Tight at the top! Old Belvedere complete back-to-back wins over AIL leaders

Blackrock also recorded a big win in the Women’s AIL this weekend.

LIGHTING STRUCK TWICE as Old Belvedere secured back-to-back wins over leaders Railway Union on Saturday evening, with only two points now separating the top three sides in the Women’s All-Ireland League table.

Old Belvedere 8-5 Railway Union, Anglesea Road

Looking to avenge last week’s 18-15 home defeat, Railway Union laid down an early marker with a fifth-minute try from the in-form Susan Vaughan.

Nora Stapleton Old Belvedere's Nora Stapleton. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Unfortunately for the visitors, Old Belvedere’s iron-clad defence managed to thwart them and keep them scoreless over the remaining 75 minutes.

Belvedere’s returning centre Sene Naoupu, fresh from captaining Ireland against England at Twickenham, made some excellent runs, and prolific prop Linda Djougang followed her team-mate’s lead by scoring her fifth try of the campaign — on the back of some close-range carries from her fellow forwards.

Both tries went unconverted and the pelting rain made handling a challenge for both teams.

Emma Murphy, Chloe Blackmore and Siobhan McCarthy stood out in the forwards for Railway, while Belvedere held the edge in open play with the centre partnership of Naoupu and Ailbhe Dowling working a treat.

Railway had certainly worked hard to reduce their penalty count, but one slight slip allowed Ulster’s Jemma Jackson to kick a penalty for ‘Belvo and 8-5 is how it stayed.

It was another exhilarating Dublin derby and both sets of players must be commended for the high standard of play in trying weather conditions.

While disappointed with the narrow loss to one of their title rivals, Railway head coach John Cronin singled out Nora Stapleton afterwards for the key role she played for the hosts.

He praised the Belvedere fullback for “managing the game so well and keeping ‘Belvo playing in the right areas.”

Cooke 12-22 Blackrock, Shaw’s Bridge

A walkover win for UL Bohemians over injury-hit St Mary’s keeps the defending champions in second place, while Blackrock have climbed into fourth after completing a quick-fire double over Cooke.

Captain Michelle Claffey made a try-scoring return as ‘Rock bounced back from conceding an early try.

Philip Doyle Blackrock coach Philip Doyle. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

It was another frustrating evening for Cooke supremo Wayne Kelly as his charges failed to convert their possession into points.

His opposite number Philip Doyle was admittedly “disappointed not to bag the bonus point, but happy to secure eight out of a possible 10 points over the last two weeks.”

Cooke started the stronger at their Belfast base, gaining the first try through winger Eliza Downey after just 10 minutes.

Lesley Megarity and Emma Kearney were putting in solid performances up front, which helped to set up the round eight fixture’s opening score.

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The determined home side enjoyed the majority of possession for the remainder of the first half, although a late penalty allowed Hannah O’Connor to reduce the arrears for Blackrock to two points at the break — 5-3.

Worsening weather conditions did not help Cooke with their aim of maintaining possession and tiring ‘Rock out on the resumption.

With a strong wind at their backs, Blackrock managed to pin Cooke back in their 22 for long periods.

They eventually capitalised on this territory when agile scrum-half Niamh Griffin dotted down their first try which O’Connor converted.

Blackrock won a scrum against the head and Claffey soon sliced through to open up a 17-5 lead.

Former Ireland international Jackie Shiels then whipped a long pass out for Ali Coleman to notch her second try in as many matches.

A well-taken late try from talented youngster Kelly McCormill was too little, too late with Kelly admitting that his squad “need to learn how to play under different conditions and stay composed against a well-organised defence.”

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