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The day was set up perfectly - two teams that knew each other very well, three quarters of the season gone, both St. Mary's College and Old Belvedere developing and playing well and the emotion of a cup final in almost perfect weather conditions.

Before the game commenced there was a minute's silence observed perfectly by the matchday squads and the crowd on the terrace at Templeville Road, with members of Paul Flood's family in attendance.

The game opened at a frantic pace with St. Mary's kicking off and recovering the ball. The Mary's Women held possession and moved the ball around well, but were met with a staunch Old Belvedere defence.

Both teams were clearly up for the contest and showed few nerves. The contact zone was fiercely fought, Old Belvedere winning some of the opening exchanges with some excellent counter-rucking and scrapping on the ground that saw them turn over four rucks in the opening 20 minutes.

Old Belvedere were enjoying a solid ten-minute purple patch camped on the St. Mary's 22 and probed hard around the fringes of the ruck, but St. Mary's fought hard and gathered their composure at the cold face and forced a turnover from a knock-on by Old Belvedere, twelve metres from the hosts' line.

A clearance kick by St. Mary's out-half Paula Fitzpatrick relieved the pressure by moving the ball 35 yards downfield. The ball was gathered well by the Old Belvedere full-back and she chose to run it back, but was met by a wall of St. Mary's defenders on the 22.

Composure and determination won out as St. Mary's turned possession over at a ruck, with Sue Hughes ripping the ball from Old Belvedere and setting off on a run up the narrow side, handing off two players before being brought to ground just short of the halfway line.

A rapid ruck saw the ball move out the back-line and into the open space only for some fantastic scramble defence bringing down St. Mary's winger Sue Howley, five metres outside the Old Belvedere 22. At the ensuing ruck, Old Belvedere gave away a penalty for playing the ball on the ground.

Fitzpatrick took a quick tap as St. Mary's had reorganised quickly and took the ball up before releasing the backs outside her to charge at the try-line.

Winger Michelle Ross received the ball and looked to be caught - by the back of the shorts - but her determination and strength allowed her to break free and cross the line for the only score, the cup-winning score.

The conversion by Niamh Fitzgerald agonisingly came back off the post.

Following the try, St. Mary's tails were up and having held Old Belvedere scoreless in the opening 25 minutes and scored a magnificent try from deep, their belief was galvanised.

The ball never left the Old Belvedere half for the remainder of the first half and St. Mary's can count themselves unlucky not to have secured more points before half-time.

After the break, the game renewed with the same ferocity from the first half and St. Mary's pressed hard for a second score, only to be met by some well-organised and solid defending by Old Belvedere.

'Belvo held their shape in defence well for the most part and between the pressure of their hits and some unforced errors by St. Mary's, the game remained very tight. St. Mary's were camped in Old Belvedere territory but could not breach their line.

Two penalty opportunities went wide of the mark and with their defence working well and the St. Mary's scores not coming from either the boot or crossing the magic chalk, Old Belvedere were buoyed and started to gain some territory.

With 15 minutes to go, 'Belvo got deep into the St. Mary's half and began to push for that all-important try.

As the matched moved into the closing stages, the nerves were beginning to show - St. Maryâ00s scrapping hard to win back the ball and Old Belvedere snatching at their chances.

The Old Belvedere out-half got her back-line going and looked to have breached the St. Mary's defence for the first and vital time - only for the move to be halted by a massive recovering tackle by St. Mary's centre Ruth Fraser, the visitors could have been in under the posts.

At the final whistle there was a great reception for both sides, St. Mary's squeezing passed Old Belvedere for a tight 5-0 victory.

Paul Flood's daughter Andrea was on hand to present the cup to St. Mary's, following a moving speech about his father from Paul's son Jonathan.

Without doubt, Paul would be proud to see how well Women's rugby has flourished and how well his St. Mary's Women are competing in the top flight of Irish domestic rugby.

It was a remarkable game and despite the low scoreline it was an enthralling clash between two very committed sets of players.

The most remarkable component of the game was the defence - both teams had very different game-plans.

The passion and effort by both teams is a shining example of the ever-expanding and developing skills of Women's rugby in Ireland, the crowd were engaged throughout.

We can all look forward to the impending All-Ireland Cup that comes to a crescendo at Buccaneers RFC on April 11 where the All-Ireland Cup, Plate, Bowl and Shield titles will be decided in an action-packed day of rugby celebration.

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20 June 2018
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