Captain Nicole Fowley scored a try and kicked nine points as Galwegians kept up their unbeaten run in the Energia All-Ireland League Women’s Division with a 29-5 defeat of Cooke.
ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE WOMEN’S DIVISION: Saturday, September 24
GALWEGIANS 29 COOKE 5, Crowley Park
Scorers: Galwegians: Tries: Laoise McGonagle, Niamh O’Grady, Mairéad Coyne, Nicole Fowley; Cons: Nicole Fowley 3; Pen: Nicole Fowley
Cooke: Try: Helen McGhee
HT: Galwegians 14 Cooke 5
Laoise McGonagle, with her fifth try of the season, and Helen McGhee swapped scores inside the opening 11 minutes at Crowley Park, before a converted Niamh O’Grady effort gave ‘Wegians a 14-5 half-time lead.
Cooke continued to have some decent spells, but the Blue Belles developed a match-winning cushion thanks to a Fowley penalty and bonus point try which sandwiched a seven-pointer from Mairéad Coyne in the 61st minute.
Despite good early work at the breakdown from Stacey Sloan and a scrum penalty, Cooke fell behind in the sixth minute when the Galwegians backs got a chance to stretch their legs.
Full-back Maria Gorham made good ground up past the visitors’ 10-metre line, and although Cooke closed down her first run. the in-form McGonagle evaded a tackle on the left to raid over for the opener.
Fowley confidently right-footed the conversion over for 7-0, but Cooke were soon advancing downfield thanks to full-back Dolores Hughes’ impressive fielding and acceleration into a tackle.
Hannah Downey injected more pace from a quickly-taken penalty, and following a trademark charge from Ilse van Staden, Downey and Ashleigh Orchard spread the play over to the left where number 8 McGhee dummied her way over.
Hughes’ conversion stayed out to the right, leaving it 7-5, and defences were on top for the next few sets of phases. Cooke’s Kelly McCormill was rewarded for her hard graft at the breakdown, with Coyne hitting back a few minutes later with a rip in the tackle.
Indeed, clean lineout ball won by Lisa-Marie Murphy was worked infield by ‘Wegians in the 18th minute and the power of their pack delivered a second converted try, flanker O’Grady scrambling in underneath the posts.
Out-half Orchard showed her jackaling experience to win a penalty after McGonagle had been hauled down inside the Cooke 22, and the Blue Belles were unable to profit from a late bout of pressure.
Fowley’s inside pass for Coyne brought play back up to the Cooke 22. Most of the remainder of the first half was played there, but ‘Wegians were frustrated by a costly knock-on and they then had a lineout stolen by Naomi McCord.
Centre McCormill’s ball-dislodging tackle on Coyne was a crucial one early in the second half. Ulster Under-18 captain Sadhbh McGrath also made her presence felt with a turnover penalty and some determined carrying.
‘Wegians scrum half Olivia Haverty, who had a ding dong battle with Downey, was swiftly in at the breakdown to foil a promising Cooke attack in the 50th minute.
Once Eoghan Maher’s charges got back into scoring range, number 8 Murphy’s efforts at the breakdown were rewarded by a fine penalty strike from Fowley to extend the lead to 17-5.
Cooke unfortunately lost former Ireland dual international Orchard to injury, and just moments later, they leaked a third try as ‘Wegians clicked again in attack.
Murphy and lock Grace Browne Moran gobbled up the metres, taking them deep into the opposition 22, before Coyne stretched out past two defenders for a well-taken try. Fowley converted crisply from the left.
‘Wegians quickened their pursuit of the bonus point and the pressure told with ten minutes remaining. They flooded out to the right from a scrum, and Fowley stepped off her right to score from a few metres out.
Cooke’s cruel run of luck with injuries continued when Hughes, whose brilliant run had taken her past halfway, fell awkwardly in a tackle and had to be helped off.
Colm Finnegan’s side battled on and were lifted by a well-won Sloan penalty and a late scrum penalty. Nonetheless, ‘Wegians were dominant territorially and closed out the game with a 24-point winning margin.
GALWEGIANS: Maria Gorham; Sinead O’Brien, Mairéad Coyne, Emma Keane, Laoise McGonagle; Nicole Fowley (capt), Olivia Haverty; Jessica Loftus, Elizabeth McNicholas, Ellen Connolly, Grace Browne Moran, Dearbhla Canty, Niamh O’Grady, Emily Gavin, Lisa-Marie Murphy.
Replacements: Ruby Lynch, Lea Turner, Faith Oviawe, Jordan Hopkins, Mary Healy, Aoife Williams, Mollie Walsh.
COOKE: Dolores Hughes; Teah Maguire, Lucy Thompson, Kelly McCormill, Megan Edwards; Ashleigh Orchard, Hannah Downey; Ilse van Staden, Megan Simpson, Aishling O’Connell (capt), Gemma McCamley, Cara O’Kane, Stacey Sloan, Naomi McCord, Helen McGhee.
Replacements: Sadhbh McGrath, Eimear McQuillan, Fiona McLaughlan, Amanda Morton, Christy Hill, Georgia Boyce, Tamzin Boyce.