UL Bohemians v Railway Union and Blackrock v Old Belvedere are the semi-final match-ups in the Women’s All-Ireland League following a dramatic final round of the regular season, writes Kate Rowan. The two semi-finals take place next Sunday with the final scheduled for Saturday, December 12 at Donnybrook (kick-off 6pm).
WOMEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: Sunday, November 29
HIGHFIELD (walkover win) v QUEEN’S UNIVERSITY, Woodleigh Park
BLACKROCK 7 UL BOHEMIANS 22, Stradbrook
GALWEGIANS 8 OLD BELVEDERE 15, Crowley Park
RAILWAY UNION 62 COOKE 5, Park Avenue
UL Bohemians finished top of the table after shattering Blackrock’s unbeaten record at Stradbrook, with the Limerick side running out 22-7 winners in a fascinating final round clash.
For the majority of the opening half hour, Blackrock were camped in the visitors’ 22 and had two try-scoring efforts held up thanks to some heroic defending from the likes of Munster number 8 Chloe Pearse and Six Nations-winning front rower Fiona Hayes.
Against the run of play, Bohs winger Liz Bourke broke away to touch down in the 33rd minute. Ireland captain Niamh Briggs could not add the extras.
Blackrock showed their class as the seasoned New Zealand-born Ireland international Tania Rosser, playing at out-half, scored under the posts. Recent Ireland new cap Jeamie Deacon converted to give the hosts a 7-5 interval lead.
Playing with their wind at their backs in the second half, UL dazzled Blackrock with two tries in quick succession, the first from Pearse six minutes in and then Bourke dashed down the wing to score her second of the afternoon with 52 minutes gone. Briggs converted Bourke’s second try.
At 17-5 down, Blackrock began to regain their composure and Deacon looked to have an excellent try-scoring opportunity as she made strong run on the hour mark. However, the centre was stopped in her tracks by Hayes, who was yellow carded for a deliberate infringement.
The momentum swung back in favour of Bohs despite being their numerical disadvantage. They sealed a vital bonus point victory when Bourke completed her hat-trick in the 70th minute. As a result of the 22-7 loss, ‘Rock were knocked off their perch at the summit, with only a point separating them and table toppers UL.
Reigning champions Old Belvedere secured third place with a gritty 15-8 away win over Galwegians. It was the hosts who opened the scoring after just six minutes via Ireland newcomer Mairead Coyne, playing at full-back. Nicole Fowley could not convert in the blustery conditions at Crowley Park that made it extremely difficult for place-kickers.
However, less than ten minutes later, Old Belvedere came back with a score from another recent addition to Ireland’s international ranks – centre Aine Donnelly. At the 25-minute mark ‘Belvo seized the initiative as openside Niamh Fitzgerald crossed the whitewash. Nora Stapleton missed both conversion attempts, leaving it 10-5 to the Dubliners at the break.
An early second half penalty from the boot of Fowley helped Galwegians narrow the gap to just two points. In an extremely physical game, two-time Six Nations-winning out-half Stapleton scored her side’s third try of the afternoon and what eventually proved to be the match winner. The result saw Galwegians fall out of the top four and miss out on a semi-final spot.
The last play-off position was claimed by a rampant Railway Union who put Cooke to the sword with a ten-try performance at Park Lane, winning by a margin of 62-5.
Try scorers for the Dublin 4 outfit included outside centre and Ireland Sevens cap Martina McCarthy, tighthead prop Aoife Maher, hooker Cliodhna Moloney, who received her first international cap against England two weeks ago, full-back Claire Ryan, Leinster flanker Jenny Finlay and scrum half Sarah Jane Cody.
Braces came from both out-half Emma Murphy and inside centre Kim Flood, who have both been involved with Ireland Sevens set-up. Flood kicked six of the ten conversions she attempted.
Cooke’s second half consolation try was scored by left winger Helen McGhee. The Belfast side finished the season in sixth position.
Meanwhile, Queen’s University were unable to field a full team over the weekend and were forced to concede their away fixture to Highfield. As a result, the Belfast students finished bottom of the league, while Highfield remained in seventh and St. Mary’s finished second-from-bottom.
(Railway Union pics/video from Cian Ryan/Joe Walsh)
WOMEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE SEMI-FINALS: Sunday, December 6
UL BOHEMIANS v RAILWAY UNION, Annacotty, 1pm
BLACKROCK v OLD BELVEDERE, Stradbrook, 1pm
Related Links –