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Women’s All-Ireland League: Round 13 Review

Women’s All-Ireland League: Round 13 Review

Railway Union went to Limerick yesterday and came away with four precious points, the first time any team has achieved such a feat in this season’s Women’s All-Ireland League. The Dublin side ended UL Bohemians’ 12-match unbeaten run with a hard-fought 8-6 win at Annacotty, writes Aisling Crowe.


COOKE 57 GALWEGIANS 10, Shaw’s Bridge

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ST. MARY’S 10 BLACKROCK 10, Templeville Road


A low-scoring contest, this battle for play-off positions was never in danger of being dull with both UL Bohemians and Railway Union determined to play the attacking and expansive rugby for which they are known.

Nikki Caughey and Edel Murphy traded penalties in the first half before Murphy’s kick just before half-time handed a slender 6-3 lead to the table-topping hosts at the break.

With the wind against them in the second half, Railway were under pressure from Bohs but an enthralling game remained delicately poised until the final whistle. Canadian international Emma Taylor breached the UL defence three minutes from time to give Railway a precarious two-point lead.

Full-back Clare Ryan’s try-saving tackle on UL Bohemians’ Niamh Kavanagh as she dashed for the line in the final attack of the match gave the visitors a gritty victory and for the first time all season, UL Bohs were left with an aftertaste of defeat.

“It was a very good, tight game despite the weather conditions,” said UL Bohemians manager Maeve D’Arcy. “In a sense, we’re relieved to have that pressure of remaining unbeaten removed from us. The winning streak has been broken now and although we were disappointed to lose the match, there are positives to be taken from it.”

Not least a home semi-final to look forward to next month. With UL and Railway both switching their focus back to the All-Ireland Cup next weekend, D’Arcy added: “At the start of the season, our goal was to make the top four and get into the play-off places and we have done that. Our focus remains on each game and we are now looking forward to playing Railway again next week in the cup semi-final.”

Gillian Bourke, at hooker, had an outstanding game for UL Bohemians, throwing clean ball in the lineout in trying circumstances. Railway’s try scorer Taylor once again made her presence felt, along with Melissa Slevin in the second row, Ireland scrum half Larissa Muldoon and back row star Juliet Short.

Railway’s win on the road, couple with Old Belvedere’s 19-10 defeat at home to Highfield, sees the two sides swap places in the league table. With the final round of games to come on Sunday, March 26, Railway are now in second place, four points ahead of Belvedere.

Highfield’s latest success gives them a shout of claiming that fourth and final play-off position when the league resumes in three weeks’ time. Laura Guest’s side scored three tries in a fiercely-fought clash which was played in blustery conditions at Anglesea Road.

Highfield capitalised on errors from their hosts to score two tries. The first came from turnover ball in a ruck that allowed Hannah O’Sullivan to open the scoring with a try on 30 minutes. Then Nicola Scully intercepted a pass as Old Belvedere threatened a try of their own and galloped away with the ball to put Highfield 12-0 up at the break, with Ellen Murphy landing the conversion.

Another ball pinched during a ruck early in the second half led to Laura Sheehan’s try which Murphy again converted. ‘Belvo fought back and Sharon Lynch made a half-break midway through the period that ended with Sheena Moore’s try to put a dent in the lead.

German star Franziska Klappoth returned from injury, appearing as a second half replacement, and immediately made an impression by scoring Belvedere’s second unconverted try.

Guest said of Highfield’s round 13 victory: “It was a good win and a good performance. The girls had to defend valiantly at the end because ‘Belvo kept trying so hard right until the final whistle. The team really showed great heart right the way through.”

Victory over UL Bohs in their final round on March 26 would give Highfield a chance of making the play-offs, with the former Ireland international admitting: “We enjoy playing Bohs, there is a good relationship between the two clubs and we have one more home game to come. If we put in a good performance and get a good result, then we might get something out of it.”

Survival in the All-Ireland League was on the line for Cooke as they welcomed Galwegians to Shaw’s Bridge and Grace Davitt’s charges put in one of their best performances of the season, overwhelming the Connacht girls by 57-10.

Cooke exploded out of the gates, Rebecca Smyth touching down for the game’s opening try within three minutes. Brittany Hogan added a second before Galwegians replied with a try of their own which seemed an affront to Cooke, who replied with a try from Sarah Gibson, converted by Vicky Irwin. The bonus point score was delivered before half-time, Irwin touching down and converting to leave it 24-5 at the break.

Irwin got her second seven-pointer shortly after the restart, while Gemma Jackson added the extras following Beth Cregan’s effort. Captain Shirelle Williams got her name on the scoresheet with Jackson again converting.

Ruth O’Reilly interrupted the Cooke rampage with a try for Galwegians but it was Cooke’s ninth and final try which exemplified their attitude. Only 30 seconds remained on the clock when the Belfast outfit was awarded a penalty and the option to end the game was offered. Instead, they opted for the tap and go which resulted in Smyth crossing for her second try, in a neatly symmetrical finish.

Davitt was delighted with Cooke’s overall performance, stating: “It was a great display from the team today, the girls really pulled together. We wanted them to be ruthless and they were.

“It was a great team effort and for the first time in a long time we had a strong squad available. The week off after seven consecutive weekends of matches really helped us and gave us time to work at things in training.”

A first draw of the league campaign on the penultimate weekend of the regular season was the outcome of the Dublin derby between St. Mary’s and Blackrock (10-all). All the scoring was done in the first half at Templeville Road with both sides claiming two tries. Emma Hooban, the St. Mary’s blindside flanker, scored both of their tries on a milestone day for the club.

Hooker Emma Kiernan celebrated her 200th cap for St. Mary’s and crowned her performance with laser-precision throwing in the lineout, aided by the calling of Aoife Moore at five. Prop Melissa Hayden was a stalwart in the scrum for the hosts. But their collective efforts have not been enough to avoid relegation, with seventh-placed Cooke now five points clear of Mary’s and boasting a much superior scoring difference (-68 compared to Mary’s -256).

“It was a very tough game between two evenly-matched teams,” said Eily Coughlan of St. Mary’s, commenting about an encounter that ended with both captains in the sin-bin. “The girls put their hearts and souls into it and it was a real team effort by everyone. The backs and forwards communicated so well and everyone worked hard together. We have three weeks now to prepare for Galwegians so we will keep our heads up and work hard.”

ROUND 14 FIXTURES: Sunday, March 26

Kick-off 1pm unless stated –

BLACKROCK (6th) v OLD BELVEDERE (3rd), Stradbrook

GALWEGIANS (4th) v ST. MARY’S (8th), Crowley Park

HIGHFIELD (5th) v UL BOHEMIANS (1st), Woodleigh Park

RAILWAY UNION (2nd) v COOKE (7th), Willow Lodge

Related Links –

Women’s All-Ireland League Fixtures

Women’s All-Ireland League Table