Blackrock College struck a psychological blow in the Energia All-Ireland League Women’s Division title race with a 19-17 win away to reigning champions Railway Union.
ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE WOMEN’S DIVISION: Saturday, November 12
RAILWAY UNION 17 BLACKROCK COLLEGE 19, Park Avenue
Scorers: Railway Union: Tries: Lindsay Peat, Aoife Doyle, Molly Scuffil-McCabe; Con: Nikki Caughey
Blackrock College: Tries: Anna Doyle, Maeve Óg O’Leary, Méabh Deely; Cons: Enya Breen 2
HT: Railway Union 5 Blackrock College 19
Both teams have a home semi-final to look forward to next month, but Ben Martin’s ‘Rock side preserved their unbeaten record thanks to first half tries from Anna Doyle, Maeve Óg O’Leary and Méabh Deely.
Although Railway, who suffered two sin-binnings, fought back with scores from Ireland backs Aoife Doyle and Molly Scuffil-McCabe, Nikki Caughey could only add one conversion as the visitors hung on to take the spoils.
Despite having their first lineout stolen by Eimear Corri, Railway had the better of the early exchanges with captain Niamh Byrne and Aoife McDermott winning turnover penalties, and winger Doyle threatening from a Caughey kick through.
The hosts pressed for a try on the 10-minute mark, Aoife O’Shaughnessy making the initial incision by breaking into the Blackrock 22. They continued to chip away until Anna Doyle’s tackle forced a knock-on from Scuffil-McCabe.
Railway fell foul of the referee’s whistle, losing hooker Chloe Blackmore to the sin bin, and despite rebounding well with replacement Lisa Callan carrying strongly, they were soon behind on the scoreboard.
Caughey had a kick blocked by Enya Breen, Corri gobbling up the loose ball to rampage down the right touchline – showing her pace as a former winger – only to be denied by the chasing Leah Tarpey.
Nonetheless, Blackrock recycled quickly through a number of phases before Maeve Liston, stepping in as first receiver, ran hard out to the left and sent a terrific skip pass out for Anna Doyle to score in the corner.
Breen cleared the crossbar with an excellent conversion for a 7-0 lead, but Byrne soon sparked Railway’s attack with a turnover penalty which Scuffil-McCabe took quickly to send Aoife Doyle surging downfield.
A knock-on ended that particular Railway attack and they needed some more breakdown smarts from Byrne to foil a Blackrock breakout, which saw winger Liston threaten out wide from a Breen kick.
On the half hour mark, ‘Rock struck for their second try. The wily Beth Cregan managed to disrupt Ailsa Hughes at a ruck, with O’Leary scooping up the loose ball to dart inside Caughey and cross to the left of the posts. Breen converted.
After both sides received a warning about shouting for penalties, Railway scrum half Hughes paid the price with a penalty reversal and a yellow card. A third ‘Rock try followed.
Hannah O’Connor came off the visitors’ bench and her direct carrying paved the way for the score, backs Breen, Liston and Natasja Behan working the ball wide for replacement Deely to crash over and make it 19-0.
The fired-up Railway forwards hit back with a barnstorming lineout maul from just outside the Blackrock 22. Prop Lindsay Peat got the grounding – much to the home crowd’s delight – but Caughey flashed the conversion wide from the left.
Into the second period, Peat drove Railway forward again with a bulldozing carry and a scrum penalty. They did not have to wait too long for their second try as they closed the gap further.
With Liston rushing up in defence, Byrne took advantage. Her nicely-timed pass released Aoife Doyle from 40 metres out, and the Limerick native dummied to nip inside Behan and take off past Tatum Bird’s attempted tackle to dot down behind the posts.
Caughey’s conversion made it a seven-point game and as Railway came hunting for the levelling score, their maul did more damage. Both Behan and Liston had to scramble to prevent replacement Stephanie Carroll from scoring in the corner.
Railway also had to cope with a series of frustrating knock-ons and heading into the final quarter, a territory-starved Blackrock were still standing firm in defence. Byrne pinned them back again by getting a decision at the breakdown.
Another chance went abegging when Bird and Laura Feely combined to hold up McDermott, while Ballinasloe talent Deely was reeled in by Scuffil-McCabe as Blackrock missed out on a potential bonus point try.
Breen flashed a close-range penalty wide with just under ten minutes remaining, before Byrne provided the inspiration once more for the title holders. She broke back into the ‘Rock 22 from her own quick tap.
Railway had another couple of bites at the cherry, with Molly Boyne and Callan both carrying powerfully. Their persistence finally paid off when Scuffil-McCabe was sent over in the right corner by Doyle.
‘Rock remained in front with Caughey pushing the difficult conversion wide on the near side, and the visitors stopped Railway from breaking from deep in the dying seconds to confirm a hard-fought victory.
RAILWAY UNION: Molly Scuffil-McCabe; Leah Tarpey, Niamh Byrne (capt), Aoife O’Shaughnessy, Aoife Doyle; Nikki Caughey, Ailsa Hughes; Lindsay Peat, Chloe Blackmore, Megan Collis, Keelin Brady, Aoife McDermott, Carmen Rodera, Molly Boyne, Emerson Allen.
Replacements: Lisa Callan, Grainne O’Loughlin, Claire Byrne, Sonia McDermott, Emma Fabby, Christine Coffey, Stephanie Carroll.
BLACKROCK COLLEGE: Natasja Behan; Maeve Liston, Michelle Claffey (capt), Ella Durkan, Anna Doyle; Enya Breen, Tatum Bird; Aoife Moore, Emma Hooban, Laura Feely, Eimear Corri, Mairead Holohan, Beth Cregan, Maeve Óg O’Leary, Ali Coleman.
Replacements: Ava Fannin, Niamh Tester, Hannah O’Connor, Mya Alcorn, Ciara Scanlan, Lisa Mullen, Méabh Deely.