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Wolfhounds Score Seven Tries To Secure Celtic Challenge Crown

Wolfhounds Score Seven Tries To Secure Celtic Challenge Crown

Young winger Katie Corrigan contributed three tries during the Wolfhounds' Celtic Challenge title-clinching victory over the Clovers in Belfast ©INPHO/Leah Scholes

A high-scoring Irish derby at Kingspan Stadium went the way of the Wolfhounds as they completed an unbeaten campaign as first-time Celtic Challenge champions.


Saturday, February 24 –

WOLFHOUNDS 47 CLOVERS 26, Kingspan Stadium
Scorers: Wolfhounds: Tries: Katie Corrigan 3, Kelly McCormill, Hannah O’Connor, Katie Whelan 2; Cons: Nikki Caughey 6
Clovers: Tries: Róisín Ormond, Beth Buttimer, Maeve Óg O’Leary, Brianna Heylmann; Cons: Kate Flannery 2, Nicole Fowley
HT: Wolfhounds 33 Clovers 7

Katie Corrigan and Katie Whelan celebrated their call-ups to the Ireland Women’s Six Nations squad with a hat-trick of tries and a brace respectively, as Neill Alcorn’s Wolfhounds team did most of the damage during the first half.

Sitting four points clear of Edinburgh at the top of the table, the Wolfhounds knew exactly what they needed to do in their final play-off game. Any slip up would have left the door open for Edinburgh who finish the tournament against the Clovers next week.

Scrum half Whelan sniped over twice from close range, adding to earlier scores from Corrigan, with an excellent lung-busting effort, Kelly McCormill, and player-of-the-match Hannah O’Connor. That gave the Wolfhounds a big 33-7 half-time lead.

Corrigan duly completed her hat-trick, but the Clovers, who are off to Parc y Scarlets next Sunday, bagged a deserved bonus point as Beth Buttimer, replacement Maeve Óg O’Leary, and Brianna Heylmann all reached over during the second period.

The Wolfhounds, made up mostly of players from Leinster and Ulster, registered six wins, one draw, and six try-scoring bonus points across the cross-border tournament. Donard teenager Corrigan. a really exciting talent on the wing, starred with 12 tries in five appearances.

Victorious captain Molly Boyne received the Celtic Challenge trophy afterwards, with the traditional Celtic ‘quaich’ (friendship cup) silver plated and embellished with Celtic bands which draw together all the teams competing in the competition.

The Clovers’ spritely start was undone when Buttimer’s pass went loose off Alana McInerney, allowing Corrigan to counter 10 metres out from her own line. The in-form winger suddenly burst past three players and stayed clear of the chasing Clara Barrett for a superb converted score.

Barrett, a late inclusion at outside centre due to Méabh Deely’s withdrawal, threatened on a fine burst out to the right, but again the Clovers were unable to hang onto the ball. Faith Oviawe and India Daley had a turnover each as the breakdown battle intensified.

A knock-on near the post padding denied Claire Boles a try for the Wolfhounds, who were launched downfield by a Whelan run straight off a midfield ruck. Their forwards, particularly Linda Djougang and O’Connor, were regularly getting over the gain-line.

Some more good work by the Wolfhounds pack, with impressive continuity, led to Ulster centre McCormill neatly jinking inside three defenders to power over in the 12th minute. Out-half Nikki Caughey clipped over her second conversion for a 14-0 lead.

The Clovers’ well-drilled maul halved the deficit inside five minutes, with Ailsa Hughes threatening off one drive, and then Ballincollig prop Róisín Ormond crashing over from a second set-piece effort. Kate Flannery’s conversion from the right gave them a further boost.

Despite breaks from Aoife Corey and Shannon Touhey to get them back up to halfway, Denis Fogarty’s side could not maintain the momentum. Indeed, O’Connor, fed by Christy Haney’s flicked pass from a ruck, managed to muscle over to restore the 14-point gap.

Some terrific interplay and lines of running from Daley, O’Connor, and Boyne set the wheels in motion for Whelan’s 26th-minute bonus point try, which saw her outfox the defence from a close-in ruck. Caughey’s reliable right boot registered her fourth successful conversion.

As the Clovers came hunting for a reply, industrious prop Djougang and Corrigan brought McInerney down in a try-saving double tackle, while Ellen Boylan collected a Flannery cross-field kick to bring a promising Clovers attack to a close.

Wolfhounds lock Fiona Tuite was growing in influence with her ball carrying, making a barnstorming defence-slashing burst in the 34th minute. Boles was held up a few phases later, but busy scrum half Whelan swiftly made their next possession count.

Centres McCormill and Katie Heffernan both ran hard, immediately putting the Clovers back close to their own line, and with O’Connor and Boylan combining in a quick clear-out, Whelan took the blindside route from a ruck to score in the left corner.

The tries kept coming for the Wolfhounds early in the second half. Just four minutes in, Whelan bumped off a turnover-hunting Hughes at a ruck, allowing O’Connor to pick and throw a fantastic one-handed offload – under pressure from three defenders – out for Corrigan to cut inside and dive over the whitewash.

The Clovers used their maul platform to cancel out those seven points just a couple of minutes later. Hughes sent busy flanker Heylmann thundering up close to the line, before Buttimer popped up to score from a ruck, closer in towards the posts.

Ever-influential number 8 O’Connor engineered a quick-fire response from the Wolfhounds, though. Her clever movement in midfield, and a one-two with Daley, led to McCormill inviting Corrigan to fly down the right touchline, beating Corey’s tackle to complete a fine hat-trick.

After Caughey had topped off her own 12-point contribution from the tee, the Clovers’ replacements made an impact by forcing Corrigan into touch, and then winning possession back from a strong scrum.

There were some misfires from both lineouts, and with fit-again duo Nicole Fowley and O’Leary, in a notable positional change to hooker, both lively off the bench, the Clovers went on to have the better of the final quarter.

Ruth Campbell and skipper Dorothy Wall’s double hit produced turnover ball, ending a prolonged attacking spell from the Wolfhounds. A few minutes later, a pacy break involving Wall, O’Leary, and Campbell got the competition’s third-placed team back on the front foot.

A forward pass from Heylmann denied them on one occasion, but the Clovers kept coming. O’Leary wrestled his way over beside the posts, before Heylmann, the receiver at a last-minute maul, dotted down alongside Campbell to deliver the bonus point try.

TIME LINE: 3 minutes – Wolfhounds try: Katie Corrigan – 5-0; conversion: Nikki Caughey – 7-0; 12 minutes – Wolfhounds try: Kelly McCormill – 12-0; conversion: Nikki Caughey – 14-0; 16 mins – Clovers try: Róisín Ormond – 14-5; conversion: Kate Flannery – 14-7; 22 mins – Wolfhounds try: Hannah O’Connor – 19-7; conversion: Nikki Caughey – 21-7; 26 mins – Wolfhounds try: Katie Whelan – 26-7; conversion: Nikki Caughey – 28-7; 36 mins – Wolfhounds try: Katie Whelan – 33-7; conversion: missed by Nikki Caughey – 33-7; Half-time – Wolfhounds 33 Clovers 7; 44 mins – Wolfhounds try: Katie Corrigan – 38-7; conversion: Nikki Caughey – 40-7; 47 mins – Clovers try: Beth Buttimer – 40-12; conversion: Kate Flannery – 40-14; 49 mins – Wolfhounds try: Katie Corrigan – 47-14; 73 mins – Clovers try: Maeve Óg O’Leary – 47-19; conversion: Nicole Fowley – 47-21; 80+3 mins – Wolfhounds try: Brianna Heylmann – 47-26; conversion: missed by Nicole Fowley – 47-26; Full-time – Wolfhounds 47 Clovers 26

WOLFHOUNDS: Ava Ryder (Railway Union RFC/Connacht); Katie Corrigan (Old Belvedere RFC/Leinster), Katie Heffernan (Railway Union RFC/Leinster), Kelly McCormill (Cooke RFC/Ulster), Ellen Boylan (Blackrock College RFC/Munster); Nikki Caughey (Railway Union RFC/Leinster), Katie Whelan (Old Belvedere RFC/Leinster); Linda Djougang (Old Belvedere RFC/Leinster), India Daley (Blackrock College RFC/Ulster), Christy Haney (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster), Fiona Tuite (Old Belvedere RFC/Ulster), Keelin Brady (Railway Union RFC/Ulster), Claire Boles (Railway Union/Ulster), Molly Boyne (Railway Union RFC/Leinster) (capt), Hannah O’Connor (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster).

Replacements used: Maebh Clenaghan (Queen’s University Belfast RFC/Ulster) for Boles (half-time), Éadaoin Murtagh (Old Belvedere RFC/Leinster) for O’Connor (51), Sarah Delaney (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster) for Tuite, Aoife Moore (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster) for Djougang, Sophie Barrett (Enniskillen RFC/Railway Union RFC/Ulster) for Haney (all 62), Abby Moyles (Blackrock RFC/Ulster) for Caughey, Jade Gaffney (Old Belvedere RFC/Leinster) for Whelan, Emma Tilly (Old Belvedere RFC/Leinster) for Corrigan (all 66).

CLOVERS: Aoife Corey (UL Bohemian RFC/Munster); Claire Gorman (Old Belvedere RFC/Leinster), Clara Barrett (UL Bohemian RFC/Connacht), Kayla Waldron (Railway Union RFC/Connacht), Alana McInerney (UL Bohemian RFC/Munster); Kate Flannery (UL Bohemian RFC/Munster), Ailsa Hughes (Railway Union RFC/Leinster); Niamh O’Dowd (Old Belvedere RFC/Leinster), Beth Buttimer (UL Bohemian RFC/Munster), Róisín Ormond (Ballincollig RFC/Munster), 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: Megan Collis (Railway Union RFC/Leinster) for Ormond, Jane Clohessy (UL Bohemian RFC/Munster) for Oviawe, Nicole Fowley (Galwegians RFC/Connacht) for McInerney, Maeve Óg O’Leary (Blackrock College RFC/Munster) for Buttimer (all 50 mins), Claire Bennett (UL Bohemian RFC/Munster) for Touhey, Muirne Wall (UL Bohemian RFC/Munster) for Hughes (both 59), Grainne Burke (Ennis RFC/UL Bohemian RFC/Munster) for O’Dowd (61), Michelle O’Driscoll (Ballincollig RFC/Munster) for Flannery (66).

Referee: Andrew Mitchell (IRFU)