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Railway Union defend their AIL title in thrilling final against Blackrock

Earlier, Suttonians beat Galwegians in the Conference decider at Energia Park.

Blackrock 18

Railway Union 24

RAILWAY UNION RETAINED the Energia All-Ireland League Women’s Division trophy with a pulsating 24-18 final win over Blackrock College at Energia Park.

alisa-hughes-celebrates-after-scoring-a-try-with-eve-higgins Railway celebrate one of Ailsa Hughes' tries. Source: Ben Brady/INPHO

Eve Higgins delivered an Energia player-of-the-match performance and her Ireland colleague Ailsa Hughes snapped up a brace of tries as the Sandymount club won just their second-ever league crown.

A breathless first half finished 14-8 in Railway’s favour, Molly Scuffil-McCabe and Hughes both touching down with Blackrock’s Hannah O’Connor replying off the back of a scrum.

The defending champions coped well during Katie Heffernan’s sin-binning, Nikki Caughey clipping over a penalty in response to two Meabh Deely kicks.

Into the final quarter, Hughes and Emma Hooban traded tries – Deely added an excellent conversion to restore the six-point gap – but Railway stood firm despite a yellow card for tighthead Katie O’Dwyer.

The pace was a mile-a-minute early on, these south Dublin rivals hurtling into tackles and giving precious little space to out-halves Caughey and Jackie Shiels, in particular.

The breakthrough came in the 14th minute, centre Higgins’ classy break from halfway taking her outside Shiels and her pass inside found the trailing Scuffil-McCabe for a crisp finish to the left of the posts.

The conversion from Caughey made it a seven-pointer, but Blackrock, in their first AIL final since 2014, fired back quickly, Maeve Liston’s determined run taking her up into the Railway 22.

From a scrum on the right, number 8 O’Connor grasped her opportunity to break from the base, evade Emma Murphy and break Caughey’s tackle to give Blackrock the ideal response.

Deely was unable to convert and John Cronin’s well-drilled Railway outfit began the second quarter with another converted score, scrum half Hughes catching ‘Rock napping at a ruck with a terrific burst to the line.

Solid defence from Natasja Behan foiled a Niamh Byrne break, winning a clearing penalty in the process, and further improvements at the breakdown from Dorothy Wall and Katie Fitzhenry earned a kickable penalty for ‘Rock.

a-view-of-a-line-out It was an outstanding final in Energia Park. Source: Ben Brady/INPHO

A very well-struck 33rd-minute effort from Deely closed the gap to 14-8, but ‘Rock could not profit from Heffernan’s yellow before half-time as Caughey covered a kick through past her own posts.

It was a case of mistaken identity for referee Dan Carson as he binned Heffernan rather than Railway captain Byrne, who had been guilty of catching Behan with a high tackle.

Deely and Caughey exchanged penalties on the resumption, with the Railway scrum delivering the goods at set-piece time. Caughey was short with a subsequent kick as their lead remained at six points.

It looked like a killer blow had been struck in the 63rd minute, Caughey sending Heffernan through the middle and she deftly combined with young replacement Amanda McQuade to send Hughes in behind the posts. Caughey’s conversion made it 24-11.

However, the Blackrock forwards redoubled their efforts, their strong lineout mauling drawing a yellow card for O’Dwyer before the resulting drive ended with hooker Hooban plunging over for their second try.

Ballinasloe youngster Deely coolly converted from the left, making it a six-point game again. Suddenly, ‘Rock were reenergised, Wall striding into Railway territory and their maul carrying an increasing threat.

Crucially, Ben Martin’s charges were penalised for sealing off just a few metres out, allowing Railway to claw back territory. Replacement Anna McGann made a telling break and Railway’s experience of the 2019 final helped them to close out title number two.

Blackrock scorers:

Tries: Hannah O’Connor, Emma Hooban

Con: Meabh Deely

Pens: Meabh Deely 2

Railway Union scorers:

Tries: Molly Scuffil-McCabe, Ailsa Hughes 2

Cons: Nikki Caughey 3

Pen: Nikki Caughey

BLACKROCK COLLEGE: Natasja Behan; Meabh Deely, Michelle Claffey (capt), Katie Fitzhenry, Maeve Liston; Jackie Shiels, Aoibheann Reilly; Aoife Moore, Emma Hooban, Christy Haney, Eimear Corri, Dorothy Wall, Aoife Wafer, Maeve Óg O’Leary, Hannah O’Connor.

Replacements: Niamh Tester, Meadbh O’Callaghan, Ann-Marie Rooney, Ali Coleman, Meadbh Scally, Emily Lane, Lisa Mullen, Maggie Boylan.

RAILWAY UNION: Molly Scuffil-McCabe; Aoife Doyle, Eve Higgins, Katie Heffernan, Niamh Byrne (capt); Nikki Caughey, Ailsa Hughes; Lindsay Peat, Chloe Blackmore, Katie O’Dwyer, Aoife McDermott, Siobhan McCarthy, Emma Murphy, Claire Boles, Deirdre Roberts.

Replacements: Megan Collis, Amanda McQuade, Keelin Brady, Kate McCarthy, Anna McGann, Grace Moore, Tess Feury, Aoife O’Shaughnessy.

Referee: Dan Carson (IRFU).

____________

Energia AIL Women’s Division Conference Final:

Suttonians 26

Galwegians 0

the-suttonians-team-celebrate-as-division-conference-champions Suttonians celebrate their win over Galwegians. Source: Ben Brady/INPHO

Emily McKeown touched down twice as Suttonians swept past Galwegians on a 26-0 scoreline to be crowned the first ever Energia All-Ireland League Women’s Division Conference champions.

Stephen Costelloe’s charges completed a six-match post-Christmas winning run with a stellar four-try performance at Energia Park, the same venue where they gained their AIL status back in 2019.

Out-half Nicole Carroll inspired a 13-0 half-time lead for Suttonians, providing two try assists and landing the first of two penalty attempts.

Speed merchant McKeown (17 minutes) and captain Lauren Farrell McCabe (36) registered the tries, with Galwegians held scoreless despite a couple of bright spells.

McKeown, who was part of Greg McWilliams’ recent national screening camp, doubled her tally before Galwegians captain Mairéad Coyne saw yellow at the start of the final quarter, following a prior team warning.

It was a valiant effort from ‘Wegians, but a second penalty from Carroll, the Energia player-of-the-match, and a sparkling team try, run in by Catherine Martin, rounded off a dream day for the north Dubliners.

Galwegians forced the issue early on, tapping two penalties and pressing outside the Sutts’ 22 before Ursula Sammon, who replaced the injured Megan Walsh at centre, was pulled back for a forward pass.

A scrum penalty sparked the best out of Suttonians, Mary Healy and a jinking Kate Farrell McCabe both carrying well but their lineout let them down in attacking situations.

The Dubliners kept the pressure on territorially, ‘Wegians’ efforts to run out backfiring as Aislinn Layde brilliantly used Martin’s turnover to carry up close before Carroll fed winger McKeown to finish in the right corner.

The try went unconverted and although Orla Dixon earned a turnover penalty for the Blue Belles, Sutts continued to look dangerous with full-back Farrell McCabe fastening onto a cross-field kick from Carroll.

nicole-carroll-prepares-to-take-a-kick Nicole Carroll lines up a kick at goal. Source: Ben Brady/INPHO

The Sutts out-half increased her influence with a penalty on the half hour mark, punishing a breakdown infringement by Fiona Scally.

Carroll then sent a more difficult 32nd-minute kick wide, having made a terrific midfield break in the build-up.

However, Costelloe’s side soon had their second try, prop Healy leaving three defenders in her wake before Carroll’s clever hands, out of a double tackle, sent skipper Farrell McCabe over from close range.

Galwegians enjoyed their best spell just before the break, with Coyne released through a gap by Nicole Fowley. The forwards were knocking on the door until Jessica Kelleher got in at the breakdown to win a relieving penalty for Sutts.

The table toppers’ pace proved too much for ‘Wegians again on the resumption, a loose kick allowing Kate Farrell McCabe to counter, tie in two defenders and release McKeown who got outside Lisa-Marie Murphy to score in the left corner.

‘Wegians continued to be starved of territory and they lost Coyne to the sin bin on the hour mark, the former Ireland international catching Molly Fitzgerald with a high tackle.

Carroll kept the scoreboard ticking over with a 67th minute penalty and she was involved in an excellent final try as Sutts showcased their powerful carrying and silky interplay.

Julia Bauer and Katie Reel provided further impact off the bench, bouncing off tackles, before Carroll, Martin and Kelleher launched a rapid right wing raid, Carroll offloading back inside for the sidestepping Martin to score.

Although Galwegians gained momentum in pursuit of a late consolation score, McKeown and Lena Kibler combined to hold up Grace Browne Moran and complete Sutts’ defensive shutout.

Suttonians scorers:

Tries: Emily McKeown 2, Lauren Farrell McCabe, Catherine Martin

Pens: Nicole Carroll 2

SUTTONIANS: Kate Farrell McCabe; Molly Fitzgerald, Jessica Kelleher, Catherine Martin, Emily McKeown; Nicole Carroll, Lauren Farrell McCabe (capt); Katie Grant Duggan, Julia O’Connor, Mary Healy, Brenda Barr, Aislinn Layde, Louise Catinot, Carrie O’Keeffe, Ciara Farrell.

Replacements: Aoife Brennan, Julia Bauer, Katie Reel, Grainne Tummon, Lena Kibler, Meabh Donohoe, Soneva Scott.

GALWEGIANS: Mairéad Coyne (capt); Saskia Morrissey, Ursula Sammon, Orla Dixon, Rhiann Heery; Nicole Fowley, Darwyn O’Halloran; Elizabeth McNicholas, Nolwenn Dubois, Jessica Loftus, Fiona Scally, Niamh O’Grady, Grace Browne Moran, Lisa-Marie Murphy, Dearbhla Canty.

Replacements: Tracy Lawlor, Hannah Coen, Ellen Connolly, Faith Oviawe, Ann Marie Herward, Laoise McGonagle, Emma Keane, Sarah O’Connell.

Referee: Katie Byrne (IRFU).

__________

3rd/4th Place Play-Off:

UL Bohemians 19

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Old Belvedere 17

UL Bohemians scorers:

Tries: Alana McInerney, Clodagh O’Halloran, Eimear Considine

Cons: Rachel Allen 2

Old Belvedere scorers:

Tries: Jenny Murphy, Sene Naoupu; Cons: Jenny Murphy, Jemma Farrell

Pen: Jemma Farrell

UL BOHEMIANS: Eimear Considine; Stephanie Nunan, Alana McInerney, Niamh Kavanagh, Aoife Corey; Rachel Allen, Muirne Wall; Chloe Pearse (capt), Kate Sheehan, Fiona Reidy, Claire Bennett, Ciara O’Halloran, Sarah Garrett, Clodagh O’Halloran, Sarah Quin.

Replacements: Leah Sweeney, Eilís Cahill, Aaliyah Te Pou, Abbie Salter-Townshend, Aoibhinn O’Loughlin.

OLD BELVEDERE: Laura Carty; Elise O’Byrne-White, Sene Naoupu, Jenny Murphy (capt), Clare Gorman; Aine Donnelly, Kathryn Dane; Alice O’Dowd, Vic Dabanovich O’Mahony, Melissa Hayden, Clodagh Dunne, Elaine Anthony, Erin King, Lesley Ring, Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird.

Replacements: Christina Furlong,  Amber Redmond, Ciara O’Dwyer, Niamh O’Dowd, Rachel Winters, Jemma Farrell, Alannah O’Carroll, Jennie Finlay.

__________

7th/8th Place Play-Off:

Ballincollig 0

Wicklow 31

Wicklow scorers:

Tries: Sarah Gleeson, Ella Roberts, Niamh Ni Dhroma, Meagan Parkinson 2

Cons: Beth Roberts 3

BALLINCOLLIG: Lauren Fahey; Heather Kennedy, Jayne Pennefather, Mona Fehily, Alison Kelly; Kelly Griffin, Gemma Lane; Roisin Ormond, Clodagh Walsh (capt), Clare Coombes, Gillian Coombes, Eimear Perryman, Katelyn Fleming, Kira Fitzgerald, Denise Redmond.

Replacements: Aoife Flynn, Sarah O’Donovan, Olivia Hay Mulvihill, Ellen O’Keeffe, Michelle Stafford, Christine Arthurs, Sinead O’Reilly.

WICKLOW: Ella Roberts; Meagan Parkinson, Vicky Elmes Kinlan, Lucy Mulhall, Sarah Gleeson; Beth Roberts, Erin McConnell (capt); Kathy Byrne, Noelle Ward, Lauren Barry, Laura Newsome, Caitlin Griffey, Emma Curran, Emily Ryan, Niamh Ni Dhroma.

Replacements: Amy O’Neill, Megan McConnell, Becky Condren.

__________

9th/10th Place Play-Off:

Cooke 33

Malone 5

Cooke scorers:

Tries: Dolores Hughes, Naomi McCord 2, Ashleigh Orchard, Ilse van Staden

Con: Amanda Morton 4

Malone scorer:

Try: Anna Stanfield

COOKE: Dolores Hughes; Claire Johnston, Kelly McCormill, Amanda Morton, Tamzin Boyce; Ashleigh Orchard, Teah Maguire; Ilse van Staden, Megan Simpson, Aishling O’Connell (capt), Cara O’Kane, Naomi McCord, India Daley, Katie Hetherington, Helen McGhee.

Replacements: Fiona McCaughan, Eimear McQuillan, Caolinn McCormack, Hannah Downey, Georgia Boyce, Claire McGowan.

MALONE: Holly Brannigan; Nicole Rafferty, Jana McQuillan, Jill Stephens, Anna Stanfield; Peita McAlister (capt), Shirelle Wilson; Sarah Murphy, Ashleigh Currie, Katie-Anne McCallion, Hannah Beattie, Jennifer Collins, Rebecca Smyth, Cara O’Neill, Lauren Maginnes.

Replacements: Donna McGovern, Fern Wilson.

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