A three-try second half salvo ensured Blackrock College won the battle of the unbeaten teams as they overhauled Old Belvedere to win 19-10 at Ollie Campbell Park.
ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE WOMEN’S DIVISION: Saturday, October 22
OLD BELVEDERE 10 BLACKROCK COLLEGE 19, Ollie Campbell Park
Scorers: Old Belvedere: Try: Dannah O’Brien; Con: Dannah O’Brien; Pen: Dannah O’Brien
Blackrock College: Tries: Natasja Behan, Mairead Holohan, Méabh Deely; Cons: Méabh Deely 2
HT: Old Belvedere 7 Blackrock College 0
Ben Martin’s charges trailed 7-0 at half-time at Ollie Campbell Park, a dummying Dannah O’Brien, the league’s top points scorer, sniping over for a try midway through the first half.
O’Brien kicked a penalty in response to a Natasja Behan try, but Blackrock crossed through Mairead Holohan (60 minutes) and Méabh Deely (75) to secure a hard-fought victory which puts them within a point of the summit.
There was some long ball-in-play time early on, both sides building phases and Jenny Murphy cutting a nice line up into the Blackrock 22 before Laura Feely repelled the hosts with a well-won turnover penalty.
When the ball fell off the tee at her first penalty attempt, Old Belvedere starlet O’Brien showed her quick thinking to embark on a run and almost create a try out wide for fellow Ireland cap Emma Tilly.
Blackrock’s defence stood firm, but an Elaine Anthony lineout steal and a subsequent break by Aoife Dalton had Belvedere hunting down the opening score once again.
Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird was a real livewire, taking a quick tap and also doing well to secure possession a couple of phases later. O’Brien spotted her chance, slashing through to touch down from close range after dummying a pass to Murphy.
Following the conversion from the Tullow youngster, Blackrock began to get more ball with Enya Breen ripping it back in a tackle. A Tatum Bird interception led to replacement Maeve Liston being put into some space out wide.
However, it was Old Belvedere who should have been further in front. O’Brien knocked a penalty wide but continued to impress in open play, throwing a superb one-handed offload behind her back to Niamh O’Dowd.
Belvedere’s aggressive defending kept the seven-point gap in place, a Nic a Bhaird turnover penalty closing out of a breathless first half. O’Brien began the second period with a narrow penalty miss.
Eimear Corri, who had stolen an earlier lineout, ignited the Blackrock attack with a break from deep. Six minutes in, Belvedere lost flanker Lesley Ring to the sin bin for a deliberate knock-on.
Suddenly, ‘Rock flooded forward, Breen charging up into the 22 via Lisa Mullen’s inside pass. Quick recycling paved the way for captain Michelle Claffey to send out a long skip pass and Behan finished smartly in the left corner.
Belvedere scrambled well to smother out a Holohan break and just before Ring returned to the pitch, Blackrock suffered a yellow of their own when busy hooker Emma Hooban was guilty of a late no-arms tackle on O’Brien.
‘Belvo’s teenage out-half punished some hands in the ruck to make it 10-5, but Blackrock began the final quarter with a terrific surge. It all started with Ali Coleman’s show-and-go and her releasing of Liston from halfway.
Despite being brought down by a combination of O’Brien and Aine Donnelly, the Ireland Sevens international popped up a peach of an offload for the supporting Holohan to go in under the posts.
Deely tapped over the conversion to put the visitors ahead for the first time at 12-10. Although Ring pinched lineout possession for ‘Belvo, the injury-enforced departure of skipper Murphy was a big loss.
Prop O’Dowd was central to earning turnover ball from a Blackrock maul, and the ferocious scrap for possession continued past the 70-minute mark with Vic Dabanovich O’Mahony and Beth Cregan trading turnovers.
Replacement Jackie Shiels then pinned Belvedere back with a well-placed kick, a knock-on giving ‘Rock a scrum in the opposition 22 and they were clinical through the next five phases.
The home defence was sucked in sufficiently enough, a neat line of passes from Bird, Corri, Shiels and Liston sending Deely sliding over in the right corner. The Ballinasloe native added a classy conversion as the rain came down heavily.
Old Belvedere still had time to strike back in the dying embers, but they were left to rue a crooked lineout throw from Dabanovich O’Mahony, in worsening conditions, and a final knock-on from the otherwise impressive Nic a Bhaird.
OLD BELVEDERE: Aine Donnelly; Elise O’Byrne-White, Aoife Dalton, Jenny Murphy (capt), Emma Tilly; Dannah O’Brien, Jemma Farrell; Niamh O’Dowd, Vic Dabanovich O’Mahony, Aine Rutley, Caoimhe Guinan, Elaine Anthony, Fiona Tuite, Lesley Ring, Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird.
Replacements: Melissa Hayden, Katie Layde, Jane Neill, Clodagh Dunne, Katie Whelan, Emma Kelly, Éadaoin Murtagh.
BLACKROCK COLLEGE: Ella Durkan; Méabh Deely, Michelle Claffey (capt), Enya Breen, Natasja Behan; Lisa Mullen, Tatum Bird; Laura Feely, Emma Hooban, Shannon Heapes, Eimear Corri, Mairead Holohan, Aoife Moore, Beth Cregan, Ali Coleman.
Replacements: Niamh Tester, Mya Alcorn, Jackie Shiels, Ciara Scanlan, Maeve Liston, Roisin Crowe, Abby Moyles.