Tries galore and drama aplenty thrilled the crowds during the third round of the Women’s All-Ireland League on Sunday, writes Aisling Crowe.
WOMEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: Sunday, October 4
GALWEGIANS 44 HIGHFIELD 5, Crowley Park
OLD BELVEDERE 13 RAILWAY UNION 15, Anglesea Road
QUEEN’S UNIVERSITY 12 COOKE 40, Dub Lane
ST. MARY’S 10 BLACKROCK 30, Templeville Road
Blackrock maintained their perfect start to the season with a 20-point victory at the home of Dublin rivals St. Mary’s, while Cooke, under the guidance of Grand Slam-winning Ireland centre Grace Davitt, won their Ulster derby clash with Queen’s.
The pace-setting Blackrock went to Templeville Road with two wins from two games, and the confidence gained from those opening successes was evident from the moment the referee blew the whistle.
Centre Jeamie Deacon (pictured below) converted her own try after just four minutes and that remained the only score of an intense and tightly-fought opening half.
Deacon claimed the headlines and most of the early points for her team, adding two penalties in the first ten minutes of the second half to put Blackrock 13-0 ahead.
Scrum half Jessica Belchos scored for Blackrock after 56 minutes and openside flanker Carmela Morey got her side’s third try, which Deacon converted.
St. Mary’s tenacity in fighting back when 25-0 down was rewarded with a try on 66 minutes but a yellow card three minutes later did nothing to help their cause.
Clodagh Dunne crossed the line for Blackrock’s fourth try of the afternoon in injury-time to ensure her team remain top of the league going into next week’s break in fixtures.
Up in Belfast, the battle of the Ulster teams was won by Cooke as they comprehensively beat Queen’s University 40-12 in Belfast. It was their first win in only their second game since returning to the top flight, and it was masterminded by Grace Davitt.
The former Ireland centre is in her first season as head coach but she showed she still has what it takes to sparkle on the pitch.
A vomiting bug afflicted Cooke over the weekend and shorn of players, Davitt was forced to include herself on the bench. She came on with just 20 minutes gone. By then her team were five points behind Queen’s despite getting the opening try of the game.
Davitt’s presence seemed to calm the rest of her side and they began to dominate in the set pieces. Full-back Teah Maguire’s try was converted by Hannah Kilgore, with Cooke leading 14-12 at the break.
Ireland international Ashleigh Baxter (pictured above) scored twice in the second half for Cooke, one try a stunning piece of individual brilliance from the outside centre. A Queen’s kick failed to find touch and Baxter had the presence of mind to gather it on the full and gallop down the touchline for a try which her coach converted.
An effort involving the entire team was touched down by out-half Eliza Downey to spark celebrations in the Cooke camp following their fine 40-12 triumph.
In a tight and tense encounter at Anglesea Road, Railway Union got the better of home side Old Belvedere by two points (15-13). The visitors dominated much of the possession in a match that was notable for the league debut of Ireland Under-18 Sevens starlet Kathryn Dane at scrum half for Old Belvedere, who also had centre Aine Donnelly making her first league start.
Dane was instrumental in the opening score, making the break which set winger Emer O’Malley on her way to a try which was converted by Ireland’s regular number 10 Nora Stapleton.
Railway offered a quick riposte in the form of a Claire Ryan try which was swiftly followed by another from Martina McCarthy, scoring for the second game in succession.
Two Stapleton penalties gave Old Belvedere a 13-10 lead at half-time but it was not enough for the hosts who conceded a third try to finish the game two points adrift of Railway Union.
A cascade of tries early in the second half at Crowley Park helped Galwegians impress their new star-studded coaching team. The home side put on a dazzling display of attacking rugby against Highfield with seven tries forming the majority of their 44-point haul in their victory.
Outside centre Nicole Fowley (pictured below) claimed two of the ‘Wegians tries in front of their coaches including New Zealand World Cup winner Beth Mallard and Connacht stars George Naopu and Bundee Aki. Replacement Marina Gray came on to score her first try for Galwegians in the second half.
ROUND 4 FIXTURES: Sunday, October 18
Kick-off 1pm unless stated –
RAILWAY UNION v ST. MARY’S, Park Avenue, Friday, October 16, 8pm
BLACKROCK v GALWEGIANS, Stradbrook
COOKE v OLD BELVEDERE, Shaw’s Bridge
UL BOHEMIANS v QUEEN’S UNIVERSITY, Annacotty
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