Blackrock College turned the tables on Railway Union with a dominant second half performance to win their first Energia All-Ireland League Women’s Division title since 2008.
ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE WOMEN’S DIVISION FINAL:
BLACKROCK COLLEGE 27 RAILWAY UNION 7, Energia Park
Scorers: Blackrock College: Tries: Maeve Liston 2, Dorothy Wall, Enya Breen, Anna Doyle; Con: Enya Breen
Railway Union: Try: Molly Scuffil-McCabe; Con: Nikki Caughey
HT: Blackrock College 5 Railway Union 7
A 𝙜𝙧𝙚𝙖𝙩 𝙙𝙖𝙮 of rugby.
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) December 17, 2022
Ben Martin’s side ran out convincing 27-7 winners of the re-fixed final at Energia Park, with tries from Dorothy Wall (45 minutes), Enya Breen (50), Anna Doyle (68) and Maeve Liston (72) completing an unbeaten 10-match league season.
Lively winger Liston’s initial score, five minutes in, was cancelled out by a terrific Molly Scuffil-McCabe effort, Nikki Caughey supplying the conversion that gave Railway a 7-5 half-time lead.
However, with Railway losing both Caughey and replacement Sonia McDermott to the sin bin, Blackrock were clinical as they ended their opponents’ three in-a-row bid and avenged last season’s 24-18 final defeat.
Out-half Breen, one of their new signings this year, played a starring role and deservedly won the Energia player-of-the-match award following her try, conversion, try assist and some big moments in defence and with the boot.
“It was a dream game, to be honest,” admitted the Cork youngster afterwards. “A tough first half, we knew they’d bring it to us. Two top teams in the league this year, that’s the kind of rugby you want to play.
“The girls came back after losing the final last year with a point to prove. It’s a very ambitious club, a great bunch of girls. Great craic on and off the pitch as you can see with the celebrations.
“Luckily for us, we kind of turned the screw in the second half. We made the most of the opportunities we got. It’s great, it’s been a great day.”
After Railway blew an early maul opportunity, Breen’s fingerprints were all over Blackrock’s opening try. It was her kick that was fumbled into touch by Scuffil-McCabe, and it was her skip pass that put Liston over in the right corner.
Breen’s opposite number, Caughey, nudged a central penalty wide, and Blackrock were inches away from a second try when captain Michelle Claffey was held up by a combination of Niamh Byrne and influential number 8 Deirdre Roberts.
Railway skipper Byrne lifted her side with a turnover penalty, and despite Hannah O’Connor pinching a lineout and Laura Feely winning a breakdown decision, the defending champions began to get a foothold during the second quarter.
A superb 25th-minute try from full-back Scuffil-McCabe edged them in front, her brilliant turn of pace taking her past Doyle and the cover from 45 metres out.
Caughey added to the momentum with a cracking conversion, followed by an Aoife McDermott break. However, into the second half, ‘Rock were able to repeat their strong start from the opening 40 minutes.
Having absorbed some initial pressure, Liston and Tatum Bird exploited gaps in the Railway defence, and Ella Durkan set up Wall to power over in the 45th minute. Méabh Deely was narrowly wide with the conversion.
Five minutes later, Breen showed her strength to get past Caughey, Lindsay Peat and Roberts and ground the ball despite the presence of two more defenders. Her conversion put some daylight between the sides at 17-7.
Frustratingly for Railway, Caughey pulled a kickable penalty wide, but their defence stood up to a ‘Rock maul on the hour mark, with Aoife McDermott forcing a knock-on.
Caughey then saw yellow for slapping the ball down from an offside position, near her own try-line. From the resulting scrum, the ‘Rock backs worked the ball wide for Doyle to score despite Stephanie Carroll’s last-ditch tackle.
The icing on the cake came with less than eight minutes to go. Christy Haney took down an overthrown lineout, Emma Hooban carried hard and Natasja Behan provided her second assist for Liston to complete her brace out wide.
Who else but Breen to rip the ball back in a subsequent tackle, before Railway suffered a second yellow card in the dying minutes. Sonia McDermott, sister of lynchpin lock Aoife, was carded for making head-on-head contact with ball carrier Ali Coleman.
BLACKROCK COLLEGE: Méabh Deely; Maeve Liston, Michelle Claffey (capt), Ella Durkan, Anna Doyle; Enya Breen, Tatum Bird; Aoife Moore, Emma Hooban, Laura Feely, Eimear Corri, Mairead Holohan, Dorothy Wall, Maeve Óg O’Leary, Hannah O’Connor.
Replacements: Beth Cregan, Christy Haney, Shannon Heapes, Alison Coleman, Natasja Behan, Lisa Mullen, Jackie Shiels, Ciara Scanlan.
RAILWAY UNION: Molly Scuffil-McCabe; Stephanie Carroll, Niamh Byrne (capt), Aoife O’Shaughnessy, Aimee Clarke; Nikki Caughey, Ailsa Hughes; Lindsay Peat, Chloe Blackmore, Katie O’Dwyer, Keelin Brady, Aoife McDermott, Carmen Rodera, Molly Boyne, Deirdre Roberts.
Replacements: Lisa Callan, Grainne O’Loughlin, Megan Collis, Sonia McDermott, Emerson Allen, Emma Fabby, Leah Tarpey, Ava Ryder.
Referee: Jonny Erskine (IRFU)