UL Bohemians, Railway Union and Blackrock College showed their All-Ireland League class with a glut of tries during the opening round of the Energia Women’s Community Series, while Kerry enjoyed a winning debut against Munster rivals Ballincollig.
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Louise Galvin, who recently announced her retirement as an Ireland Sevens international, got on the scoresheet during UL Bohemians’ 57-0 Friday Night Lights win over the newly-combined Shannon/LIT team. Galvin and Niamh Kavanagh formed a strong-running centre pairing.
Dominant at set piece time, Fiona Hayes’ Red Robins had some expected early handling errors given the long lay-off. It was a big test for Shannon/LIT to come up against the league standard bearers, especially with Marea Walshe, Aisling Hehir, Sara Carroll and Abbey McNamara all making their senior debuts.
Full-back Aoife Corey’s try opened the scoring, setting UL on their way to a 38-0 half-time lead. Laura O’Mahony (2), Ciara O’Halloran, Galvin and Kavanagh also touched down with flanker Edel Murphy successful with four conversions.
Shannon/LIT fought valiantly but leaked three more tries. Prop Sarah O’Gorman powered over early in the second half before Corey completed a well-taken hat-trick and Murphy added two more conversions. According to experienced loosehead Fiona Reidy, it was UL’s young guns who really shone on the Community Series’ opening night.
“Sarah O’Gorman was awarded the player-of-the-match for a brilliant performance from a young prop,” said Reidy, the Ireland international. “Alana McInerney, on the left wing, and Aoife Corey both stood out in an experienced back-line.”
The Leinster Conference took centre stage on Saturday evening and Railway Union and Blackrock College both hit the ground running. Ireland Sevens star Eve Higgins scored two of Railway’s 10 tries in a comprehensive 62-3 victory over Suttonians at Station Road.
A sweeping four-player off a scrum, just outside the Railway 22, saw full-back Higgins fly up the right touchline for the opening score. John Cronin’s charges built a 21-3 half-time lead, with Suttonians winger Cat Galvin kicking a close-range penalty.
Boosted by the availability of some of their Sevens internationals, Railway were that bit sharper with Suttonians lacking a warm-up game and having a stop-start build-up to the campaign. Head coach Robert Forbes said Sutts were ‘quite undercooked’ in comparison to their Dublin rivals.
“Despite ten new players in the matchday squad, the first half was a competitive affair,” explained Forbes. “Some handling errors cost us and we managed to get on the wrong side of the referee’s whistle, a trend which continued.
“Helen Boylan, our openside, was her usual menacing self, hitting everything that moved, and she was a key contributor until left with a minor knock in the second half. Our new prop Mary Healy showed well and has the potential to grow and grow at this level.
“The whole pack dug in but as the game wore on, match fitness became an issue for us which is not going to help against an opposition who have more miles on the clock and who are looking to move the ball around.
“Our backs created a few moments and opened space but the killer pass went down and they’ll probably reflect that they didn’t give the account of themselves they’d expect. Our scrum half and captain, Lauren Farrell McCabe, was busy throughout but she’ll be looking to generate quicker ball next week (against Blackrock) to release the threats we have in the back-line.”
His Railway counterpart Cronin picked out some notable performers on a night which saw Ireland Sevens-capped flanker Anna McGann run in a hat-trick. Grace Moore, who stormed over from a scrum inside her own half, Katie Heffernan, Molly Scuffil-McCabe, Meaghan Kenny and Deirdre Roberts (pictured below) also crossed the whitewash, with Nikki Caughey kicking six conversions.
“Megan Collis, Alex McGuinness and Orla Hayes are all 18-year-olds who made their senior debuts against Suttonians after an impressive pre-season,” he acknowledged. “Collis is a product of Greystones, McGuinness with Wicklow and Hayes from Ashbourne.
“The back row were excellent with number 8 Grace Moore dominant in contact and scoring a fine individual try. Anna McGann capped an energetic performance with her three tries, including one in the last play of the game.”
Wicklow are preparing to make the step up to All-Ireland League level in the New Year, and their first Leinster Conference clash saw them come up against a classy Blackrock outfit. Led by captain Amy O’Neill, Wicklow competed well for long periods, trailing 28-0 at the break before nine-try Blackrock pulled away for a 61-0 success.
In Ben Martin’s first competitive game in charge, a number of players who have been part of the IRFU Women’s Development pathway, including current Sevens international Megan Burns, registered tries for ‘Rock. Former Ballinasloe backs Aoibheann Reilly (2) and Meabh Deely had a try-scoring impact too.
Ali Coleman released winger Aisling Brosnan for Blackrock’s opening try in the corner, with lively openside Maeve Og O’Leary, who turned in a terrific performance in her first outing as captain, adding the second.
Young scrum half Reilly was a regular threat with quick ball and darting breaks and she managed a try in each half. Starting alongside her at half-back, Lisa Mullen showed her astute game management and created two tries from chip kicks, as well as converting from difficult angles.
Speedy winger Eimear Corri marked her return in ‘Rock colours with a trademark try after fending off a number of defenders. Wicklow exerted some control after the break, but Burns and Emily Lane soon came off the bench for their ‘Rock debuts.
The Ireland Sevens pair added significantly to the attack, while Deely also slotted in slickly at out-half on her debut. A promising player with Connacht senior experience, she bagged a try from her own kick-through and matched Mullen’s haul of four conversions.
Newcomers Kerry, an amalgamated team made up of players from Abbeyfeale, Killarney, Listowel and Tralee, made an immediate splash in Munster Conference 1. Two late tries closed out a confidence-boosting 24-5 home win for Kieran Reilly’s side against Ballincollig.
Kerry captain Anna Murphy was delighted that they ‘clicked so well’ on such an historic occasion, praising the defensive grit and organisation they showed when facing into against a strong wind in the second half. Ballincollig were 14-5 behind at the break with centre Christine O’Sullivan scoring their try.
Ballincollig director of rugby Denis Stevenson commented: “There were some very good individual performances with (front rowers) Aoife Flynn and Orla Rea carrying very well into the wind. When we got the ball, winger Heather Kennedy made good ground.
“Roisin Ormond continued to have a strong performance from the base of the scrum. (Fellow back rower) Eimear Perryman was also excellent in the lineout. Unfortunately, inexperience showed in the end and those very late tries for a 24-5 scoreline didn’t reflect the effort we gave throughout the game.”
Listowel starlet Meabh McElligott, who played for the Ireland Under-18 Sevens team last year, shone in the centre for Kerry. She scored a try in each half, her first coming in the 12th minute as the hosts’ tactic of nudging kicks in behind the Ballincollig defence paid off.
Number 10 Laoise O’Driscoll led the scoring with a handsome 14 points, landing three first-half penalties and reaching over in the corner for the first of those late tries. McElligott completed her brace in the dying minutes, while number 8 Lisa Marie Murphy and prop Maura Collins were the best of the Kerry forwards.
The only match that went ahead in the Ulster Conference finished in a well-judged 26-0 bonus point victory for Cooke at Belfast rivals Malone. Hanna Harris, Ilse van Staden, Teah Maguire and Aishling O’Connell shared out the tries with Amanda Morton booting three conversions.
Meanwhile, following the correct application relating to Covid-19 guidelines, three first round fixtures were cancelled – Ennis v Kilrush, Thurles v Skibbereen and Queen’s University v City of Derry. The scores are recorded as 0-0 and both teams awarded two points.
ENERGIA WOMEN’S COMMUNITY SERIES – FIRST ROUND RESULTS:
Suttonians 3 Railway Union 62, Station Road
Wicklow 0 Blackrock College 61, Ashtown Lane
Old Belvedere – Bye
MUNSTER CONFERENCE 1:
UL Bohemians 57 Shannon/LIT 0, University of Limerick 4G pitch (played on Friday)
Kerry 24 Ballincollig 5, Abbeyfeale (played on Sunday)
MUNSTER CONFERENCE 2:
Ennis v Kilrush, Lea Road (Match cancelled – 0-0. Both teams are awarded two points)
Thurles v Skibbereen, Loughtagalla (Match cancelled – 0-0. Both teams are awarded two points)
Malone 0 Cooke 26, Gibson Park (played on Sunday)
Queen’s University v City of Derry, Dub Lane (Match cancelled – 0-0. Both teams are awarded two points)
Cavan – Bye