The Women’s All-Ireland League came roaring back after a week’s break with tough battles and a try count higher than an Ireland supporter’s pulse rate yesterday, writes Aisling Crowe.
WOMEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: Friday, October 16-Sunday, October 18
RAILWAY UNION 56 ST. MARY’S 10, Park Avenue
COOKE 19 OLD BELVEDERE 34, Shaw’s Bridge
UL BOHEMIANS 37 QUEEN’S UNIVERSITY 7, Thomond Park
BLACKROCK 25 GALWEGIANS 10, Stradbrook
The four games in the fourth round were spread across three days with Railway Union and St. Mary’s dazzling under the Park Avenue floodlights on Friday to kick off a huge weekend of rugby. The action culminated in the clash of early season pacesetters Blackrock with Galwegians in Dublin on Sunday afternoon.
Stradbrook was the setting for an east versus west showdown that opened with a tight first half. Galwegians drew first blood with Clare Rafferty’s 16th-minute penalty putting them three points in front.
Blackrock struck on the stroke of half-time. Jess Belchos touched down after a driving maul from a lineout made it all the way to the line.
The hosts’ advantage did not last long, however, as Nicole Fowley hit back just three minutes into the second half. Quick-thinking and lightning individual skill saw Fowley turn a Blackrock box-kick into a try that Rafferty converted to make it 10-5 to the visitors.
Five minutes later, Belchos’ second try swung the momentum back in Blackrock’s direction and the unbeaten league leaders dominated possession for the remainder of the game.
Mairead Holohan got their third try and it was anybody’s guess as to who actually grounded the ball for the fourth Blackrock try, but the identity of the kicker who converted the score was clear – Jeamie Deacon.
A final penalty topped off ‘Rock’s run of 20 unanswered points. It is now four wins from four games for the Dubliners who travel to Cork to take on Highfield next Sunday.
Seven times the ball was touched down at Thomond Park during Saturday’s battle of the teams with college connections – UL Bohemians and Queen’s – but half-a-dozen of those tries were scored by the hosts, led by Ireland’s Six Nations-winning captain Niamh Briggs.
The full-back claimed two tries for herself, converting one of her own, and another along with the penalty which sent UL Bohemians into the dressing room with a 20-0 half-time lead.
A serious injury to her team-mate Catherine Kirby held the game up for over half-an-hour as she received medical treatment. Kirby is reported to be in good spirits and will undergo surgery for the leg injury she suffered in Saturday’s game which the home side won 37-7.
Reigning champions Old Belvedere found the formula for success on Saturday, winning 34-19 on the road against Cooke.
The Belfast girls made a positive start, a converted try giving them a seven-point lead after just five minutes, and when Old Belvedere forward Roisin O’Donnell was forced off with an injury two minutes later, the reigning champions looked on the ropes.
However two tries in two minutes, including one from Ireland star Sophie Spence, brought Old Belvedere a lead they would not relinquish. Number 8 Spence (pictured below) added her second on 20 minutes which was converted but Cooke got try number two five minutes later and that left the scoreline 17-14 in favour of the visitors.
Tries from Ailis Egan and Aine Donnelly tries ensured that Old Belvedere went into the break with a 13-point lead.
The second half saw the referee flash four yellows at ‘Belvo players but even though the visitors were down to 13 at one stage, they refused to give in and held Cooke scoreless until five minutes before the end when a forward drive resulted in a home try.
On Friday night, underneath the floodlights and in front of a vocal crowd at Park Avenue, Railway Union ran in ten tries against St. Mary’s with half of them scored by front rowers Lindsay Peat and Shirley Corcoran.
Keen to get in on the scoring act, Martina McCarthy, Emma Murphy (pictured above), Jennie Finlay, Ailsa Hughes and Kim Flood added a try apiece, with Flood converting three of the tries.
Railway Union had the try-scoring bonus point secured after just 20 minutes, but St. Mary’s continued to fight hard and ensured that the home side had to be sharp and clinical to see out a 56-10 victory.
– Photos by Bob Given Photography and Ryan Byrne/Inpho.ie
ROUND 5 FIXTURES: Sunday, October 25
Kick-off 1pm unless stated –
GALWEGIANS v RAILWAY UNION, Crowley Park
HIGHFIELD v BLACKROCK, Woodleigh Park
OLD BELVEDERE v UL BOHEMIANS, Anglesea Road
ST. MARY’S v COOKE, Templeville Road
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