Defending champions UL Bohemians won 31-14 at Galwegians to finish top of the Women’s All-Ireland League table for the fourth consecutive season. UL will host Blackrock at the semi-final stage, while Old Belvedere earned home advantage in the last-four against Railway Union with a 15-8 victory over Philip Doyle’s ‘Rock side.
GALWEGIANS 14 UL BOHEMIANS 31, Crowley Park
It was a tale of two halves on Saturday evening as it has been so many times this season for Galwegians. After struggling to retain the ball and build through the phases against the league leaders, ‘Wegians head coach Fraser Gow admitted that ‘conceding a lot of penalties allowed UL to control possession and territory’.
Ireland winger Laura Sheehan, who touched down against Italy during the recent Six Nations, was back in flying form as she bagged a brace of tries to help Bohs register their ninth win of the campaign. Sarah Quinn, Edel Murphy and Clodagh O’Halloran completed the try haul, with Niamh Briggs adding three conversions, in what was a textbook warm-up for next Saturday’s All-Ireland Cup final against Blackrock.
‘Wegians had two late tries from Denise Redmond, who was at her ‘wrecking ball best’, and winger Fiona Scally, but it was not enough to hold onto fifth place as Cooke climbed above them thanks to their hard-fought 22-20 success against St. Mary’s. Despite a disappointing finish, the Blue Belles were competitive in a number of games and improved their win and scoring rates compared to last season.
COOKE 22 ST. MARY’S 20, Shaw’s Bridge
Relegated St. Mary’s saved the best for last as they took hosts Cooke right to the wire in a very entertaining encounter in Belfast. After dominating possession from the kick-off, Mary’s were rewarded for their early efforts with tries from young Hannah Heskin and Ciara Scanlan. Influential centre Jet Duinmeijer also finished with 10 points from the tee.
It was a welcome change of form for the Templeogue team with their head coach Stephen Costelloe crediting the ‘whole team effort to end the season on a positive note’. His Cooke counterpart Wayne Kelly was also impressed with his own squad’s overall performance, noting that their closing two tries were ‘the epitome of champagne rugby’.
By creating space out wide and running straight attacking lines, Eliza Downey and Beth Cregan’s slickly-taken scores sealed the deal for Cooke after the early inroads were made by Ireland prop Ilse Van Staden and Lesley Megarity. Kelly also credited Ireland Under-18 Sevens starlet Kelly McCormill for her ‘superb defensive work and organisation’ throughout the match.
BLACKROCK 8 OLD BELVEDERE 15, Blackrock College
Old Belvedere earned a second-place finish with a seven-point triumph over Blackrock, a clash of fixtures meaning that this was the first ever Women’s rugby match to take place on the grounds of Blackrock College school. Unfortunately for the hosts, who compete in next week’s All-Ireland Cup final in Ashbourne, it was not an occasion to remember.
In-form former Connacht back rower Niamh Ni Dhroma handed Belvedere an early cushion when she ran in a try off the back of a lineout, with Nora Stapleton, Ellen Murphy and Fiona Tuite featuring in some intricate build-up play. Prop Jessica Keating almost doubled ‘Belvo’s lead soon after, but the ball was deemed to have been held up over the line – much to ‘Rock’s relief.
Josh Brown’s charges had to settle for a penalty goal following the resulting five-metre scrum, yet Blackrock got up and running thanks to their goal-kicking number 8 Hannah O’Connor and Caoimhe Molloy broke through for their only try. Still, with fourth place already in the bag and the All-Ireland Cup decider against Bohs looming, ‘Rock dropped the intensity for periods of the second half.
Belvedere took advantage when a surging break down the wing from Fiona Tuite resulted in a clinching try which Ulster’s Jemma Jackson converted, giving the visitors enough of a buffer to see out their ninth win in 12 rounds and complete a season’s double over their south Dublin rivals.
Women’s All-Ireland League Results –
Women’s All-Ireland League Table –