With one round to go UL Bohs are close to a perfect record and another title, writes Sarah Lennon.
A big week in women's AIL Division 1 with a lot to be decided at the top and the bottom of the table. Nothing could be decided mathematically this week with one round remaining, but the results this week had the potential to all but decide the league winners and the team relegated to Division 2.
UL Bohemian, Old Belvedere and Highfield were all still in contention for the top spot and it was Highfield who appeared to have the toughest ask on paper travelling to Templeville Road to take on St Mary's. It proved to be a difficult task and Marys led 3-0 at half time. Highfield dominated the second half but found the whitewash difficult to cross, eventually squeezing a try over through Fiona O'Sullivan. Norita Duggen managed the conversion and two further penalties to give Highfield a 13-3 victory, and four points for the Cork outfit. The win minus a bonus point all but ended Highfield's slim hopes of this season's title.
Old Belvedere took to the field knowing that a bonus point win of their own was needed to have any hope of taking the title from the clutches of Bohs. The Anglesea Road outfit took on Galwegians who are always a dangerous opposition. A common theme of Belvo's season so far has been quick starts and this match was no different with Nora Stapleton scoring an early try – the first of her hat trick on the day. In truth the match was one way traffic and once again a bonus point was secured before halftime, Galwegians only response was 3 points from the boot as Belvo led 29-3 at half time. The second half wasn't any better for the Galway team with 8 more tries from Belvo securing a comfortable 77-3 victory.
Having done all they could do Belvo awaited the result from Anaccotty where UL Bohemian took on Tralee in an all-Munster clash. Tralee have given an excellent account of themselves this season, their debut season in AIL1 and were no pushovers here but UL Boh's used all of their experience and secured a bonus point win, scoring 6 tries in all in a 34-0 win.
This result consolidated Boh's 2 point lead at the top with one game remaining. Next week Boh's take on Cooke away knowing that a win of any kind would see them retain their title. Belvo and Highfield clash in Cork and although mathematically both can still win the AIL title the match is effectively a playoff for 2d position.
There was one more match in AIL1, and it was perhaps the most important of them all this week as Blackrock took on Cooke at Stradbrook. Rock knew that a Cooke win would see them relegated but that a victory of their own would take them off the bottom with one game remaining. Blackrock had some returning players, most notably Irish international Amy Davies and it was she who opened the try scoring, after Cooke had taken an early 3-0 lead. A try each before half time left the score delicately poised at 14-8 Considering the magnitude of the match it was no surprise that the 2nd half was a tight affair and with Carrie Hanley for Blackrock and Stacey Kennedy for Cooke trading tries. The score finished 19-13 with Blackrock gaining 4 precious points and Coke leaving with one. The gap between the teams stands at one point and with a similarly bad points difference it means that Blackrock have to match Cooke's result next week to stay up. With Cooke hosting a UL Bohs team determinedly chasing a league title, I predict that the result between Galwegians and Rock won't affect the outcome. It is very difficult to see Cooke securing anything and it looks like this match between the two teams has secured Rock's Division 1 status for another year.
In the AIL Division 2N, a narrow defeat for Belfast Harlequins to Navan meant that Queen's University are champions with a game to spare. Queen's celebrated with a comprehensive 81-0 victory over Cavan and will go up against the Division 2S champions for the all important playoff for promotion. In Division 2S a Portlaoise win against Ballincollig, couple with a defeat at home for Nenagh sees the Laois outfit secure the title with a game to spare. Portlaoise will take on Queen's University to see who will be playing Division 1 rugby next season.
In the Leinster Leagues, the halfway point is approaching and the leagues are beginning to take shape. In Division 1 Edenderry and Cill Dara are battling it out with only 3 points separating the pair. It continues to be a struggle for Longford who are without a win and are becoming adrift at the foot of the table. Division 2 is a very close affair, the Carlow 'Coyotes' have a decent lead at the top with 4 wins out of 4 and Old Belvedere, Tullow and Kilkenny are in the chasing pack with all 3 separated by only 2 points. In Division 3, UCD's struggles continue, the college team have yet to fulfil a fixture yet. Clondalkin seem to have gotten their act together and have 3 results in a row with the latest being a 50-0 over Wicklow. Railway Union continue to lead the way at the top even though their match this week didn't take place. In the Development League CYM (Terenure) still lead the way with a narrow win over Athy. Newbridge beat Tallaght to go into second place and stay within 3 points off Terenure.
I'd like to conclude the roundup this week by acknowledging Claire Molloy's award at the Rugby Writers Awards, Claire is a star of the Connacht team and captain of the Irish Rugby 7s team bidding for Olympic Qualification. Having been to these awads in the past, the absence of women was always notable. It is about time that the status of the women's sport in Ireland was acknowledged by Irish rugby writers and that Claire joins Lynne Cantwell who won the inaugural award last season.
Sarah Lennon (@sarahlennon08) is passionate about all things rugby. A Leinster Season Ticket holder since the Donnybrook days, a supporter of the Irish teams home and abroad and can regularly be seen cheering on Junior Rugby at Stillorgan RFC (a labour of love). As well as spectating, she dabbles in playing a bit and is a member of Old Belvedere RFC and fully paid up member of the front row union.