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Women’s All-Ireland League: Semi-Final Previews

Women’s All-Ireland League: Semi-Final Previews

Old Belvedere's Sharon Lynch tries to get past Railway Union centre Meg Kendal during the sides' recent All-Ireland Plate final at Ashbourne RFC ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Two weeks on from their Cup final meeting, UL Bohemians and Blackrock look horns again as Philip Doyle’s ‘Rock side try to upset the defending champions and table toppers. Meanwhile, in the capital, Anglesea Road hosts the familiar semi-final pairing of Old Belvedere and Railway Union, the recent Plate winners.


Kick-off 5pm unless stated –

Clubs are invited to post the best tries from their Women’s All-Ireland League fixtures on the club’s Twitter, Facebook or Instagram pages using the hashtag #AILWomensTry and tag @irishrugby. The scorer of #AILWomensTry of the Month will receive a voucher for €250 and each of the monthly winners will be entered into the #AILWomensTry of the Season competition.

UL BOHEMIANS (1st) v BLACKROCK (4th), University of Limerick 4G pitch

Women’s All-Ireland League Season’s Form: UL Bohemians: WWWLLWWWWWDW; Blackrock: WLLLWWWWWLDL
Women’s All-Ireland League Top Scorers – UL Bohemians: Points: Niamh Briggs 90; Tries: Chloe Pearse 6; Blackrock: Points: Hannah O’Connor 58; Tries: Ali Coleman 6

Preview: In a repeat of their All-Ireland Cup final clash a fortnight ago, UL Bohemians and Blackrock go head-to-head for the fourth time this season in all competitions. If they can get the better of this young Blackrock outfit, the Red Robins, who are top of the league’s roll of honour with 13 titles, would be on course for another three in-a-row.

Despite a couple of slip-ups against Railway Union and Cooke in the early stages of the campaign, Ben Martin’s Bohs went unbeaten through the last seven rounds to finish in pole position and earn themselves a home semi-final. Niamh Briggs, who has been playing at out-half and full-back, led the league’s scoring with 90 points, including five tries.

It was the Limerick outfit who emerged as 17-5 winners of the Cup decider in Ashbourne, with Doyle’s Blackrock charges eager to avenge that defeat. ‘Rock’s top-scoring number 8 Hannah O’Connor, who has 58 points to her name, said that with their fast free-flowing style of rugby, they are hopeful of ‘nullifying UL’s attacking threat by bringing tempo and intensity to the game’.

The sides played out an 11-try classic at Stradbrook in October, Bohs’ flying five-try first half performance setting them up for a 40-33 victory with Briggs and O’Connor both kicking impressively and ‘Rock’s fight-back featuring a Michelle Claffey hat-trick. Last month’s return leg finished in a five-all draw in awful weather conditions.

The addition of speedster Roisin Crowe should be a welcome boost for Blackrock, who last graced a league final in December 2014, with Crowe, the latest Women’s All-Ireland League Try of the Month award winner, impressing through her ‘weeks of hard graft’. Ireland starlet Enya Breen and Rachel Allen-Connolly are two players to watch out for Bohs’ midfield.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 27, 2018: Blackrock 33 UL Bohemians 40, Stradbrook; Sunday, March 3, 2019: UL Bohemians 5 Blackrock 5, University of Limerick 4G pitch

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UL Bohemians to win

OLD BELVEDERE (2nd) v RAILWAY UNION (3rd), Anglesea Road, 6pm

Women’s All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Old Belvedere: WLWWLWWLWWWW; Railway Union: WWWWWLLWWLWL
Women’s All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Old Belvedere: Points: Jemma Jackson 45; Tries: Elise O’Byrne White, Linda Djougang 6 each; Railway Union: Points: Emma Taylor 35; Tries: Emma Taylor 7

Preview: They may have led the title race for much of the 12-match season, but in the closing rounds, Railway Union slipped back to third place and had to settle for an away semi-final to last season’s runners-up Old Belvedere. Of course, they ran ‘Belvo so close at this stage twelve months ago, losing 10-7 at home.

These Dublin rivals are no strangers to one another, having met just two weeks ago in the All-Ireland Plate final. It was John Cronin’s Railway team who headed back to the capital with silverware, but the 25-8 verdict should be a lot closer tomorrow. Emer O’Mahony, Stephanie Carroll, Emma Taylor and Larissa Muldoon scored their four tries that day.

Belvedere did the double over Railway in December, triumphing 18-15 at Park Avenue and 8-5 at Anglesea Road in two of the most thrilling league fixtures of the season. Full-back Gemma Matthews’ try from a late penalty proved crucial in the first game, while a Linda Djougang try and Jemma Jackson penalty cancelled out Susan Vaughan’s fifth-minute try in the rematch.

In preparation for the fourth league semi-final in as many years, Railway travelled across to play English club Wasps last weekend in a timely warm-up match, with their captain Niamh Byrne describing it as ‘a good workout which allowed the whole squad to get some game-time and put their hands up for selection’.

The competition for starting places has been fierce, especially with the returning Six Nations players very much back in the mix. Railway are desperate to end a run of narrow semi-final defeats in the competition – they were beaten 18-16 by Bohs in December 2015, lost 13-12 to ‘Belvo in April 2017 and were three-point losers a year later to the same opponents.

Having focused on their line-speed and width following their disappointing loss in the Plate final, ‘Belvo, who were last league champions in 2015/16, are confident that they are up to the task this weekend. Head coach Josh Brown said: “We’ll need to be really disciplined and do the basics perfectly if we are to come away with a win and progress to the final.”

The loss of Ulster and Ireland’s Claire McLaughlin and ex-Connacht player Niamh Ni Dhroma in the back row will be a bitter blow to ‘Belvo, however Elise O’Byrne Whyte and Ailbhe Dowling are expected to put in ‘two big shifts in defence’. O’Byrne White is also a significant threat with ball in hand in midfield, running in six tries to date.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, December 1, 2018: Railway Union 15 Old Belvedere 18, Park Avenue; Saturday, December 8, 2018: Old Belvedere 8 Railway Union 5, Anglesea Road

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Railway Union to win