Galwegians outgunned Old Belvedere at home on Saturday evening to claim the scalp of one of the Energia Women’s All-Ireland League’s ‘big four’.
ENERGIA WOMEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: Saturday, November 27
GALWEGIANS 38 OLD BELVEDERE 26, Crowley Park
Scorers: Galwegians: Tries: Megan Walsh, Orla Dixon 2, Jessica Loftus, Mairead Coyne; Cons: Emma Keane 5; Pen: Emma Keane
Old Belvedere: Tries: Clare Gorman 2, Katie Layde, Lesley Ring; Cons: Jemma Farrell 3
HT: Galwegians 21 Old Belvedere 5
Jarrad Butler’s Blue Belles made it three wins in four rounds with a brilliant 38-26 bonus point triumph over Belvedere. Centre Orla Dixon crossed twice to take her season’s haul to five tries.
These sides produced a hugely entertaining nine-try thriller in Glenina, ‘Wegians, who are now up to fifth in the table, laying down a marker with a 21-5 half-time scoreline.
‘Belvo’s returning winger Clare Gorman ran in her eighth and ninth tries of the campaign, but ‘Wegians showed great composure after their lead was cut to just two points, responding with a late 10-point spurt.
There were signs it was not going to be Old Belvedere’s day when their Ireland scrum half Kathryn Dane went off with an early injury – on the back of some late changes – and Vic Dabanovich O’Mahony was held up from a try-scoring opportunity.
Galwegians had a couple of important turnovers from Grace Browne Moran and Dearbhla Canty, and a Fiona Scally-inspired attack had them exactly where they wanted to be, pressing for the opening try.
It arrived just before the end of the first quarter, all-action flanker Scally again involved as her short pass released Megan Walsh for the line from 10 metres out. Emma Keane added a crisp conversion.
Belvedere were quick to respond, Jemma Farrell’s switch to scrum half ensuring a quality supply of possession. Good footwork and a nice pass from Aine Donnelly unleashed their attack.
Strong-running prop Alice O’Dowd bounced off one tackle and absorbed another, charging up into the hosts’ 22. Farrell and Elise O’Byrne-White whipped passes out for Gorman to round in from the right corner.
The winger’s try went unconverted, Farrell’s kick going narrowly wide, and ‘Wegians managed to force a scrum from the restart, using the possession to expertly put away their second seven-pointer.
Ireland-capped full-back Mairead Coyne darted through a gap just past halfway, linking with Saskia Morrissey who made it into the 22 before offloading out of a tackle for Dixon to finish off close to the posts.
Prop Loftus soon hurtled onto a pass to crash over from close range, after another pacy Coyne break had opened up the ‘Belvo defence. Keane converted both tries for a 16-point lead at the turnaround.
As the Dubliners lifted the intensity on the resumption, Coyne rescued her side with a try-saving interception and a kick downfield.
Nonetheless, ‘Belvo scrambled back and Farrell cleverly used the ruck ball to chip into open territory. Speedster Gorman was first to the ball, kicking through to score beside the posts.
After Farrell’s conversion, the end-to-end action continued. The in-form Dixon romped home from halfway, breaking between two defenders and showing a clean pair of heels to bag the bonus point try.
Keane comfortably converted, briefly giving ‘Wegians breathing space at 28-12. It was soon Belvedere’s turn to hammer away, and from a tap penalty, replacement Katie Layde crashed over for Farrell to convert.
Indeed, Farrell and her team-mates appeared to be playing with renewed energy. Lesley Ring was up on Layde’s shoulder to score, with Farrell’s straightforward extras closing the gap to 28-26.
Crucially, Belvedere began to cough up penalties, paying the price when lock Elaine Anthony was sin-binned. The resulting penalty kick was sent through the uprights by ever-reliable out-half Keane.
‘Wegians were not finished yet and they took the losing bonus point away from the visitors when Coyne crossed in the final play, Walsh providing the assist after a sustained period of pressure in the 22.
Keane’s simple conversion completed her own handsome haul of 13 points. It was a real squad effort from the Blue Belles, made all the more impressive by the fact that they were missing injured captain Mary Healy.
GALWEGIANS: Mairead Coyne; Casie O’Connell, Megan Walsh, Orla Dixon, Saskia Morrissey; Emma Keane, Darwyn O’Halloran; Elizabeth McNicholas, Ruby Lynch, Jessica Loftus, Niamh O’Grady, Grace Browne Moran, Fiona Scally, Lisa-Marie Murphy, Dearbhla Canty.
Replacements: Nolwenn Dubois, Hannah Coen, Celia Killilea, Ursula Sammon, Maria Gorham, Ines Delgado.
OLD BELVEDERE: Vanessa Hullon; Clare Gorman, Aine Donnelly, Ava Jenkins, Alannah O’Carroll; Jemma Farrell (capt), Kathryn Dane; Alice O’Dowd, Rachel Murphy, Vic Dabanovich O’Mahony, Elaine Anthony, Jan Carroll, Clodagh Dunne, Lesley Ring, Oonagh Hynes.
Replacements: Melissa Hayden, Ciara O’Dwyer, Ivanna Dempsey, Niamh O’Dowd, Katie Layde.