In a repeat of last season’s semi-final, Old Belvedere turned the tables on Railway Union as a last-gasp penalty from Jemma Farrell guided them to a 6-3 win at Park Avenue.
ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE WOMEN’S DIVISION:
Saturday, November 11 –
RAILWAY UNION 3 OLD BELVEDERE 6, Park Avenue
Scorers: Railway Union: Pen: Nikki Caughey
Old Belvedere: Pens: Jemma Farrell 2
HT: Railway Union 3 Old Belvedere 0
It was Railway Union’s first defeat of the Energia All-Ireland League season, and their first time to lose at home to Old Belvedere since December 2018, but both clubs remain very much at the business end of the Women’s Division.
Railway led 3-0 at the end of a scrappy first half, which saw Farrell miss two penalty attempts and her opposite number Nikki Caughey succeed with the final kick just before the break.
Belvedere replacement Katie Layde was held up for the best try-scoring opportunity, and Tania Rosser’s charges continued to lead the hunt for that elusive try before a terrific charge downfield from Railway centre Kayla Waldron.
By that stage, ‘Belvo out-half Farrell had kicked her team level and with Ireland prospect Ruth Campbell pressurising the Railway lineout into errors, Farrell was able to split the sides in the last play of this gripping contest.
Belvedere applied the early pressure with Farrell’s left boot pinning the hosts back, and Niamh O’Dowd forced a turnover penalty. However, their handling let them down at crucial stages.
Railway also kicked well through experienced half-backs Caughey and Claire Keohane, with the former’s cross-field kick bouncing up for Aimee Clarke to gather inside the visitors’ 22.
Defences were on top for the most part, and the best phase-building during the opening quarter came from ‘Belvo who got over the gain-line through Minnona Nunstedt and industrious lock Campbell.
Railway’s lineout platform was regularly disrupted by Campbell and company, but their scrum was looking strong. Railway captain Keelin Brady led a promising spell of carrying, while a couple of charge-downs, including one by Caughey on Farrell, had ‘Belvo scrambling back.
Grace Tutty got in at the breakdown to win a relieving penalty, and with a couple more penalties advancing them up the pitch, Farrell had her first shot at the posts but pulled her 28th-minute effort to the left and wide.
Belvedere also went close off a five-metre scrum, with the strong-carrying Layde held up by a combination of Waldron, Keohane and Brady under the posts. Farrell followed up with a second penalty miss on the half hour mark.
Caughey and Keohane’s accurate kicking out of hand moved Railway back into scoring range, with the latter landing a 50:22 kick. Their lineout misfired, though, and Belvedere prop O’Dowd intercepted a pass to take play back into the hosts’ half.
Crucially, with the interval in sight, Stephen Costelloe’s side were able to turn defence into attack. Keohane’s tackle on Megan Edwards dislodged the ball, and Rhiann Heery’s kick chase led to a penalty inside the Belvedere 22.
It was a difficult kick from the right, but Caughey was bang on target for the lead score which visibly gave her team-mates a lift as they took a well-earned breather and regrouped for more of the same in the second period.
Campbell, who was away with the Ireland squad in Dubai recently, took up the baton for Belvedere early on the restart. Her rampaging run preceded a deft kick down the line from Aine Donnelly which forced Ava Ryder to leak a five-metre lineout.
Ireland international Katie O’Dwyer came off the bench to win an important turnover for Railway, only for Campbell to again prove a menace at their lineout. ‘Belvo skipper Lesley Ring picked up possession out the back.
Big carries from Eadaoin Murtagh and Campbell suddenly had Rosser’s outfit hunting down a try, but a knock-on brought the attack to an end. A crooked lineout throw from Jess Keating proved frustrating during their next visit to the Railway 22.
Points continued to be just out of reach despite ‘Belvo winning a scrum against the head and dominating territory during the third quarter. In addition, they had to move Emma Kelly from the back row to midfield owing to injuries.
Ring came charging through after Campbell had stolen a lineout, and Farrell also had a cut at getting over in the right corner, yet Railway, driven on by Brady and Lindsay Peat, showed terrific strength and discipline to keep their top four rivals scoreless.
Farrell did manage to tie things up with a 65th-minute kick, punishing a Railway offside, and Campbell soon hoovered up another lost Railway lineout. Railway centre Waldron responded with a brilliant break from deep, and her team-mates responded.
They had two quick-fire visits to the Belvedere 22, O’Dwyer carrying forcefully and winger Heery attacking the space out wide. They blew a gilt-edged maul opportunity though, with Brady knocking on a short throw from O’Dwyer.
Jade Gaffney and Salome Trauth thwarted attacks at both ends as play swung between both 22s. Two more Railway lineouts did not go to plan, with Campbell pinching one of them.
As Belvedere flooded forward and returned to the Railway 22 right at the death, Keating drew a penalty for a high tackle and Farrell coolly slotted her kick between the uprights to decide the outcome.
RAILWAY UNION: Aimee Clarke; Rhiann Heery, Maddy Aberg, Kayla Waldron, Ava Ryder; Nikki Caughey, Claire Keohane; Grainne O’Loughlin, Meabh Keegan, Kirstie Stevenson, Keelin Brady (capt), Faith Oviawe, Salome Trauth, Emma Murphy, Lindsay Peat.
Replacements: Katie O’Dwyer, Patricia Doyle, Isobel Clerk, Dani Franada, Hazel Simmons, Ailsa Hughes, Niamh Byrne.
OLD BELVEDERE: Aine Donnelly; Grace Tutty, Elise O’Byrne-White, Minnona Nunstedt, Megan Edwards; Jemma Farrell, Katie Whelan; Niamh O’Dowd, Jess Keating, Hannah Wilson, Clodagh Dunne, Ruth Campbell, Emma Kelly, Lesley Ring (capt), Eadaoin Murtagh.
Replacements: Katie Layde, Aine Rutley, Amy O’Mahony, Katelynn Doran, Jade Gaffney, Vanessa Hullon, Nicole Rafferty.