Nearing the mid-season split in the Energia Women’s All-Ireland League, Suttonians have moved into fifth place after claiming a 13-12 verdict against Malone for their second win in a row.
ENERGIA WOMEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: Saturday, December 4
MALONE 12 SUTTONIANS 13, Gibson Park
Scorers: Malone: Tries: Peita McAlister, Lauren Maginnes; Con: Ella Durkan
Suttonians: Tries: Molly Fitzgerald 2; Pen: Nicole Carroll
HT: Malone 5 Suttonians 8
Speedy winger Molly Fitzgerald bagged a brace of tries – her second double in the space of a week – as they edged out Malone in a low-scoring and tense encounter in Belfast.
The Cregagh Red Sox kicked off, facing into the wind and rain, and were first to threaten as Holly Brannigan made it up into the 22 off a neat line of passes instigated by the half-backs and Ella Durkan.
They made the early pressure count when scrum half Shirelle Wilson tapped a penalty, Suttonians were slow to react, and she fed captain Peita McAlister for a strong finish wide on the right.
Malone’s fifth-minute opener went unconverted, Durkan’s kick falling wide to the left, and a subsequent turnover penalty won by out-half McAlister kept them on the front foot.
However, Suttonians scored from their first attack, working their way up to the edge of the hosts’ 22 where out-half Nicole Carroll clipped a penalty over to close the gap to 5-3.
Chrissie McKee and the freshly-introduced Mary Healy traded penalty wins at the breakdown, a real arm-wrestle developing through some scrappy spells. Malone were also unable to cap off some promising approach play.
Sutts turned the screw with half-time in sight, some lovely interplay up the right wing releasing Fitzgerald but she could not connect with her support. They won a penalty from the resulting scrum, though.
The forwards battered away before skipper Lauren Farrell McCabe spotted the space out wide, passing to Healy who fed Fitzgerald to go over in the right corner.
Sutts tightened up their defence late on, holding out after a fine touchfinder from McAlister and a five-metre Malone scrum soon after.
Although Neve Jones’ savvy breakdown work inspired Malone on the restart, Fitzgerald struck again for the Dubliners in the 49th minute, finishing off some snappy passes across the back-line.
Carroll’s kick into space caused trouble for the hosts, leading to a knock-on and a Sutts scrum. They worked the ball wide to the opposite right wing where Fitzgerald supplied the finish.
However, Malone set up a fascinating final quarter when number 8 Lauren Maginnes released the ball after being tackled, picked it back up and burst clean through a stunned Sutts rearguard to score under the posts.
Durkan’s conversion made it a one-point game, and the momentum was very much with Malone after Healy saw yellow for repeated infringements on the ground.
Handling errors prevented Jamie McMullan’s charges from scoring, along with a reinforced Sutts defence which was aided by the impact of Shannon Touhey off the bench.
Despite losing a second player to the bin, Suttonians held onto their slim advantage with Healy returning to make two superb carries downfield. Fellow front rower Katie Grant Duggan had some key involvements too.
The ever-willing Durkan broke the defensive line for Malone’s best chance late on, but the cover managed to haul her down and Stephen Costelloe’s side prevailed by the smallest of margins.
MALONE: Holly Brannigan; Donna McGovern, Emma Jordan, Ella Durkan, Emma Taylor; Peita McAlister (capt), Anna Stanfield; Sarah Murphy, Neve Jones, Chrissie McKee, Hannah Beattie, Jennifer Collins, Rebecca Smyth, Jo McMorris-Cloughley, Lauren Maginnes.
Replacements: Ashleigh Currie, Jasmine Ward, Erin Jones, Shirelle Wilson.
SUTTONIANS: Sophie Gibney; Molly Fitzgerald, Jessica Kelleher, Catherine Martin, Jools Aungier; Nicole Carroll, Lauren Farrell McCabe (capt); Katie Grant Duggan, Aoife Brennan, Katie Reel, Brenda Barr, Louise Catinot, Lena Kibler, Nicola Bolger, Carrie O’Keeffe.
Replacements: Mary Healy, Ciara Farrell, Catherine Galvin, Shannon Touhey, Shannen Price.