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Late try ends UL Bohs' unbeaten run as business end of Women's AIL season lands

Railway Union defeated the leaders in Limerick.

Women’s All Ireland League Round 13

A general view of the game Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Cooke 50 – 10 Galwegians – Shaws Bridge
Old Belvedere 10 – 19 Highfield – Anglesea Road
St Mary’s 10 – 10 Blackrock – Templeville Road
UL Bohemians 6 – 8 Railway Union – Annacotty

By Aisling Crowe

RAILWAY UNION WENT to Limerick on Sunday and returned with a match victory, the first time any team has achieved such a feat this season.

The Dublin side ended UL Bohemians’ unbeaten season with a hard-fought and narrow win in Annacotty.

A low-scoring contest, this battle for play-off positions was never in danger of being dull with both teams determined to play the attacking and expansive rugby for which they are known.

Nikki Caughey and Edel Murphy traded penalties in the first half until Murphy’s kick just before half-time handed a slender 6-3 lead to the home side at the break.

With the wind against them in the second half Railway were under pressure from the league leaders but an enthralling game remained delicately poised until the final whistle. Canadian international Emma Taylor breached the UL Bohemians’ defence three minutes from time to give Railway Union a precarious five point lead.

Fullback Clare Ryan’s game saving tackle on UL Bohemians’ Niamh Kavanagh as she dashed for the line with the final attack of the match gave the visitors victory and for the first time all season, UL Bohemians were left with an aftertaste of defeat.

Nikki Caughey Railway Union's Nikki Caughey. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

“It was a very good, tight game despite the weather conditions,” said UL Bohemians’ manager Maeve D’Arcy. “In a sense, we’re relieved to have that pressure of remaining unbeaten removed from us. The winning streak has been broken now and although we were disappointed to lose the match, there are positives to be taken from it.”

Not least the prospect of a home semi-final next month.

“At the start of the season, our goal was to make the top four and get into the playoff places and we have done that. Our focus remains on each game and we are now looking forward to playing Railway again next week, in the Cup semi-final.”

Gillian Burke at hooker had an outstanding game for UL Bohemians, throwing clean ball at the line out in trying circumstances.

Railway Union’s try scorer Emma Taylor once again made her presence felt, along with Melissa Slevin in the second row, Irish scrumhalf Larissa Muldoon and back row star Juliet Short.

Railway Union’s win, coupled with Old Belvedere’s home defeat to Highfield, sees the two sides swap places in the league table. With the final round of games to come on 26 March, Railway Union is now in second place, four points ahead of Old Belvedere.

Highfield’s success gives them a shout of claiming that fourth and final playoff position when the league resumes in three weeks’ time.

Laura Guest’s side scored three tries in blustery conditions and a fiercely fought contest at Anglesea Road.

Highfield capitalised on errors from their hosts to score two tries. The first came from turnover ball in a ruck that allowed Hannah O’Sullivan to open the scoring with a try on 30 minutes.

Nicola Scully Highfield's Nicola Scully. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Then Nicola Scully intercepted a pass as Old Belvedere threatened a try of their own and galloped away with the ball to put Highfield 12-0 up at the break, with Ellen Murphy adding the conversion. Another ball pinched during a ruck early in the second half led to Laura Sheehan’s try, again Murphy converted.

The home team fought back and Sharon Lynch made a half break midway through the period that ended with Sheena Moore’s try to put a dent in the lead. German star Francisca Klappoth returned from injury, appearing as a second-half substitute, and immediately made an impression scoring her team’s second try.

Guest said of her team’s success: “It was a good win and a good performance. The girls had to defend valiantly at the end because Belvo kept trying so hard right until the final whistle. The team really showed great heart right the way through.

Victory over UL Bohemians in their final game of the season would give Highfield a chance of making the playoffs.

“We enjoy playing Bohs, there is a good relationship between the two clubs and we have one more home game to come. If we put in a good performance and get a good result, then we might get something out of it,” she added.

Survival in Division One was on the line for Cooke as they welcomed Galwegians to Shaws Bridge and Grace Davitt’s side put in one of their best performances of the season, overwhelming the Connacht team by 57-10, almost certainly guaranteeing their place in the league for next season.

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Cooke exploded out of the gates, Rebecca Smyth touching down for the game’s opening try within three minutes of the start. Brittany Hogan added a second before Galwegians replied with a try of their own through Tracey Gannon which seemed an affront to Cooke, who replied with a try from Sarah Gibson, converted by Vicky Irwin. The try bonus point was delivered before half-time, Vicky Irwin scoring and converting to leave it 24-5 at the break.

Ruth O’Reilly Galwegian's Ruth O'Reilly. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Irwin got her second of the game shortly after the restart, again she converted while Gemma Jackson added the two points following Beth Cregan’s try. Captain Shirelle Williams got her name on the scoreboard with Jackson again kicking the conversion.

Ruth O’Reilly interrupted the Cooke rampage with a try for Galwegians but it was Cooke’s ninth and final try which exemplified their attitude.

Only 30 seconds remained on the clock when Cooke was awarded a penalty and the option to end the game was offered. Instead Cooke opted for the tap and go which resulted in Rebecca Smyth crossing for her second try, in a neatly symmetrical finish.

Davitt was delighted with her team’s performance in the 57 – 10 victory.

“It was a great display from the team today, the girls really pulled together. We wanted them to be ruthless and they were. It was a great team effort and for the first time in a long time we had a strong squad available. The week off after seven consecutive weekends of matches really helped us and gave us time to work at things in training.”

The win and St Mary’s 10 – 10 draw with Blackrock, mean Cooke are almost certainly safe but St Mary’s is left facing the drop.

A first draw of the league on the penultimate weekend of the regular season was the outcome of this Dublin derby. The first half encompassed all the scoring action with both sides claiming two tries. Emma Hooban, number six for St Mary’s, scored both of their tries on a milestone day for the club.

Hooker Emma Kiernan celebrated her 200th cap for St Mary’s and crowned her performance with laser precision throwing in the line out, aided by the calling of Aoife Moore at five. Prop Melissa Hayden was a stalwart in the scrum for St Mary’s.

“It was a very tough game between two evenly matched teams,” said Eily Coughlan of St Mary’s, about a game that ended with both captains in the sin bin. “The girls put their hearts and souls into it and it was a real team effort by everyone. The backs and forwards communicated so well and everyone worked hard together. We have three weeks now to prepare for Galwegians so we will keep our heads up and work hard.”

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Aisling Crowe

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