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Wolfhounds Bare Teeth To Dig Out Derby Win Over Clovers

Wolfhounds Bare Teeth To Dig Out Derby Win Over Clovers

Wolfhounds captain Hannah O'Connor drives forward during their Celtic Challenge first round match against the Clovers in Cork ©INPHO/Bryan Keane

The Clovers carved out a 10-point lead in this fiercely-contested Celtic Challenge opener at Musgrave Park, but a trio of final quarter tries saw the Wolfhounds emerge as 21-15 winners.


Friday, December 29 –

WOLFHOUNDS 21 CLOVERS 15, Musgrave Park
Scorers: Wolfhounds: Tries: Linda Djougang, Sarah Delaney, Eimear Corri; Cons: Nikki Caughey 3
Clovers: Tries: Beth Buttimer, Ailsa Hughes, Clara Barrett
HT: Wolfhounds 0 Clovers 5

Match Photo Gallery: Wolfhounds 21 Clovers 15

It was nip and tuck throughout a defence-dominated first half, the only score coming late on when the Clovers’ maul exploded into life and impressive 18-year-old hooker Beth Buttimer crossed to make it 5-0.

The Connacht-Munster selection, coached by Ireland Women’s scrum coach Denis Fogarty, added a second unconverted try when replacement scrum half Ailsa Hughes sniped over following another dominant lineout drive.

Inspired by captain Hannah O’Connor and the excellent Aoife Wafer, Neill Alcorn’s Wolfhounds turned the tables with a run of scores from Ireland forwards Linda Djougang (63 minutes), Sarah Delaney (69), and Eimear Corri (77) to push ahead.

Nikki Caughey, the Energia All-Ireland League’s top points scorer this season, converted all three tries to steer the Leinster-Ulster side to victory in this historic derby clash. Clara Barrett claimed a last-minute Clovers try from a Méabh Deely cross-field kick.

The Wolfhounds face their first away trip of the competition on Saturday week (January 6) when they play Edinburgh (kick-off 2pm). The Clovers will look to bounce back against Wales’ Brython Thunder at Energia Park (kick-off 2.30pm), with both games live on RugbyPass TV.

Amid a scrappy opening spell, Aoife Corey and Kayla Waldron combined to force a turnover penalty for the Clovers before a move broke down and Aoife Dalton countered up past the halfway line.

Ulster duo Brittany Hogan and Sophie Barrett showed their handling skills to bring the Wolfhounds into the opposition 22, but a slight knock-on denied O’Connor a try at the end of a free-flowing attack.

The Clovers’ young front row, which included teenagers Buttimer and Sadhbh McGrath, forced a clearing penalty, and defences remained on top with O’Connor and Wafer soon combining to tackle the busy Waldron into touch.

Although Ruth Campbell had command of the Clovers’ lineout, a rare loose throw from Buttimer was tidied up at the back by tighthead McGrath who pumped her legs on a great carry that made 12 metres.

The breakdown battle intensified entering the second quarter, with both teams’ eagerness seeing them go in off their feet on occasion. A threatening Wafer break was snuffed out by Nicole Cronin’s speed to get to the breakdown and win the penalty decision.

Just past the half hour mark, the Clovers surged downfield with Michelle O’Driscoll twice involved in the build-up. Niamh O’Dowd straightened up the attack with a punchy carry, but Keelin Brady scrambled well to force Alana McInerney in touch.

A razor-sharp sidestepping run from Waldron kept the Connacht-Munster outfit on the front foot, and her forwards responded in kind. A big maul earned a penalty before a second drive, from five metres out, saw Buttimer score near the left corner.

Lining out at out-half, Deely was narrowly wide with her conversion attempt, and the Clovers’ happiness at taking the lead was unfortunately tempered by the luckless Cronin having to hobble off just before the break.

A barnstorming carry from Wafer had the Wolfhounds, who had been kicking smartly through the boot of Dannah O’Brien, flooding forward early in the second half.

O’Connor used a Niamh Marley charge-down to soon take play back into the Clovers’ 22, only for Campbell to pop up a couple of phases later with a gritty turnover penalty.

Clovers skipper Dorothy Wall was then denied what would have been a terrific breakaway try. O’Connor and lively replacement Corri got back to haul her down just short, following Hughes’ snappy run from a penalty and Campbell’s impressive support.

The Clovers returned to their set-piece strength to double their lead in the 58th minute. A scrum penalty led to another leg-pumping maul that took them right up to the line before Hughes reached out to score.

19-year-old prop Sophie Barrett led the Wolfhounds’ response, crashing up close on a bulldozing carry. Hooker Delaney went closer from O’Connor’s tip-on pass, before Corri was tackled short but presented quick ball for Djougang to squeeze over by the right hand post.

Energised by that score and their impactful bench, Delaney soon grounded the ball from a well-controlled maul on the left. Replacement Caughey landed her second conversion to edge Alcorn’s charges in front for the first time.

Although rocked by those concessions, the Clovers replied with some promising phase-building. Hughes went quickly from a penalty, landing Brady in the sin bin for being offside, but replacement Clara Barrett was crowded out from their next try-scoring opportunity.

That hard-earned territory was handed back when Wafer embarked on an outstanding run off a scrum near her own line. She swatted away tackles to make it up to the Clovers’ 22. Possession was retained and the Wolfhounds clinically put away the clinching try.

O’Connor barged past Shannon Touhey before Corri, fed by fellow replacement Katie Whelan, had enough space between Wall and Clara Barrett to get over just to the left of the posts. Caughey added the extras to make it an 11-point game.

Given the territory they had, particularly during the opening 40 minutes, the Clovers deserved to be closer. They did pocket a late losing bonus point when Deely’s pinpoint kick out to the right sat up for her Connacht colleague Barrett to close out the scoring.

TIME LINE: 38 mins – Clovers try: Beth Buttimer – 0-5; conversion: missed by Méabh Deely – 0-5; Half-time – Wolfhounds 0 Clovers 5; 58 mins – Clovers try: Ailsa Hughes – 0-10; conversion: missed by Méabh Deely – 0-10; 63 mins – Wolfhounds try: Linda Djougang – 5-10; conversion: Nikki Caughey – 7-10; 69 mins – Wolfhounds try: Sarah Delaney – 12-10; conversion: Nikki Caughey – 14-10; 74 mins – Wolfhounds yellow card: Keelin Brady; 77 mins – Wolfhounds try: Eimear Corri – 19-10; conversion: Nikki Caughey – 21-10; 80+1 mins – Clovers try: Clara Barrett – 21-15; conversion: missed by Méabh Deely – 21-15; Full-time – Wolfhounds 21 Clovers 15

WOLFHOUNDS: Natasja Behan (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster); Aimee Clarke (Railway Union RFC/Leinster), Aoife Dalton (Old Belvedere RFC/Leinster), Leah Tarpey (Railway Union RFC/Leinster), Niamh Marley (Dungannon RFC/Cooke RFC/Ulster); Dannah O’Brien (Old Belvedere RFC/Leinster), Erin McConnell (Wicklow RFC/Leinster); Linda Djougang (Old Belvedere RFC/Leinster), Sarah Delaney (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster), Sophie Barrett (Enniskillen RFC/Railway Union RFC/Ulster), Fiona Tuite (Old Belvedere RFC/Ulster), Keelin Brady (Railway Union RFC/Ulster), Hannah O’Connor (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster) (capt), Aoife Wafer (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster), Brittany Hogan (Old Belvedere RFC/Ulster).

Replacements used: Eimear Corri (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster) for Tuite, Ella Durkan (Blackrock College RFC/Ulster) for Dalton, Éadaoin Murtagh (Old Belvedere RFC/Leinster) for Hogan (all half-time), Katie Whelan (Old Belvedere RFC/Leinster) for McConnell (50 mins), Nikki Caughey (Railway Union RFC/Leinster) for O’Brien (61), Maebh Clenaghan (Queen’s University Belfast RFC/Ulster) for Delaney (71). Not used: Hannah Wilson (Old Belvedere RFC/Leinster), Isobel Clerk (Railway Union RFC/Leinster).

CLOVERS: Aoife Corey (UL Bohemian RFC/Munster); Alana McInerney (UL Bohemian RFC/Munster), Michelle O’Driscoll (Ballincollig RFC/Munster), Kayla Waldron (Railway Union RFC/Connacht), Clare Gorman (Old Belvedere RFC/Leinster); Méabh Deely (Blackrock College RFC/Connacht), Nicole Cronin (UL Bohemian RFC/Munster); Niamh O’Dowd (Old Belvedere RFC/Leinster), Beth Buttimer (UL Bohemian RFC/Munster), Sadhbh McGrath (Cooke RFC/Ulster), Ruth Campbell (Old Belvedere RFC/Leinster), Dorothy Wall (Blackrock College RFC/Munster) (capt), Brianna Heylmann (UL Bohemian RFC/Munster), Faith Oviawe (Railway Union RFC/Connacht), Shannon Touhey (Tullamore RFC/Connacht).

Replacements used: Ailsa Hughes (Railway Union RFC/Leinster) for Cronin (40+1 mins), Clara Barrett (UL Bohemian RFC/Connacht) for O’Driscoll (57), Eva McCormack (UL Bohemian RFC/Connacht) for Campbell (61), Róisín Ormond (Ballincollig RFC/Munster) for O’Dowd (65), Kate Flannery (UL Bohemian RFC/Munster) for Waldron (71), Lily Brady (UL Bohemian RFC/Connacht) for Buttimer, Eilís Cahill (UL Bohemian RFC/Munster) for McGrath, Claire Bennett (UL Bohemian RFC/Munster) for Touhey (all 79).

Referee: Joy Neville (IRFU)