Reigning champions Railway Union did not have it all their own way but ultimately triumphed 79-0 against Ballincollig, with two tries each from Aoife Doyle, Spanish international flanker Carmen Rodera and Ailsa Hughes.
ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE WOMEN’S DIVISION: Saturday, September 24
RAILWAY UNION 79 BALLINCOLLIG 0, Park Avenue
Scorers: Railway Union: Tries: Claire Boles, Aoife Doyle 2, Carmen Rodera 2, Molly Scuffil-McCabe, Lisa Callan, Ailsa Hughes 2, Ava Ryder, Claire Byrne, Deirdre Roberts, Keelin Brady; Cons: Christine Coffey 7
HT: Railway Union 38 Ballincollig 0
Ballincollig did not get to play Railway Union during their debut season in the Energia All-Ireland League Women’s Division, so there was huge excitement about testing themselves against the title holders.
Fiona Hayes’ charges gave a very good account of themselves, especially across the opening 20 to 30 minutes at Park Avenue. Heather Kennedy, captain Clodagh Walsh and Kelly Griffin led by example.
Railway’s class shone through, however, as they racked up 13 tries in the end with out-half Christine Coffey adding seven conversions. Their back row, including Rodera on her AIL debut, were particularly effective.
Ballincollig’s tight five were prominent during the early exchanges, carrying strongly in and around the Railway 22. Denise Redmond kicked a penalty towards the right corner, but a turnover allowed Lindsay Peat to break out with a couple of big hand-offs.
John Cronin’s Railway side were clinical once they reached the visitors’ 22, the ever-alert Hughes forcing a knock-on to give them a scrum from which Boles, Hughes and Doyle combined to threaten on the right wing.
A few phases later, Offaly native Hughes ran hard off a ruck and fed Claire Boles for a muscular finish for the opening fourth-minute try. Coffey’s well-hit conversion bounced wide off the right hand post.
Katelyn Fleming’s hard work at the breakdown was rewarded with a relieving penalty for Ballincollig, while a tackle from centre Meaghan Kenny made Katie O’Dwyer lose control of the ball in the act of scoring.
‘Collig were tenacious in their tackling but they got sucked in at times, and Railway ended the first quarter with a 10-0 lead after Rodera put Doyle away to the right of the posts.
Ballincollig’s determined defence succeeded in frustrating the hosts for the next few minutes. Jinking out-half Griffin looked sharp with ball in hand and returning lock Redmond was a powerful carrier up front.
The Cork outfit were turned over just metres from the Railway line, though, and back near the halfway line, Rodera seized the initiative with a quick tap and burst of acceleration to run in under the posts.
Coffey converted and also added the extras to three more tries before half-time, the first of them run in by Doyle after Molly Scuffil-McCabe’s initial break and a well-timed inside pass.
Full-back Scuffil-McCabe was rewarded for her trail running, set free by Boles to score from 30 metres out, and hooker Lisa Callan broke in between two defenders to claim try number six. That made it 38-0 at the interval.
‘Collig full-back Kennedy hunted down the increasingly-influential Deirdre Roberts to deny her a try early in the second half, but some crisp passing across the line saw Emerson Allen release blindside Rodera to complete her brace in the 46th minute.
Although Railway suffered a double blow with injuries to Ireland tighthead O’Dwyer and replacement Nikki Caughey, replacement Stephanie Carroll skilfully fastened onto a Coffey kick to send the supporting Hughes over from inside the visitors’ 22.
Coffey’s conversion saw the Dubliners hit the half-century mark, with the lively Hughes duly doubling her tally following Roberts’ quick thinking at a ruck.
A counter ruck saw ‘Collig exposed out wide again in the 63rd minute, Rodera scooping up the ball and feeding winger Ava Ryder for a pacy finish from the visitors’ 10-metre line. Railway’s lead now stood at 62 points.
Aoife McDermott provided the assist for replacement Claire Byrne to get on the scoresheet, before good work at the breakdown from replacement Clare Coombes gave Hayes’ team a chance to build something in attack.
Kennedy showed her speed to break down the right wing, yet Railway captain Niamh Byrne brought her down to deny her a try and the Dubliners’ own wingers, Ryder and Carroll, responded by bringing them back downfield.
Roberts outmuscled two tacklers to score, with lock McDermott supplying the final pass once more. Coffey knocked over her seventh conversion to make it 74-0.
Keelin Brady, who was part of an eager Railway bench, squeezed in a final try, set free by a smashing offload from fellow replacement Grainne O’Loughlin.
RAILWAY UNION: Molly Scuffil-McCabe; Aoife Doyle, Niamh Byrne, Deirdre Roberts, Ava Ryder; Christine Coffey, Ailsa Hughes; Lindsay Peat, Lisa Callan, Katie O’Dwyer, Emerson Allen, Aoife McDermott, Carmen Rodera, Kate McCarthy, Claire Boles.
Replacements: Chloe Blackmore, Grainne O’Loughlin, Claire Byrne, Keelin Brady, Molly Boyne, Stephanie Carroll, Nikki Caughey.
BALLINCOLLIG: Heather Kennedy; Michelle O’Driscoll, Christine Arthurs, Meaghan Kenny, Kira Fitzgerald; Kelly Griffin, Mona Fehily; Roisin Ormond, Clodagh Walsh (capt), Aoife Flynn, Gillian Coombes, Denise Redmond, Caolainn Healy, Katelyn Fleming, Tiare Siguenza.
Replacements: Tamsin Richards, Orla Rea, Clare Coombes, Sarah Cronin, Aoife Buckley, Michelle Stafford, Sinéad O’Reilly.