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Old Belvedere Women Make It Three In-A-Row

Old Belvedere Women Make It Three In-A-Row

Old Belvedere and UL Bohemians played out a thrilling Women’s All-Ireland League final under the Donnybrook floodlights, with defending champions ‘Belvo just edging it on a nail-biting 19-17 scoreline. Kate Rowan reports on the six-try contest.



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Scorers: Old Belvedere: Tries: Franziska Klappoth, Emer O’Malley, Nora Stapleton; Cons: Nora Stapleton 2
UL Bohemians: Tries: Fiona Hayes, Syphonia Pua, Liz Bourke; Con: Niamh Briggs

Old Belvedere, who finished the regular season in third place and beat Dublin rivals Blackrock in last weekend’s semi-finals, showed strong intent in attack early on.

A combination of handling errors and knock-ons thwarted them until the ninth minute when their German-born winger Franziska Klappoth touched down in the left corner following some impressive approach work by international trio Sophie Spence, Nora Stapleton and Ailis Egan. Out-half and captain Stapleton missed the conversion.
Belvedere continued to apply the pressure to UL, who had finished the campaign at the top of the table. The title holders impressed at lineout time but Bohemians held the edge in the scrums.
At the 20-minute mark, there was a distinct shift in momentum after some sublime high balls from Munster and Ireland captain Niamh Briggs, playing at out-half. A penalty against ‘Belvo for not rolling away set up a lineout and Ireland front rower Fiona Hayes used her strength to drive over for a try which Briggs converted – 7-5.

The concession of that seven-pointer seemed to spark the Dublin 4 side back into life as their scrums started to improve. Some excellent phase play in the closing minutes of the first half, with Stapleton, flanker Niamh Fitzgerald and winger Hazel Rooney heavily involved, teed up a terrific team try scored by centre Emer O’Malley.
Stapleton brilliantly nailed the difficult conversion, five metres from the left touchline, to give her side a 12-7 advantage right on the stroke of half-time.
Into the second period, Old Belvedere continued to show great endeavour, including some fabulous offloading from Ireland tighthead Egan. They chipped away patiently at the Bohs defence and in one of the moments of the match, Stapleton showed her international pedigree with a superb run, beating several defenders along the way to the whitewash in the 48th minute. The Donegal woman also added the extras.

Now 12 points behind, the talented UL team lifted their game with Briggs and centres Deirbhile Nic A Bhaird and Syphonia Pua creating havoc for the ‘Belvo defence. It was Pua who expertly jinked through on the left for a 52nd minute try that went unconverted.

Back within a converted score, Mike Storey’s charges continued to turn the screw on their opponents with some superb work from the likes of tireless number 8 Chloe Pearse. 
However, with the lure of a three in-a-row of league crowns, ‘Belvo produced a Trojan defensive effort that was typified by key replacements Elise O’Byrne White and Marie Louise Reilly, the much-celebrated Ireland lock who is just returning from a prolonged injury absence.
In the 67th minute, the Dubliners had a chance to pull further ahead via a penalty but Stapleton missed the three-pointer. Then Spence, playing at number 8, looked to have a good chance of a try as she made one of her trademark bursts, but referee Gary Glennon called her back for jumping into a tackle.

From here on the tide began to favour the Munster women whose hunger to claim a 12th league trophy in 15 years was obvious. Briggs continued to pull the strings for her side, full-back Aine Staunton also came to the fore and Belvedere’s discipline was lagging and their error count on the up.

Camped on the five-metre line, Bohs struck for their third try of the night in the dying moments. Their speedy left winger Liz Bourke, who has been a prolific try scorer all season, broke through to score in the very final play out wide on the right..

That presented Briggs with an opportunity to kick UL level and take this very exciting final to extra-time. Unfortunately for the Bohs players and their travelling support, Briggs’ conversion attempt from an awkward angle missed the target and Belvedere could celebrate a famous three in-a-row for the Anglesea Road club.

OLD BELVEDERE: Bronagh O’Donovan, Hazel Rooney, Emer O’Malley, Aine Donnelly, Franziska Klappoth, Nora Stapleton (capt), Kathryn Ann Dane; Fiona O’Brien, Sharon Lynch, Ailis Egan, Emma Dunne, Sheena Moore, Roisin O’Donnell, Niamh Fitzgerald, Sophie Spence.
Replacements: Fionnuala Gleeson, Ruth McElroy, Marie Louise Reilly, Emma Lackey, Amy O’Connor, Leanne Sullivan, Elise O’Byrne White.

UL BOHEMIANS: Ainé Staunton; Kate English, Syphonia Pua, Deirbhile Nic A Bhaird, Liz Bourke; Niamh Briggs, Louise Beamish; Fiona Reidy, Fiona Hayes, Leah Barbour, Aoife O’Sullivan, Sara Hartigan, Maeve Darcy (capt), Slavica Radic, Chloe Pearse.
Replacements: Sidney Montano, Edel Murphy, Robyn Gleeson, Mollie O’Donnell, Hannah Davey, Louise Galvin, Claire Keohane.

Referee: Gary Glennon (IRFU)