A strong finish to the first half, with three quick-fire tries, set Malone up for a 33-19 bonus point win over Ballincollig Park at Tanner Park.
ENERGIA WOMEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: Saturday, November 27
BALLINCOLLIG 19 MALONE 33, Tanner Park
Scorers: Ballincollig: Tries: Sarah O’Donovan, Gemma Lane, Clare Coombes; Cons: Kelly Griffin 2
Malone: Tries: Emma Jordan, Holly Brannigan 2, Anna Stanfield, Neve Jones; Cons: Holly Brannigan, Ella Durkan 3
HT: Ballincollig 0 Malone 19
Ireland hooker Neve Jones marked her return to club action with a try, while Ballincollig’s livewire scrum half Gemma Lane ran in a terrific solo score from halfway.
Fiona Hayes’ charges closed the gap back to seven points – 19-12 – but Holly Brannigan completed her brace and Jones went over in the 73rd minute to put Malone out of reach.
It was a first victory for Jamie McMullan’s side since the opening round back in September, moving them up to sixth place with Ballincollig a point behind in eighth.
In dry but windy conditions, Ballincollig had the early possession and territory and were met by a tigerish Malone defence, led by captain Peita McAlister and Lauren Maginnes.
‘Collig’s pacy out-half Kelly Griffin threatened with a couple of sniping runs, yet the opening quarter was scrappy and defence-dominated with a number of penalties and set pieces.
A clever kick from McAlister helped to establish field position for the Cregagh Red Sox, their forwards began to get over the gain line and the breakthrough try came on the half hour mark.
Centre Emma Jordan injected pace onto the ball, attacking to the right of a ruck as she cut past Ballincollig’s two half-backs and darted in under the posts for Holly Brannigan to convert.
Ella Durkan’s impressive display in Malone’s midfield continued with a 50:22 kick, but the hosts broke up their momentum with a Roisin Ormond turnover and then a well-won penalty by Meaghan Kenny at the breakdown.
However, a powerful Maginnes run quickly Malone back into scoring range and Durkan’s neat kick over the top was grounded by full-back Brannigan, wide on the left.
Durkan knocked over the conversion for good measure, and it was 19-0 at the turnaround after McAlister’s well-weighted kick out to the right was gobbled up by Anna Stanfield who finished past Orla Creedon.
Hayes’ half-time words worked a treat, though, as Ballincollig came roaring back with two tries inside the opening eight minutes of the second half.
Katelyn Fleming ran hard off a quickly-taken penalty, bringing the Cork outfit close to the posts, and a phase later, replacement Sarah O’Donovan dived over from a ruck for an unconverted try.
Barely four minutes later, Lane caught Malone napping with a quick tap and her acceleration from halfway as she sped in behind the posts. Her half-back partner Griffin converted.
After a fired-up O’Donovan forced a turnover penalty, ‘Collig came hunting for a levelling try but were denied by a couple of knock-ons in promising positions.
Instead, Malone gradually moved back downfield, Durkan starting a prolonged attack with a strong run into the 22. In the 65th minute, nice hands from McAlister and the centres sent Brannigan over.
Durkan converted impressively and also added the extras to Jones’ close range try, as the talented 22-year-old front rower helped to win a scrum penalty before pouncing to score from a ruck.
‘Collig hit back when number 8 Kenny’s terrific offload out of a tackle sent replacement Clare Coombes over to the left of the posts. Griffin converted but the closing stages were scoreless.
BALLINCOLLIG: Lauren Fahey; Michelle Stafford, Heather Kennedy, Mona Fehily, Orla Creedon; Kelly Griffin, Gemma Lane; Naoise Murray, Clodagh Walsh (capt), Roisin Ormond, Eimear Perryman, Gillian Coombes, Katelyn Fleming, Niamh O’Regan, Meaghan Kenny.
Replacements: Clare Coombes, Alix Cunneen, Gerda Coyne, Sarah O’Donovan, Laurileigh Baker, Olivia Hay Mulvihill, Ellen O’Keeffe.
MALONE: Holly Brannigan; Anna Stanfield, Emma Jordan, Ella Durkan, Erin Jones; Peita McAlister (capt), Shirelle Wilson; Sarah Murphy, Neve Jones, Chrissie McKee, Hannah Beattie, Rebecca Smyth, Ashleigh Currie, Chloe McIlwaine, Lauren Maginnes.
Replacements: Niamh McCloskey, Donna McGovern.