & 80th minutes) and to Sheehy (70th minute) padded the score line for Munster and gave them the bonus point that ensured their appearance in the Interprovincial final on October 11.
The win was set up by a strong showing by the Munster pack lead by Steed and an inspirational defensive effort by home town favourite Eimear O Sullivan, and the control and leadership of Patrique Kelly in the backs. Leinster got the expected excellent performance from McAllister while Joanne O Sullivan always kept trying to be creative at outhalf. However, problems at scrum time and the inability of retain possession for long periods frustrated their efforts.
The match showed that Munster can grind opponents down, soak up pressure and can control the pace of a match, as well as playing the expansive attractive rugby they showed last week against Connacht.
The only down side for Munster was the loss of Grace Sheehy to injury. The Clonakilty winger who has started the season very positively had to leave the filed in the 76th minute with a dislocated and suspected fractured finger. Team management are hopeful that there is no break, which would mean Sheehy could return for the final, if not it could be a 6 week lay off for her.
Final Score: Munster 27 Leinster 0
Tries: Lynne Cantwell (2), Deirdre Lynch, Grace Sheehy, Fiona Steed. Conversions: Vivian Boland (1)
Munster Women's Team:
15: Amanda Greensmith (Shannon), 14: Grace Sheehy (Clonakilty), 13: Patrique Kelly (UL Bohs), 12: Deirdre Lynch (Highfield), 11: Lynne Cantwell (UL Bohemians), 10: Vivian Boland (Shannon), 9: Louise Beamish (UL Bohs), 8: Joy Neville (Shannon), 7: Fiona Steed (Shannon), 6: Eimear O Sullivan (Clonakilty), 5: Aisling O Brien (Clonakilty), 4: Rosie Foley (Shannon), 3: Rosemary (Brown Shannon), 2: Elaine Collins (UL Bohs), 1: Olivia Brown (Shannon).
Replacements: 16: Laura Guest (Clonakilty), 17: Regina O Reilly (Shannon), 18: Monica Dunne (Shannon), 19: Wendy Keenan (Shannon), 20: Raegan Matile (Shannon), 21: Claire O Leary (UL Bohs), 22: Denise Tracy (Shannon).