Following five nail-biting rounds of pool game, the Celtic Challenge teams have cemented their places within the 2023/24 Celtic Challenge Play Off Structure.
The expanded 2024 tournament, which now features two teams from each of the three nations – Ireland, Scotland and Wales – opened at the end of December with the two teams from each nation playing each other
In Ireland, the Clovers carved out a 10-point lead in a fiercely-contested Celtic Challenge opener at Musgrave Park, but a trio of final quarter tries saw the Wolfhounds emerge as 21-15 winners.
Across the Channel and the Welsh were set for a New Years Day cracker as newly formed Brython Thunder took on Gwalia Lightning. Lightning secured an impressive 20-5 victory over new rivals Brython Thunder in the historic first Welsh derby at a rain sodden Rodney Parade in Newport.
Finally a packed out Hive Stadium in Edinburgh saw Edinburgh Rugby claim a historic win in its first ever Women’s game on Saturday, taking a bonus point win against intercity rivals Glasgow Warriors.
After that Round 2 saw the the start of international play as Brython Thunder, Glasgow Warriors and the Wolfhounds travelled to Ireland, Wales, and Scotland respectively.
In Ireland, 19-year-old prop Sadhbh McGrath captained the Clovers to their first Celtic Challenge win, as they got the better of Wales’ Brython Thunder on a 20-5 scoreline at Energia Park.
In Cardiff Wales’ Gwalia Lightning moved to the top of the table with another impressive performance with an emphatic 36-19 win against Glasgow Warriors in the clash at Cardiff Arms Park.
Round 3 saw Glasgow Warriors and Brython Thunder hosting their first fixtures at Scotstoun and Parc Y Scarlets respectively.
A brisk Saturday in Scotstoun saw debut home tries for Phaedra Snailham and Louise McMillan which ultimately proved to be mere consolations for Glasgow Warriors, as Wolfhounds dominated to take the win.
In West-Wales’ Brython Thunder and Edinburgh delivered a seven-try thriller at Parc y Scarlets with the Scottish visitors emerging 22-17 winners in front of more than 700 fans.
Clovers‘ Kate Flannery converted replacement Róisín Ormond’s last-gasp try as the Clovers burst Gwalia Lightning 19-17 in an exciting clash at Cork’s Virgin Media Park.
The penultimate pool round edged teams closer to the playoff and the battle for the top 3 was hard fought.
A battling performance from Glasgow Warriors ended in a 29-10 defeat at the hands of the Clovers at Scotstoun this afternoon, as an impressive second-half display from the home side ultimately proved in vain in round four.
Across the channel in Belfast, teenage winger Katie Corrigan weighed in with four tries, including a second half hat-trick, as the Wolfhounds emerged as 41-10 winners over Brython Thunder at Kingspan Stadium.
Gwalia Lightning saw their unbeaten home record snatched away from them with a last-gasp try by Edinburgh in a pulsating Round 4 clash at Cardiff Arms Park on Sunday afternoon
The final round of pool games this weekend saw the Wolfhounds confirmed as top of the table with five wins from five, beating Gwalia Lightning 36-24 in Dublin.
Edinburgh secured the second seed following a win 35-21 against Clovers, who ensured Ireland took two of the three places in the playoffs for the title.
Gwalia Lightning, Brython Thunder, and Glasgow Warriors occupy the bottom half of the table as they go head-to-head in the play-offs.