RAILWAY UNION 51 COOKE 17, Naas RFC
Scorers: Railway Union: Tries: Julie McGrath 2, Lava Leitula, Nicole Fowley 3, Kim Flood, Emma Murphy, Claire Ryan; Cons: Kim Flood 3
It caps a remarkable rise for Railway, who have now qualified for Division 1 next season after just two seasons of playing.
Railway started strongly in the divisional decider and raced into a 17-0 lead with two tries from Julie McGrath and one from Lava Leitula after 15 minutes.
A sin-binning did not help the Railway cause and Belfast side Cooke scored two tries of their own, either side of a Nicole Fowley try to leave the half-time score at 22-12.
Cooke came out in the second half with all guns blazing and put immense pressure Railway. A second sin-bin ensued which left Railway down to 14 yet again.
Cooke's Ireland star Grace Davitt was supreme in exploiting the extra space afforded and sent a magnificent cross-field kick out for the Cooke right winger to dot down in the corner, closing the gap to 22-17.
That put the pressure on Railway to respond, but respond they did. The Dubliners refocused and increased the pace of the game to score five further tries.
Kim Flood, Emma Murphy, Claire Ryan all touched down during this purple patch and Fowley completed her hat-trick.
The flood of tries gave the final scoreline a flattering look that did not fairly reflect the contest or the efforts of a tough and talented Cooke side.
Still, it was an impressive performance all round from Railway with their forwards setting a strong platform for the backs to attack.
Front rowers Jude Cleary, Shirley Corcoran, Lucy O'Sullivan and Debbie Kelly had the Railway scrum in the ascendancy all day and worked tirelessly around the pitch.
Aoife Maher carried strongly and choke-tackled at will, while Melissa Slevin and Sarah Cranley were dominant out of touch and their usual destructive selves in open play.
Cranley's back row colleagues Abigail Donnelly, Leitula and Aine Lucey, aged 18, 20 and 21 respectively, were excellent in all facets and have big futures in the game.
This platform allowed the back-line to score eight tries and they were well serviced by half-backs Jess O'Mahony and Mere Baker.
Centres Fowley, Flood and Ryan were running threats all day and outside backs Murphy, McGrath, and Eimear Flannery provided the speed and elusiveness.
Railway captain Aoife Maher paid tribute to the support on the day, telling the club website: "It was big day for us and we were very nervous beforehand but our support on the sideline was fantastic.
"It means a lot when you look up and see the club President, the club captain and players from all of our men's teams, women's teams, men's U-20s and girls U-18s, as well as friends and family, cheering you on.
"I'm consistently amazed with the support we get from the club, it really is an integrated club and today felt like a real club day.
"I'd also like to thank our head of player welfare, Professor John Ryan, and Ian Marshall, who were matchday doctor and physio for us today, as well as their - and Redmond O'Mahony's - work with us all season. Our manager Mick O'Gruagain has been a huge addition too.
"Our coaches Mere and JC (John Cronin) have been excellent and are the best coaches I've come across at any level. They push us, drive us and have us aspire to play a good brand of rugby.
"Finally, my team-mates have been a committed and hard-working bunch all season. We played 39 players in this league campaign which shows the importance of our squad, and this is a victory for all of our players, not just those who were lucky enough to play in the final.
"We've been going since July, so we'll take a few weeks off now and enjoy the Kinsale Sevens and our club dinner dance, before we starting thinking about Sevens and pre-season and Division 1 next season."
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