Wicklow’s spirited recovery from some heavy early losses in the Energia Women’s All-Ireland League continued with a 15-10 victory over fellow promoted club Ballincollig.
ENERGIA WOMEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: Saturday, November 6
WICKLOW 15 BALLINCOLLIG 10, Ashtown Lane
Scorers: Wicklow: Tries: Aoibhin Stone, Sarah Gleeson, Meagan Parkinson
Ballincollig: Tries: Denise Redmond, Katelyn Fleming
HT: Wicklow 5 Ballincollig 5
Jason Moreton’s young side outscored Ballincollig by three tries to two at Ashtown Lane, with out-half Beth Roberts and co-captain Amy O’Neill both impressing.
The Cork women initially led thanks to a Denise Redmond try on the half hour mark, and a late Katelyn Fleming effort ensured they took home a losing bonus point but it could have been more.
Wicklow had the first attacking opportunity, co-captain Erin McConnell taking a quick tap and player-coach Niamh Ni Dhroma, who started at number 8, carried well to take them into Ballincollig’s half.
‘Collig flanker Fleming soon used a strong hand-off to make 15 metres, with scrum half Gemma Lane quickly getting the ball free from ruck to ruck as the visitors operated at the high tempo.
However, it was tough to make headway in the wet and windy conditions, and a well-won turnover penalty from Meagan Parkinson allowed Wicklow to kick clear.
As the rain came down heavier, there were some scrappy phases but Ballincollig looked the more dangerous team with ball in hand, particularly working off the livewire Lane.
She sniped through from a lovely Redmond offload, in the hosts’ 22, the ‘Collig forwards were held up over the try-line but came hunting again from a subsequent lineout maul.
Kelly Griffin was hauled down short near the left corner, before quick recycled ball set up Redmond to break a tackle from Ni Dhroma, her opposite number, and show good strength to touch down from close range.
Dropped passes prevented Wicklow from responding until just before half-time.Hooker O’Neill scooped up a loose ball and Ni Dhroma released winger Aoibhin Stone to step inside Griffin and race over from just outside the visitors’ 22.
Like all of the tries, it went unconverted in the difficult wind, leaving this meeting of the promoted teams tantalisingly poised at five points apiece.
Wicklow came out the blocks the fastest on the resumption, launching forward from a scrum penalty and a lineout which Jessica Schmidt did well to flick back with her fingertips.
After Ballincollig had lost possession in their own 22, Wicklow took the lead when centre Sarah Gleeson nipped through a gap between Meaghan Kenny and Ellen O’Keeffe to score wide on the right.
Credit to McConnell, Lauren Barry, Ciara Brennan and Ni Dhroma for their hard work in setting up a well-worked try, the latter three all getting over the gain-line with punchy carries.
Roberts sent the conversion wide to the left, and despite some excellent kicks to touch from the out-half which pinned ‘Collig back, Wicklow remained just five points clear.
A missed penalty from Roberts added to the tension amongst the home crowd, but a series of penalties, coupled with a Schmidt lineout steal, still had Wicklow within range.
From a close-in scrum, Roberts’ well-timed pass sent centre Parkinson darting in at the left corner flag for a vital try, the match-winning one in the end.
With three minutes remaining, Ballincollig built through the phases with their pack carrying forcefully. Openside Fleming crashed over from a Gillian Coombes pass, restoring the five-point gap.
Although Griffin’s conversion attempt fell short, Ballincollig’s attack quickly clicked again, Fleming and speedy full-back Lauren Fahey leading them back up into the Wicklow 22.
Replacement Laurileigh Baker led a charge towards the left of the posts, but a determined Wicklow held out in a dramatic finish, a knock-on ending ‘Collig’s hopes with the try-line barely five metres away.
WICKLOW: Orla O’Neill; Aoibhin Stone, Meagan Parkinson, Sarah Gleeson, Tammy Breen; Beth Roberts, Erin McConnell (co-capt); Lauren Barry, Amy O’Neill (co-capt), Kathy Byrne, Ciara Brennan, Caitlin Griffey, Jessica Schmidt, Emma Curran, Niamh Ni Dhroma.
Replacements: Robyn Mullen, Noelle Ward, Laura Newsome, Nicola Schmidt, Emily Ryan, Karen Douglas, Alexandra Dalton.
BALLINCOLLIG: Lauren Fahey; Michelle Stafford, Mona Fehily, Ellen O’Keeffe; Kelly Griffin, Gemma Lane; Roisin Ormond, Clodagh Walsh, Clare Coombes, Meaghan Kenny, Eimear Perryman, Kira Fitzgerald, Katelyn Fleming, Denise Redmond.
Replacements: Alix Cunneen, Naoise Murray, Laurileigh Baker, Niamh O’Regan, Gillian Coombes, Christine Arthurs, Sarah O’Donovan.