Reigning champions Old Belvedere began the defence of their Women’s All-Ireland League title in style with a 24-0 victory over local rivals Blackrock, writes Aisling Crowe.
WOMEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: Sunday, September 11
COOKE 14 RAILWAY UNION 7, Shaw’s Bridge
OLD BELVEDERE 24 BLACKROCK 0, Anglesea Road
ST. MARY’S 5 GALWEGIANS 41, Templeville Road
UL BOHEMIANS 55 HIGHFIELD 0, Annacotty
Winger Alison Miller scored two tries on her first start for Old Belvedere with her second effort, coming towards the end of the game, wrapping up a bonus point victory for her new side.
The Portlaoise flyer crossed for the opening try after 15 minutes when a kick from new out-half Jackie Shiels got Old Belvedere into prime position inside the Blackrock half. Shiels followed up with the conversion.
Roisin O’Donnell scored ‘Belvo’s second on the half hour mark and her team took a 12-0 lead into the break. That soon stretched to 17 points when Franziska Klappoth flew down the wing for her first try of the season after more good work by Shiels.
Blackrock, who finished ahead of their Dublin rivals in the regular 2015/16 season and lost to them in the league semi-finals, refused to roll over and pushed the hosts all the way but Miller’s magic and the trusty boot of Shiels consigned them to a 24-0 defeat.
Ireland legend Grace Davitt is concentrating entirely on coaching this season and her Cooke charges began the new term in the best possible form, claiming their first home victory since promotion to division one of the league.
Davitt was thrilled with her side’s 14-7 success against Railway Union at Shaw’s Bridge, admitting afterwards: “It is a great way to start the season. After our experience in our last game against Railway Union (losing 62-5), we knew going into the match that it was going to be a tough one. We put it up to them and this is a new squad we’ve got together.”
In windy conditions that made it difficult for both teams to play their best rugby as the breeze swirled around the Belfast pitch, Cooke raced into an early lead. Full-back Eliza Downey flew through the tackles and passed to Beth Cregan, who managed to reach the line in spite of tenacious tackling from the Railway Union defence.
Cooke’s second try came via the whistle of the referee. Downey again was involved but this time the referee decided that she had been brought down illegally with a high tackle and awarded a penalty try close to the stroke of half-time. Both of Cooke’s tries were converted by Grace Jackson.
Railway Union kept fighting and were rewarded with a penalty try of their own for a similar offence on Nikki Caughey after 56 minutes. The conversion ensured Railway Union headed back down the M1 with a losing bonus point.
St. Mary’s new coaching staff had a difficult first day on the sidelines as the Dubliners went down 41-5 away to Galwegians. Gareth Logan and Philip Lynch both won All-Ireland League medals as players but their debut in charge of the Women’s team saw them end with 14 players as both scrum half Sarah Duignan and flanker Aoife Moore were stretchered off with injuries.
Galwegians full-back Mairead Coyne recently made the breakthrough with the national team and it is no surprise given her club form – she opened the 2016/17 league campaign by running in four of the westerners’ seven tries.
Ciara O’Connor and Nicole Fowley joined Coyne on the scoresheet and a penalty try made it seven for the visitors, who take on Cooke next weekend in a repeat of last season’s All-Ireland Cup final which ended in a narrow win for ‘Wegians.
UL Bohemians suffered the cruelest of season ends. Having finished top of the league, they then lost the final to Old Belvedere. However, on a historic day for the Shannonsiders, who fielded two Women’s teams for the first time, they made a brilliant start to their 2016/17 run, accumulating 55 points and holding Highfield scoreless in yesterday’s one-sided opener at Annacotty.
ROUND 2 FIXTURES: Sunday, September 18
Kick-off 1pm unless stated –
BLACKROCK (6th) v ST. MARY’S (7th), Stradbrook
GALWEGIANS (2nd) v COOKE (4th), Crowley Park
RAILWAY UNION (5th) v UL BOHEMIANS (1st), Willow Lodge
HIGHFIELD (8th) v OLD BELVEDERE (3rd), Woodleigh Park, 1.45pm
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