There were wins for Old Belvedere, Blackrock, St Mary's and UL Bohemians in round one of Ireland's top domestic league - the All Ireland League, Division 1.
Old Belvedere 18 Highfield 14
Old Belvedere survived a late comeback from visitors Highfield to take their first win of the season on home soil, in this clash between last season’s second and third placed league finishers
Highfield made much of the early running in the first half and the hosts were forced into defence mode with Jen Murphy and Nora Stapleton putting in some big hits, the latter of whom sustained a head injury on 15 minutes and was substituted. Highfield had the first shot at goal but in windy conditions, it was narrowly wide.
Finally on 33 minutes the scoreboard sprung into action after good build up play by the Old Belvedere pack. Hayley Whyte showed good hands in an attacking move down the left hand side of the pitch before Elaine Cohalan won the footrace after a neat grubber through and went over the line in the left hand corner to claim the first try of the game for a 5-0 lead.
Belvedere scored again quickly when strong running from Murphy resulted in Highfield conceding a penalty at the breakdown, and Cohalan landed the kick for an 8-0 lead
With the edge in the scrum, the home side surged further ahead with a try for Janice Daly for a 15-0 halftime lead.
Highfield came significantly more into the game in the second half and an early break by Norita Duggan and Laura Guest eventually resulted in Ger Rea touching down for a try which she also converted.
Colohan stretched the Old Belvedere lead with a penalty, but Highfield finished the match strongly with Nicola Scully being released to score their second try which Duggan converted.
Unfortunately the comeback came too late and Old Belvedere held out for the win, whilst Highfield had the small consolation of a losing bonus point for their improved second half efforts and also the positive return of former Irish fly half Helen Brosnan.
St Mary's 17 Tralee 15
There was little between these two sides in their league opener, with the Dublin outfit doing just enough to take the spoils.
The home side started strongly, with number 8 Paula Fitzpatrick, back from a season of injuries last year, showing well in the opening exchanges.
In defence, Mary’s were solid, forcing a number of early turnovers and it was the hosts who took the lead when a well organised maul saw Dairine Frawley crash over the line for a try converted by Niamh Fitzgerald.
Tralee got right back into the match, spreading the ball out wide and they scored a well-deserved try from Ayesha Roche on the left wing to get back into the game though the convertion was missed.
Conditions dictated a tough second half with both sides struggling in attack for the opening 20 minutes. Tralee eventually slotted over an early penalty from Roche to take the lead but St Mary’s came back strongly.
Denied a try on the hour mark, Mary’s made sure when Fitzpatrick latched onto an intercept and put her side 12-8 ahead.
Tralee weren’t done and scored under the posts minutes later from Emer O'Mahony, taking advantage of a lapse in the Mary’s defence but with just four minutes to go, the home side worked up the field and won a scrum against the head in the Tralee 22. The standout player, Fitzpatrick was driven over the line to touch down her second and vital match winning try.
Blackrock 17 Galwegians 7
Blustery conditions made this a tough match for both sides and the first forty minutes were error strewn as both sides struggled to adapt to the elements.
A nil all first half indicated that, plus the rustiness of the opening game of the season. Galwegians kept it tight in the opening exchanges with Laura Feely going well as the visitors tried to out muscle their opponents.
This improved in the second half with ‘Rock used the wind to effectively play rugby deep in Galweigans territory.
From there, a very strong rock line out maul pulled in the defence, creating a gap for returning player Tania Rosser to score the first try of the game. Soon after, excellent defence at a lineout forced a turnover for the home side and created an opportunity for the quick-reacting Dawn Olvera Smith to dive on the ball and score the second try of the game.
A drop in concentration from the hosts pened up a great opportunity for 'Wegians. A fantastic attack from their centre, running hard onto the line, carved the home side’s defence in two to allow a score under the posts.
The home side worked patiently for a third try with strong work up front creating space for Rosser to score her second try under the posts to seal the match.
UL Bohemians 39 Portlaoise 0
A bonus point win saw the defending champions get their season off to a fine start with seven tries coming in their first outing.
The early morning rain looked like putting a damper on the game, but fortunately it stopped just before the kick-off. Bohs gained the upper hand early on in the game and were awarded with a push over try from captain Dee O’Brien. Keeping up the pressure, Nicole Fitzgerald’s solo run from outside the Portlaoise ‘22 saw her score under the posts on the 20 minute mark to push her side further ahead.
On the half hour mark Aine Staunton crossed for the first of her two tries and this was quickly followed-up with some excellent passing which s saw Olivia Stapleton going over for the fourth and bonus point try..
The second half saw some good efforts in open play by both sides, but neither could score until on 66 minutes Staunton went in for her second try. Fiona Hayes added another and then Paula McCarthy raced down the wing and ran in near the posts to get the final try.