Railway Union bucked the trend of losing home teams on the resumption of the Women’s All-Ireland League after the December break, writes Aisling Crowe.
WOMEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: Sunday, January 15
BLACKROCK 15 UL BOHEMIANS 19, Stradbrook
COOKE 17 ST. MARY’S 29, Shaw’s Bridge
GALWEGIANS 17 HIGHFIELD 34, Crowley Park
RAILWAY UNION 25 OLD BELVEDERE 8, Willow Lodge
Railway Union were the only one of the four home sides to win on Sunday with their 25-8 bonus point victory over Old Belvedere – combining with UL Bohemians’ narrow away win in Dublin – knocking ‘Belvo off the the top of the table.
Claire Ryan scored two of Railway’s four tries to wrap up a round 9 triumph that was sparked by an early Sinead Taylor try. Jackie Shiels replied with a penalty for Old Belvedere before the first of Ryan’s tries. Sarah-Jane Cody got Railway’s third and it was converted by out-half Nikki Caughey on the stroke of half-time to give her team a 17-3 lead at the break.
Caughey added a penalty on the resumption before Shiels pulled a try back for Old Belvedere but Ryan’s second try secured the result for Railway as they began the New Year with a bang.
Former England underage captain Juliet Short made her debut for Railway at openside flanker. A sister to the Connacht and Brive professional Christian, Short worked in rugby development in Brazil before moving to Ireland and was a member of the Ireland training panel for the last World Cup.
“It was an incredibly physical game,” said Old Belvedere’s Ruth McElroy. “We ended up giving them the game as we turned over far too many balls when we had possession and you can’t do that against a team like Railway who play such a wide game.”
Old Belvedere did have some bright moments in the game especially the return to the field of Aine Donnelly (pictured above), sidelined for a year with a serious knee injury. She was a second half replacement along with fellow Ireland international Sophie Spence who played her first game since suffering a concussion in the autumn.
Up in Belfast, Cooke fell 29-17 to Dublin raiders St. Mary’s despite fighting back from conceding an early try to draw level at five points apiece thanks to their captain Shirelle Wilson.
St. Mary’s grabbed a try late in the half to take a 12-5 lead into the break but once again Cooke showed their fighting spirit to come back. Seconds after the whistle blew to signal the start of the second period, Amy Davis ripped the ball from an opponent’s hands and ran the length of the Shaw’s Bridge pitch to score a try that was converted by full-back Teah Maguire.
Parity did not last long as Mary’s claimed a third try and regained a seven point lead which quickly stretched into a 26-12 lead. Prop Sorcha Mac Laimhin scored to bring Cooke back to seven points down but a penalty with seven minutes to play handed St. Mary’s a 29-17 success.
Cooke coach Grace Davitt remarked: “Mary’s came here with a game-plan and they stuck to it. They made us work very hard for the ball, and kept possession very well, preventing us from playing rugby. They never let us settle, even when we had our tails up after Amy’s try.
“The girls are disappointed to lose but we know what we need to work on for next week. This is a tough time of year for clubs with the Six Nations on and the first time that has impinged on the league, so it will be an interesting couple of months for us all, seeing how well each team copes with losing players to Ireland.”
Highfield coach Laura Guest (pictured above) brought some of her playing magic to the field at Crowley Park in Galway as the former Ireland star helped her team to a stunning 34-17 win over Galwegians.
The hosts started well and were 12-0 up thanks to first half scores from Nicole Fowley, who played for Ireland in the recent November Series, and Castlebar’s Ursula Sammon. Out-half Clare Raftery converted one try and it all seemed rosy for Galwegians but Guest and Highfield had other plans.
Despite Emma Clery’s second half try, Highfield took a bonus point victory back down to Cork with them and the league standings were shaken up.
Meanwhile, UL Bohemians brought their perfect run with them into 2017, making it eight victories from eight games played, but Blackrock made them work very hard at Stradbrook to return to the summit of the league.
Syphonia Pua raced over for a try on six minutes for UL Bohs which was converted by Edel Murphy, before Blackrock’s rising star Eimear Corri replied with one of her own on 17 minutes to leave the hosts two points behind.
Blackrock had most of the possession but UL were much more clinical, taking their few scoring opportunities. Clare McDermott, making her league debut for Bohs along with Clodagh O’Halloran, crowned her display with a try on the stroke of half-time that helped the visitors into a 12-7 lead.
Straight after the break, UL full-back Aine Staunton (pictured above) magnificently fielded a high ball and galloped away for her team’s third try which was also converted by Murphy.
Blackrock roared back with unconverted tries from Michelle Claffey and Ali Coleman setting up a tense finale but UL stood firm to take a tight 19-15 verdict.
ROUND 10 FIXTURES: Sunday, January 22
Kick-off 1pm unless stated –
BLACKROCK (6th) v GALWEGIANS (3rd), Stradbrook
HIGHFIELD (5th) v RAILWAY UNION (4th), Woodleigh Park
OLD BELVEDERE (2nd) v COOKE (7th), Anglesea Road
ST. MARY’S (8th) v UL BOHEMIANS (1st), Templeville Road
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