City of Derry Ladies 15, Thurles Womans 21
There was All Ireland Bowl heartbreak for City of Derry Ladies last Saturday when a dramatic late try for Munster side Thurles knocked the Judges Road side out after a pulsating semi-final clash.
A disappointing end to an incredible campaign that has seen Derry team excel at times. The local ladies end the Ulster Senior Shield winners and with plenty of reasons for optimism.
On a perfect day for rugby, the game got off to a tense start with both teams trying to build the phases. Derry appeared nervous and allowed the visitors to apply all the pressure in the opening exchanges. Poor handling from the home side coupled with some excellent scrummaging from Thurles meant the Derry ladies, for possibly the first time this season, found themselves going backwards in the scrum.
The Thurles’ pressure eventually told as the visitors opened the scoring with a well worked try coming from the strong and technically excellent Munster pack.
The second half started with Thurles doing what Munster teams do well. Their ‘pick and drive’ approach saw them make huge territorial advances until they eventually crossed the home lineto provide what looked a commanding lead.
However this proved to be the catalyst that unleashed the Derry ladies and with nothing to lose the shackles came off.
The leadership of captain Kelly Gormley was instrumental as she took the game by the scruff. Gormley, with yet another fantastic performance in her favourite position open-side flanker, got Derry back in the game with a barnstorming run and try.
With renewed confidence, the Judges Road girls side looked totally transformed. With Rachel Lennox providing the link-play, Derry looked unstoppable and a second try from winger Ruagin Doherty after some quick direct passing brought them right back into the game.
The experience the Derry Ladies have enjoyed this year, competing in every single game, proved invaluable as pacy stand-in full-back Aoife Curran chipped ahead, gathered and fed the supporting Lennox who left the Thurles defence shell shocked to edge Derry in front for the first time in the game at 15-14 with 20 minutes remaining.
Tackle after tackle came in as both teams competed for every scrap and fatigue was beginning to become a factor. With time running out, Thurles reverted to the tried and tested ‘pick and drive’ tactic and their relentless attacking saw the Derry lined breached for a third time to leave the visitors 21-15 ahead with just minutes left on the clock.
Derry surged forward and looked set for a crucial score until a defender’s knee knocked the ball out of Rachel Lennox’s as she looked set to score.
The referee blew for a ‘knock on’ and the resulting scrum was the last play of the game. Thurles cleared their lines and as the final whistle blew there were contrasting scenes of high emotion, a jubilant Thurles and a despondent Derry.
It was a disappointing end to an incredible league and cup campaign that has seen this Derry team develop and excel at times. The local ladies end the season winners of the Ulster Senior Shield and with plenty of reasons for optimism.