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Old Belvedere Come Out On Top Against Much-Improved Cooke

Old Belvedere Come Out On Top Against Much-Improved Cooke

Old Belvedere Come Out On Top Against Much-Improved Cooke

Strong-running Alice O'Dowd broke through to score Old Belvedere's opening try against Cooke ©INPHO/Bryan Keane

There is only a single point between the top four teams in the Energia Women’s All-Ireland League, Old Belvedere leading the way thanks to a hard-earned 28-21 bonus point success at home to Cooke.

ENERGIA WOMEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: Saturday, November 6

OLD BELVEDERE 28 COOKE 21, Ollie Campbell Park
Scorers: Old Belvedere: Tries: Alice O’Dowd, Penalty try, Vanessa Hullon, Alannah O’Carroll; Cons: Jemma Farrell 3, Pen try con
Cooke: Tries: Dolores Hughes, Lucy Thompson, Aishling O’Connell; Cons: Amanda Morton 3
HT: Old Belvedere 7 Cooke 0

The Belfast outfit were much-improved from last week, stringing together second half tries from Dolores Hughes, Lucy Thompson and captain Aishling O’Connell for a deserved losing bonus point.

Despite a sloppy start, Old Belvedere were seven points clear at the end of an error-strewn first half, with prop Alice O’Dowd making the breakthrough from Jemma Farrell’s tap penalty.

They added a penalty try for a high tackle in the right corner, along with further efforts from pacy backs Vanessa Hullon and Alannah O’Carroll.

Cooke got on the front foot early on, O’Connell winning a turnover penalty on halfway and fellow prop Ilse van Staden charging up the left wing as Belvedere continued to leak early penalties.

The hosts, whose injury list now includes Hannah Tyrrell (fractured cheekbone) and Clare Gorman (shoulder), got themselves out of a tricky spot thanks to a Lesley Ring turnover penalty.

With their forwards ever willing in the carry and putting pressure on at scrum time, Cooke continued to have the better of the opening quarter but, crucially, had no points to show for their hard work.

Belvedere lifted the tempo with a couple of quick taps, entering the second quarter. Ulster captain Beth Cregan hit back with some great work at the breakdown, earning a clearing penalty.

Hullon injected pace into a ‘Belvo attack, breaking down the left wing, but when the forwards trucked it up through the middle, tighthead Vic Dabanovich O’Mahony was held up over the try-line.

Nonetheless, her front row colleague, O’Dowd, was unstoppable at the end of a prolonged spell of ‘Belvo pressure. Hughes denied Laura Carty with a vital tackle near the left corner, but Farrell used a penalty to send O’Dowd piling in under the posts.

The conversion was added by the scrum half, and O’Dowd continued to be ‘Belvo’s most threatening runner, making 25 metres on one surge. Yet, it was Cooke who seized control on the restart.

Their forwards chipped away again, Cregan and van Staden getting them over the gain-line, before full-back Hughes threw a dummy, accelerated through a gap and handed off a final defender for a terrific 25-metre run-in.

Although her 45th-minute try was well converted by Amanda Morton, Hughes saw yellow just a couple of minutes later for a high tackle on Kate Balance in a try-scoring situation.

It all came from a well-placed kick towards the right corner from Aine Donnelly, and the Cooke full-back went too high in her attempt to prevent Balance from scoring. Young referee Eoin Crossen, who had a fine game, awarded the penalty try.

Nonetheless, Daniel Allen’s charges were back level by the hour mark. Sorcha Mac Laimhin had a leg-pumping run up into the ‘Belvo 22, the visitors maintained their presence there and then Morton’s short pass released centre Thompson on a nicely-time sprint to the posts.

The second half water break was just the tonic for ‘Belvo, who moved 21-14 ahead within minutes of the restart. Ciara O’Dwyer led the charge, surging up into the 22 before numbers of the right sent centre Hullon darting over for Farrell to convert.

It was two quick-fire tries as the hosts moved 28-14 clear, Leinster’s Jennie Finlay hoovering up the ground on the left wing before her flat pass put winger O’Carroll in the clear from the edge of the Cooke 22.

Cregan and van Staden, in particular, really took the fight to Belvedere down the final stretch. A prolonged attacking spell near the left corner ended with skipper O’Connell picking from a ruck to drive over.

Morton drew her conversion in, just inside the left hand post, but it was Farrell who settled the issue, showing her experience with a strong run that drew a penalty and she also found a very good touch to keep ‘Belvo in Cooke territory.

OLD BELVEDERE: Laura Carty; Kate Balance, Vanessa Hullon, Katelyn Faust, Alannah O’Carroll; Aine Donnelly, Jemma Farrell (capt); Alice O’Dowd, Rachel Murphy, Vic Dabanovich O’Mahony, Jan Carroll, Elaine Anthony, Ivanna Dempsey, Lesley Ring, Clodagh Dunne.

Replacements: Melissa Hayden, Dawn Keegan, Ciara O’Dwyer, Niamh O’Dowd, Jennie Finlay, Ava Jenkins.

COOKE: Dolores Hughes; Claire Johnston, Lucy Thompson, Coral Lapsley, Tamzin Boyce; Amanda Morton, Teah Maguire; Ilse van Staden, Megan Simpson, Aishling O’Connell (capt), Caolinn McCormack, Sorcha Mac Laimhin, Beth Cregan, Naomi McCord, Helen McGhee.

Replacements: Cara McKevitt, Fiona McCaughan, Georgia Boyce, Eimear McQuillan.