Bohs return to the top of the league as home teams struggle in the Women’s AIL

Women’s All-Ireland League Round Four:

Old Belvedere’s Jackie Shiels. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Blackrock 15 – 19 UL Bohemians

Cooke 17 – 29 St Mary’s
Shaws Bridge

Galwegians 17 – 34 Highfield
Crowley Park

Railway Union RFC 25 – 8 Old Belvedere
Willow Lodge

RAILWAY UNION BUCKED the trend of losing home teams on the resumption of the Women’s All Ireland League after the December break.

They were the only one of the four home sides to win on Sunday with their bonus point victory over Old Belvedere combining with UL Bohemians’ narrow away win in Dublin knocking Old Belvedere off the league top spot.

Claire Ryan scored two of Railway Union’s four tries to wrap up the victory for the home team that was sparked by an early Sinead Taylor try. Jackie Shiels replied with a penalty for Old Belvedere before the first of Ryan’s tries. Sarah Jane Cody got Railway’s third and it was converted by outhalf Nikki Caughey on the stroke of half-time to give her team a 17-3 lead at the break.

Juliet Short made her debut for Railway. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Caughey added a penalty on the resumption before Shiels pulled a try back for Old Belvedere but Ryan’s second try secured the bonus point win for Railway Union.

Former England underage captain Juliet Short made her debut for Railway at openside flanker. A sister to the Connacht and Brive professional Christian, Short worked in rugby development in Brazil before moving to Ireland and was a member of the Irish panel at the last World Cup.

“It was an incredibly physical game,” said Old Belvedere’s Ruth McElroy. “We ended up giving them the game as we turned over far too many balls when we had possession and you can’t do that against a team like Railway who play such a wide game.”

Old Belvedere did have some bright moments in the game especially the return to the field of Aine Donnelly, sidelined for a year with a serious knee injury. She was a second half substitute along with Sophie Spence who played her first game since suffering a concussion in the autumn.

Amy Davis was on the score sheet for Cooke. Source: Presseye/Matt Mackey/INPHO

Up in Belfast, Cooke fell 17-29 to Dublin raiders St Mary’s despite fighting back from conceding an early try to draw level at five points apiece thanks to their captain Shirelle Wilson.

St Mary’s grabbed a try late in the half to take a 12-5 lead into the break but once again Cooke should their fighting spirit to come back. Seconds after the whistle blew to signal the start of the second half Amy Davis ripped the ball from an opponent’s hands and ran the length of the Shaws Bridge pitch to score a try that was converted by full-back Tia Maguire.

Parity didn’t last long as Mary’s claimed a third try and regained a seven point lead which quickly stretched into a 26 – 12 lead. Prop Seoirse McLavin scored to bring Cooke back to seven points down but a penalty with seven minutes to play handed St Mary’s a 29-17 victory.

Cooke coach Grace Davitt remarked: “Mary’s came here with a game plan and they stuck to it. They made us work very hard for the ball, and kept possession very well, preventing us from playing rugby. They never let us settle, even when we had our tails up after Amy’s try.”

“The girls are disappointed to lose but we know what we need to work on for next week.

“This is a tough time of year for clubs with the Six Nations on and the first time that has impinged on the league so it will be an interesting couple of months for us all, seeing how well each team copes with losing players to Ireland.”

Highfield coach Laura Guest brought some of her playing magic to the field at Crowley Park in Galway as the former Ireland star helped her team to a stunning 34-17 success over Galwegians.

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The home side started well and were 12-0 up thanks to first half-scores from Nicole Fowley, who was called up to the Ireland panel for the Autumn internationals and Castlebar’s Ursula Sammon. Outhalf Clare Raftery converted one try and it all seemed rosy for Galwegians but Guest and Highfield had other plans.

Despite Emma Cleary’s second half-try, Highfield took a bonus point victory back down to Cork with them and the league table was shaken up.

Aine Stuanton scored the pick of the tries for Bohs. Source: Presseye/Matt Mackey/INPHO

UL Bohemians brought their perfect run with them into 2017, making eight wins from eight games played but Blackrock made them work very hard to return to the summit of the league.

Siphonia Pua raced over for a try on six minutes for UL Bohemians that was converted by Edel Murphy but Blackrock’s rising star Emer Corri replied with one of her own on 17 minutes to leave the home team two points behind.

Blackrock had most of the possession but UL Bohs were much more clinical, taking their few scoring opportunities. Clare McDermott, making her AIL debut for UL Bohs along with Clodagh O’Halloran, crowned her display with a try on the stroke of half-time that helped the visitors into a 12-7 lead.

Straight after the break, UL Bohs full-back Aine Staunton magnificently fielded a high ball and galloped away for her team’s third try which was also converted by Murphy.

Blackrock roared back with unconverted tries from Michelle Clifford and Ali Coleman setting up a tense finale but UL Bohs clung to victory.

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