A Trojan effort from an injury-hit Suttonians saw them put it up to Railway Union, but the defending champions pulled clear in the final 25 minutes to record a 62-3 bonus point win.
ENERGIA WOMEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: Saturday, November 6
RAILWAY UNION 62 SUTTONIANS 3, Park Avenue
Scorers: Railway Union: Tries: Stephanie Carroll 2, Nikki Caughey 2, Maggie MacKinnon 2, Niamh Byrne, Aimee Clarke, Deirdre Roberts, Molly Scuffil McCabe; Cons: Nikki Caughey 6
Suttonians: Pen: Jessica Kelleher
HT: Railway Union 26 Suttonians 0
After Covid-19 robbed them of two recent run-outs, Railway Union were full of running during the closing stages as they racked up 10 tries.
There were braces from Stephanie Carroll, Nikki Caughey and Maggie MacKinnon, with Ireland-capped centre Caughey also kicking 12 points. She is currently top of the scoring charts with 56 points.
Former Ireland Under-18 Sevens international Ava Ryder, who made her AIL debut off the Railway bench, said: “I’m delighted. I got a good few carries, was under a few high balls. We had fun in the end, it was very enjoyable.
“It’s brilliant to play against such a good team. Suttonians put it up to us, especially in the first half. It was a slow start but we came together in the end and got a good result.”
Sutts had to absorb some early pressure, full-back Sophie Gibney doing really well to deny the hosts a try from a kick through, and great work at the breakdown from Catherine Martin won a clearing penalty.
However, six minutes in, Deirdre Roberts carried hard off a scrum and Claire Keohane swung a long pass wide for winger Carroll to score Railway’s opening try.
Caughey’s drop-kicked conversion went over off the crossbar for a 7-0 lead. Playing into a strong wind, Suttonians tackled tenaciously before Roberts surged off a scrum and fed Caughey for a 12th-minute score.
Railway ended the first quarter with a 19-0 lead, Carroll bursting over from 15 metres out after good work from the home pack to win a scrum against the head and then advance with a maul.
Sutts had some bright moments with ball in hand, the likes of Martin and Jools Aungier evading tackles, but Railway’s territorial dominance continued to pay off.
They gobbled up a loose pass in the visitors’ 22 and shipped it across the posts for Canadian centre MacKinnon to score on the right. Caughey’s conversion put 26 points between the sides.
To Suttonians’ immense credit, their defence then shut down Railway for a prolonged period. They held up a maul for a turnover and captain Lauren Farrell McCabe’s woman-and-ball tackle on Caughey also halted a dangerous attack.
The Sutts skipper was to the fore during the third quarter, making some smart reads in defence. Brenda Barr and Katie Grant Duggan also impressed, the latter’s rip in the tackle breaking up some Railway pressure in the 22.
Nonetheless, John Cronin’s charges got the scoreboard moving again in the 56th minute. A quick tap led to Amanda McQuade making good yards before offloading for captain Niamh Byrne to touch down.
Replacement Aimee Clarke crashed in under the posts for Caughey to make it 38-0, before hard-working number 8 Deirdre Roberts sprung clean through from a ruck for another seven-pointer.
A Siobhan McCarthy-led breakaway had Railway on the charge again, the result being a Caughey dummy and score in the right corner which racked up the half-century.
A well-struck penalty from Jessica Kelleher, following a high tackle, saw Suttonians pull back three points, but Railway were able to close out the game with two more tries.
Scrum half Molly Scuffil McCabe sniped over from a ruck after replacement Ryder had cut in menacingly from the left wing. Emma Murphy and McCarthy also showed good hands in the build-up.
MacKinnon stepped inside two defenders to complete her brace in the final minute, following up on a couple of ground-gaining carries by Roberts.
Sutts head coach Stephen Costelloe commented: “26-0 at half-time from small errors capitalised on by very good players. It wasn’t until the last 25 minutes when we lost players through injury, used all our subs and had to play players in positions that were alien to them, that Railway scored again.
“I couldn’t be prouder of each and every one of them. We fought to the very end and they did themselves, the team and the club proud.”
RAILWAY UNION: Aoife O’Shaughnessy; Stephanie Carroll, Maggie MacKinnon, Nikki Caughey, Niamh Byrne (capt); Claire Keohane, Molly Scuffil McCabe; Amanda McQuade, Chloe Blackmore, Megan Collis, Keelin Brady, Siobhan McCarthy, Emma Murphy, Molly Boyne, Deirdre Roberts.
Replacements: Aimee Clarke, Claire Byrne, Kate McCarthy, Christine Coffey, Erin Coll, Alex McGuinness, Ava Ryder.
SUTTONIANS: Sophie Gibney; Jools Aungier, Jessica Kelleher, Catherine Martin, Lena Kibler; Nicole Carroll, Lauren Farrell McCabe (capt); Katie Grant Duggan, Aoife Brennan, Julia Bauer, Brenda Barr, Aislinn Layde, Louise Catinot, Carrie O’Keeffe, Aifric O’Brien.
Replacements: Ciara O’Brien, Megan Cullen, Emily McKeown, Molly Fitzgerald.