Following on from a fantastic win in the AIL Cup against Tullamore last weekend; it was back to League action at home to Old Belvedere J1s. With Old Belvedere having won their most recent Leinster league game, they too would feel on top of their game coming into the match.
The game started off at a slow pace with both teams sharing possession of the ball, each team showing sheer determination to push through and get that opening score.
It was at the 18th minute when one of Old Belvedere’s backline high tackled St. Marys’ prop Casey O’Brien just as she intended to place the ball for a try. With that been the second high tackle from Old Belvedere within ten minutes, the referee awarded a penalty try and a yellow card was issued to the Old Belvedere back. Mary’s started the ball rolling as full-back Liz Brophy scored the conversion and the score stood at 7-0.
It didn’t take too long for the second score of the game to come when an excellent break from winger Shayne Richardson down the right-side lead to another try. Unfortunately, the angle was too tight for a conversion. It was now twenty minutes in and the score stood at 12-0.
Niamh Fitzgerald using her new found kicking skills managed to kick through the centre of Old Belvedere’s line which she followed with precision landing a second kick on to the ball. Having covered half the pitch on her run, she finally landed over the white wash to touch the ball down for a well-deserved try after 24 minutes. A successful conversion from Brophy brought the score to 19-0.
Old Belvedere knew they had to try pin Marys back, and used their kicking game regularly to try keep them at bay. Some great catches from Brophy and winger Sinead Lennon made this unproductive for Old Belvedere as a great carry from Lennon brought Marys back to the Old Belvedere twenty-two on the half hour mark.
On presenting the ball, second-row Orla Fitzsimmons became largely involved in several carries off the back of rucks causing damage to the Belvedere defensive line each time. What seemed like a ball that should have been passed out to the Marys’ backline, saw Fitzsimmons taking the opportunity to surprise the defence by carrying the ball straight through the centre for a try, the score standing at 24-0.
A mistake from Belvedere saw Marys take advantage and win the ball back in an excellent counter ruck. The determined and alert flanker Emma Hooban broke through the pillars leaving behind a number of defenders. When finally met by the full-back, a fantastic off-load to Fitzgerald saw the other flanker stretch her legs and come out the other side of a three tackle effort and successfully diving over the try line once again. This brought the score-line to 29-0 followed by the half-time whistle.
Marys now had the wind at their back but Belvedere had a renewed energy about them after the halftime break.
The first few minutes of the second half were unkind to Marys as Captain Aoife Moore sustained a knock which resulted in Michelle Carroll replacing the experienced no. 8.
Marys were further set back by another injury as centre Amy Moran was replaced by substitute Laura Power, who was eager to get back on the scene following a long stint on the side-lines due to a hip injury.
As Marys settled into their new positions, Belvedere took full advantage with a kick and chase from their centre that drifted towards the left touchline. The threat that followed from this kick was soon interrupted by a great covering tackle from Marys’ centre Ciara Scanlan.
Belvedere continued to drive on, gaining yards and eventually resulting in them getting inside the Marys’ twenty-two. Approximately five metres from the line, a try was surely on the cards, but the Marys girls had other ideas, winning a turnover right in front of their try line
Marys decided not to kick for touch but instead tap and go. Richardson made a great break up the centre, but the Belvedere defence reacted quickly and managed to win a penalty and take the ball back into their possession.
A quick break to the left by Belvedere and some quick hands from the backs saw their out-half break through the Marys’ defence and dot the ball down to the right of the posts. A converted ball brought Belvedere onto the score board with a result of 29-7 with 12 minutes gone in the second half.
Management made a few changes after the 15th minute including the return of Captain Aoife Moore, Christy Haney as prop replacement for Casey O’Brien and Karen Plunkett as winger replacement for Sinead Lennon. Richardson now swapped onto the left wing.
It was as if Belvedere saw an opportunity again to test the Marys’ defence, with a swift kick over the top of the defensive line chased by their winger. The loose ball was cleaned up by Laura Power and Marys set off in attack again.
The 18th minute saw a dominant Marys’ scrum win a penalty in the Belvedere twenty-two. A quick tap and go from scrum-half Aoife Thompson saw the ball pass between the no. 9, Hooban and Richardson for an effective play on the blind-side resulting in a try for Richardson in the top left corner. Conversion from Brophy just dropped short of the posts leaving the score at 34-7.
From the kick off, Hooban was looking dangerous again making yet another break and winning a penalty from Belvedere for not releasing. Another switch for the pack saw prop Leah Hayden replacing Melissa Hayden just in time for the scrum. The fresh legs from the younger of the Hayden sisters helped Marys dominate the scrum again and yet another penalty was conceded by Belvedere.
Choosing to kick to touch this time proved to be the right decision for Marys with a great line out win and spectacular carry from Emma Kiernan who had slotted into scrum-half with Thompson moving to 10 after Sarah Duignan had been replaced following a great days work at out-half. A couple of breakdowns later saw Hooban rewarded with a try of her own after her hard work throughout the game. An unconverted score brought it to 39-7.
Marys weren’t willing to take the foot off the pedal just yet and a combination of Kiernan, Hooban, Melissa Hayden who was back on the pitch as hooker and Haney brought them right back into the danger area of Belvederes’ twenty-two. The penalty count was clocking up for Belvedere when penalised again for being off their feet. Marys were lethal with their maul knowing they were so close to the line. Belvedere done what they could to stop the driving force of the Marys’ maul but could only concede another penalty. A quick tap and go saw Fitzsimmons punish the indiscipline of Belvedere. That was to be final score of the day, finishing off a great return to the Leinster league with a 44-7 victory over Old Belvedere.
Karen Plunket & Amy Moran