Two whitewashes and one well-contested battle told the story of the final round of the Women’s All Ireland League before next Saturday’s semi-final showdowns, writes Michael Gallagher.
WOMEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE – ROUND 14: Sunday, April 8
OLD BELVEDERE 10 COOKE 5, Anglesea Road
Third-placed Old Belvedere finished the regular season with a hard-earned 10-5 win over Cooke in a very entertaining match played in wet conditions at Anglesea Road. Cooke, who also progress to the play-offs in fourth, were game and gallant opponents but ‘Belvo stuck to their game-plan and manipulated it when they had to.
There was little between the sides throughout and the Belfast club led 5-0 at the break thanks to a fine try from former Ireland international Eliza Downey following a clever box kick from Jemma Jackson. Downey gained possession and put in a cheeky grubber before touching down for a try Jacob Stockdale would be proud of.
Into the second half, ‘Belvo introduced 50-times capped international Nora Stapleton into the game and her fine loop with Elise O’Byrne White opened up Cooke’s defence out wide for the latter to kick through and dive on the ball for a try. With the sides now level, the next score would be decisive.
The match-winning try was claimed by Belvedere’s Ailbhe Dowling when a fine move off the base of a scrum ended with Kathryn Dane and Stapleton releasing Dowling to run in from 20 metres out. There were excellent displays all over the pitch but honourable mention must go to ‘Belvo’s Fiona O’Brien and Linda Djougang who worked tremendously hard for the victors.
UL BOHEMIANS 78 TULLAMORE 0, University of Limerick 4G pitch
Tullamore have lit up the Women’s All-Ireland League with their exciting play since their arrival at the start of the season, but their relegation was confirmed this afternoon when they were outplayed and overpowered by reigning champions UL Bohemians
Table-topping Bohs are a very talented and well-drilled outfit and will be hard to beat when the knockout rugby begins next Saturday – they host Cooke at the semi-final stage on UL’s 4G pitch (kick-off 3pm). They were clinical in this final round fixture once they got into their stride but the 78-0 scoreline is harsh on Tullamore.
The first half was well-contested before UL took over on the resumption and scored at will. They ran in 13 tries in all, two apiece from Edel Murphy, Chloe Pearse, Laura O’Mahony, Aine Staunton and Laura Sheehan, and there were singles from Gillian Bourke, Helen McDermott and Ireland captain Ciara Griffin.
Tullamore head coach Colin Hughes paid tribute to his players afterwards, saying: “The season has been tough but we’re extremely proud of our efforts and of fulfilling all fixtures. We had two great wins against Galwegians and competitive matches against Highfield and Blackrock.
“The girls will have learned a huge amount from this experience and will come back stronger. We look forward to a break, the Midlands 7s, and we’ll go again next season.”
RAILWAY UNION 64 GALWEGIANS 0, Park Avenue
Second-placed Railway Union warmed up for next Saturday’s home semi-final against Old Belvedere (kick-off 2.30pm) with a facile 64-0 win over a disappointing Galwegians side in Sandymount. The scoreline says it all – this was a runaway bonus point victory for John Cronin’s charges.
Railway dominated from the off and were 14-0 up after nine minutes thanks to tries from Lindsay Peat and Katie O’Dwyer. Indeed, the latter ended up with three tries to her name – not bad for a tighthead prop. Nikki Caughey kicked the conversions, and when Emma Taylor got over the whitewash the lead had been stretched to 26-0, as the green and gold avalanche continued.
Kate McCarthy, Cliodhna Moloney and captain Meg Kendal extended the advantage to 45-0 and it was only a matter of how many points would be amassed before the end. There were two more tries to come courtesy of Peat and Niamh Byrne, as Railway secured home advantage in the last-four and moved a step closer to a possible All-Ireland League and Cup double.
WOMEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE – SEMI-FINALS:
Saturday, April 14 –
UL BOHEMIANS (1st) v COOKE (4th), University of Limerick 4G pitch, 3pm
RAILWAY UNION (2nd) v OLD BELVEDERE (3rd), Park Avenue, 2.30pm
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