Women’s Cup Quarter FinalsHighfield 6 – 15 UL Bohs, Woodleigh ParkCooke 7 – 27 Railway Union, Shaws BridgeSt Mary’s 0 – 15 Old Belvedere, Templeville RoadBlackrock 28 – 22 Galwegians, Stradbrook
by Aisling Crowe
A COMPELLING afternoon of action brought the All-Ireland Cup to life on an excellent weekend for Irish women’s rugby.
UL Bohemians after still on course for a remarkable league and cup double but Highfield forced the Limerick team to wring every last ounce of effort out of themselves, to stagger over the line in an enthralling Munster Senior Cup final that was in the balance right to the end.
Scrum half Ellen McDermott got the visitors off to the perfect start with a try early in the match but Highfield hit back with a penalty from Ellen Murphy on 20 minutes to reduce the gap to three points. The scoreboard never changed before half-time, an absorbing contest catching both teams in its grasp.
Highfield went ahead two minutes after the interval, Murphy’s second penalty nosing the Cork team in front. The pendulum swung first one way, then another as the half wore on but neither side were able to make that vital breakthrough, Highfield not allowing the league leaders to play to their strengths.
A penalty on 70 minutes, scored by Kerry goalkeeper Edel Murphy edged UL Bohs in front, 8-6 and the outcome hinged on a flying break by winger Syphonia Pua who raced 50 metres down the pitch to cross the line for the decisive try. Murphy added the conversion for a 15-6 victory.
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Their focus switches to maintaining an unbeaten league run next Sunday in a momentous day for women’s rugby in the province. UL Bohs’ senior team take on western rivals Galwegians in the All Ireland League while the junior team face fierce rivals Shannon in the Junior Cup and the club has applied to play both matches in Thomond Park.
Highfield’s late charge for a play-off place in the League will see them travel all the way to Belfast for a crucial game against Cooke on Sunday.
Cooke suffered a heavy defeat at home to Railway Union in the Cup quarter finals on Sunday afternoon. The Dublin side set up a semi-final against Old Belvedere with a five try dismissal of a Cooke team shorn of experience through injuries and call-ups.
Clare Ryan was the star of the show for the Dublin team with three first half tries helping her side to a 20-0 lead at half-time. Former Canadian international Emma Taylor had started the scoring for Railway with a try of her own before Ryan’s one woman scoring blitz began.
Cooke are molded in the image of head coach Grace Davitt and the Irish legend’s charges refused to contemplate defeat. In the second half, they tore into the opposition and Amy Davis grabbed a try to hopefully begin the epic comeback required.
However Railway Union’s vastly experienced scrum-half Larissa Muldoon had been pulling the pack’s strings all afternoon in the manner of an expert puppeteer and the Irish international steadied the ship with an excellent try of her own to give the visitors an unassailable 27-7 lead.
Ciara Cooney made her first start for Railway Union since recovering from a serious injury suffered last spring and she slotted right into a back-row that was on song, with Ryan and Kate McCarthy contributing to a beautiful three-part harmony. Muldoon was the choral mistress at nine and in the centre Niamh Byrne stood out.
Old Belvedere booked their place in the last four with a 15-0 victory away to St Mary’s at Templeville Road. Early tries from Aisling McCaffrey and Fionnuala Gleeson helped the visitors to game the upper hand but St Mary’s were difficult opponents, not lightly giving the ball away.
Gleeson benefitted from an excellent break by Irish legend Sophie Spence that had the majority of the team racing to keep up with her. Gleeson had retired from rugby at the end of last season but made a successful reappearance for the Cup and will be staving off retirement for one more game at least.
Despite going down to 13 players for a few minutes in the second half as Aurelie Le Mauzy paid the price for her team’s last ditch defending of St Mary’s efforts to breach the try line, and second half substitute Lynda Djougang joining her in the sin bin, Old Belvedere held out, despite losing recent Ireland Sevens signing Molly Scuffil McCabe to the bin.
Jackie Shiels scored the penalty that finally sealed Old Belvedere’s victory, to add to her earlier conversion.
Ruth McElroy, of Old Belvedere, felt the score-line didn’t accurately reflect on how tough her team had it on the pitch.
The opportunity for revenge comes quickly for St Mary’s who hosts Old Belvedere in the league next Sunday, on another important day for women’s rugby. Old Belvedere’s junior team play Carlow for a place in the semi-finals of Leinster Division One.
In an epic late kick-off Blackrock withstood a fightback from Galwegians to claim a 28-22 victory and a place in the final four.
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