Ballincollig and Wicklow, both in only their second season in the Energia All-Ireland League, played out a 10-all draw as the Cork side picked up their first points of the campaign at Tanner Park.
ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE WOMEN’S DIVISION: Saturday, October 8
BALLINCOLLIG 10 WICKLOW 10, Tanner Park
Scorers: Ballincollig: Tries: Heather Kennedy, Michelle O’Driscoll
Wicklow: Tries: Sarah Gleeson, Caoimhe Molloy
HT: Ballincollig 0 Wicklow 0
Defences were on top during a closely-fought and scoreless first half, but Ballincollig put themselves in a winning position when Heather Kennedy and Michelle O’Driscoll ran in a try each out wide.
However, Wicklow knuckled down and hit back with unconverted efforts from Sarah Gleeson and Caoimhe Molloy, earning themselves a share of the spoils with a late surge.
Jason Moreton’s charges had started the game showing good intent, captain Ella Roberts coming up into the line and using her quick feet to progress an early attack. Lauren Barry also skittled a couple of defenders.
Ballincollig were tough to dislodge around the breakdown, earning penalties to launch themselves forward. Excellent full-back Kennedy accelerated through on a weaving run up into the Wicklow 22.
Winning clean lineout ball was proving problematic for both teams, and while Roberts continued to pose a threat in the wide channels, Katelyn Fleming’s hard-earned turnover penalty kept the visitors out of try-scoring range.
When Beth Roberts identified some space in behind in the 29th minute, she picked out Loretta Gilbert with a kick out to the right. Kennedy brought her down with a vital tackle, and Christine Arthurs disrupted in midfield as ‘Collig won a clearing penalty.
The hosts showed their own running threat when O’Driscoll impressed when running back a kick, and Kennedy gained huge ground on the right before Meagan Parkinson brought her to ground on the edge of the Wicklow 22.
Some late ‘Collig pressure went unrewarded, with Wicklow prop Linda Dempsey digging deep to win a relieving penalty. The ferocious scrap for possession continued into the second half.
Ballincollig were well organised in defence, holding a Wicklow maul at bay before a series of penalties marched them back downfield. Parkinson infringed at a ruck, resulting in a yellow card for the Wicklow winger.
Ballinollig captain Clodagh Walsh broke off a maul and Kennedy had another incisive run, almost getting in underneath the posts. Wicklow cleared the danger following a knock-on, but it was only a temporary reprieve.
Off a scrum on halfway, ‘Collig’s backs linked well and Alison Kelly unleashed Kennedy who cut inside two defenders and used her pace to make it over in the left corner ahead of her opposite number Roberts.
The deadlock was broken heading into the final quarter, with Denise Redmond’s missed conversion from out wide keeping it at 5-0. ‘Collig held onto the momentum with penalties continuing to push Wicklow backwards.
Redmond had a sight of the right corner after Eimear Perryman’s acrobatic lineout take. Wicklow stood firm, only for O’Driscoll to score soon after, set free by some neat passing out wide and strong carries by Redmond and Perryman before that.
‘Collig centre Meaghan Kenny was also growing in influence at this stage, particularly as a ball carrier. Replacement Orla Rea charged past halfway and Fiona Hayes’ side, with their tails now up at 10-0, continued to threaten out wide.
A well-struck kick from Beth Roberts was the beginning of Wicklow’s fight-back, the hard chasing done by her sister Ella and Parkinson leading to a penalty and precious field position at last.
With eight minutes remaining, out-half Roberts’ kicking skills did the trick. She dinked an inviting kick out to the right, centre Gleeson hared after the ball, dribbled it on and reacted quickest to finish in the corner despite two covering defenders.
Space was now opening up, Kelly Griffin embarking on a mazy run for Ballincollig. Wicklow repelled them and a Parkinson burst led to Kennedy infringing for not rolling away.
Luck was on the visitors’ side, Beth Roberts missing touch but ‘Collig conceded a five-metre scrum as replacement Sinéad O’Reilly, in stretching for it, had touched the ball back over the line.
Molloy, packing down at number 8, attacked off the advancing set-piece to lunge over for the levelling try at 10-all. From five metres in from the left touchline, the left-footed Beth Roberts missed the conversion on the near side.
There was time for a restart, but a subsequent fumble left it as a drawn game. Both sides may look back on it as one that got away, but for now, ‘Collig are on the board with two points and Wicklow sit just above them in seventh place.
BALLINCOLLIG: Heather Kennedy; Michelle O’Driscoll, Christine Arthurs, Meaghan Kenny, Alison Kelly; Kelly Griffin, Mona Fehily; Roisin Ormond, Clodagh Walsh (capt), Clare Coombes, Gillian Coombes, Denise Redmond, Kira Fitzgerald, Katelyn Fleming, Tiare Siguenza.
Replacements: Annie Laffan, Orla Rea, Eimear Perryman, Caolainn Healy, Aoife Buckley, Michelle Stafford, Sinéad O’Reilly.
WICKLOW: Ella Roberts (capt); Loretta Gilbert, Aoibhin Stone, Sarah Gleeson, Meagan Parkinson; Beth Roberts, Roisin Stone; Linda Dempsey, Maya McDevitt, Lauren Barry, Rachel Griffey, Caitlin Griffey, Caoimhe Molloy, Jessica Schmidt, Nicola Schmidt.
Replacements: Eimear Douglas, Laura Newsome, Leah Murphy, Orla Molloy, Jennifer Madden.