Third-placed Old Belvedere wrapped up their regular season with a 17-8 success against Wicklow. First half tries from captain Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird, Jemma Farrell and Aine Donnelly did the damage.
ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE WOMEN’S DIVISION: Saturday, November 12
OLD BELVEDERE 17 WICKLOW 8, Ollie Campbell Park
Scorers: Old Belvedere: Tries: Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird, Jemma Farrell, Aine Donnelly; Con: Dannah O’Brien
Wicklow: Try: Caoimhe Molloy; Pen: Beth Roberts
HT: Old Belvedere 17 Wicklow 3
It is a measure of Wicklow’s excellent progress that, compared to last year’s 63-0 defeat to the same opposition, they finished strongly at Ollie Campbell Park and were only nine points in arrears thanks to a late try from replacement Caoimhe Molloy.
It was Old Belvedere’s sixth win in eight games and leaves them preparing for a semi-final trip to the division’s second-placed team, most likely reigning champions Railway Union.
Wicklow, who have fallen to fifth in the table, still have a shot at finishing in the top four, but will need to stun Railway at Ashtown Lane next Saturday and hope that UL Bohemians slip up at home to Galwegians.
Jason Moreton’s charges fell behind to an opportunist third-minute score from Nic a Bhaird. She followed the flight of a penalty attempt from Dannah O’Brien and although the kick went wide, the ball bounced up for the quick-reacting number 8 to touch down.
It was a double whammy for Wicklow who temporarily lost player coach Niamh Ni Dhroma to injury soon after. However, a monster scrum, won against the head, sparked the visitors into life.
Nic a Bhaird got her team out of some trouble with a turnover penalty, but another powerful scrum from Wicklow set up a shot at the posts for Beth Roberts who reduced the arrears to 5-3 in the 13th minute.
That good work was undone when they allowed O’Brien’s restart kick to bounce and Belvedere’s Rachel Murphy retrieved it. A superb one-handed lineout take from Elaine Anthony had the Dubliners seeking out a second try.
Despite Aoife Dalton knocking on a pass, ‘Belvo were not to be denied. They won successive penalties to keep the pressure on and Clodagh Dunne’s slick 18th-minute offload out of a tackle put Farrell over beside the posts.
Her half-back partner O’Brien tagged on the extras for a 12-3 scoreline, and Wicklow emerged scoreless from their next bout of scrum pressure. Indeed, ‘Belvo won a relieving penalty at the set piece to clear the danger.
Getting possession straight back from a crooked throw by Murphy, Wicklow continued to opt for scrums from penalties either side of halfway. Replacement Becky Condren showed impressive control at the base as ‘Belvo were driven backwards.
After deciding on the lineout option, a knock-on from Naoise O’Reilly in midfield added to Wicklow’s frustration. They fired back with a penalty won at the breakdown, with Meagan Parkinson rewarded for her timing.
Ni Dhroma came back on at number 8, and despite Belvedere holding firm at scrum time with the help of replacement Vic Dabanovich O’Mahony, Wicklow were soon on the move again thanks to a searing run from winger O’Reilly.
Yet, it was ‘Belvo who were clinical when within reach of the try-line. They turned a late attacking spell into their third try, O’Brien’s inviting offload out of a tackle putting full-back Donnelly over for a five-pointer on the stroke of half-time.
Turning around with a 17-3 deficit, Wicklow made early inroads on the resumption through sniping scrum half Roisin Stone. A countering Ella Roberts then linked up with Ni Dhroma on the left wing to have ‘Belvo scrambling back.
Elise O’Byrne-White’s thumping tackle on Aoibhin Stone summed up the commitment from both sides, and defences were on top through a series of knock-ons, penalties, and a lineout steal from Belvedere’s influential lock Anthony.
Obstruction at a lineout maul robbed Wicklow of one of their best try-scoring opportunities, and they needed some gritty defence from young out-half Roberts to prevent replacement Hannah Wilson from grounding the ball off a close-in carry.
‘Belvo’s bench brought impact, with young scrum half Katie Whelan earning a turnover penalty, but it was her dropped ball that Naoise O’Reilly dived on to allow Wicklow to kick clear to touch.
The tit-for-tat exchanges continued, Noelle Ward’s rip in the tackle preceding a Nic a Bhaird penalty won at the breakdown. Both lineouts were coming under immense pressure, a steal from Rachel Griffey rallying Wicklow.
They did get over for a try that their efforts deserved, but it came too late to influence the outcome. Beth Roberts tapped a penalty and fed Molloy to barge over inside the final seconds, with Roberts missing the conversion on the near side.
OLD BELVEDERE: Aine Donnelly; Emma Tilly, Aoife Dalton, Minnona Nunstedt, Elise O’Byrne-White; Dannah O’Brien, Jemma Farrell; Orlaith McAuliffe, Rachel Murphy, Alice O’Dowd, Elaine Anthony, Clodagh Dunne, Fiona Tuite, Lesley Ring, Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird (capt).
Replacements: Vic Dabanovich O’Mahony, Hannah Wilson, Caoimhe Guinan, Rachel Winters, Katie Whelan, Clare Gorman, Emma Kelly.
WICKLOW: Ella Roberts; Naoise O’Reilly, Aoibhin Stone, Sarah Gleeson, Meagan Parkinson; Beth Roberts, Roisin Stone; Linda Dempsey, Eimear Douglas, Lauren Barry (capt), Rachel Griffey, Caitlin Griffey, Nicola Schmidt, Jessica Schmidt, Niamh Ni Dhroma.
Replacements: Noelle Ward, Caoimhe Molloy, Becky Condren, Loretta Gilbert, Orla Molloy, Erin McConnell, Saoirse O’Reilly.