|Old Belvedere J1 Ladies
||21 - 15
||Enniskillen Ladies 1st XV
The Skins ladies season came to an unfortunate end on Sunday afternoon amidst the backdrop of grey and murky skies in South Dublin. Their biblical effort to drag themselves across the finish line to All-Ireland final in a few weeks time was halted just short by the bone-crunching Belvo defence which seen the visitors have two tries held up and another disallowed for a forward pass. Many parallels can be drawn from Irelands game against Wales at the weekend which saw the lads from the Emerald Isle batter at the hatches of the Welsh end zone like a hurricane only to be denied themselves by some heroic defending, however there was no doubt in anybody's mind that any of our girls could be faulted for effort as they limped their way to the changing room after a bruising encounter.
It took the girls 20 minutes to shake off the long journey and by that stage they had unfortunately found themselves 14-0 down as Old Belvedere were relentless going forward with quick ball constantly being served wide to their onrushing backline. It certainly looked like Enniskillen were in for a long hard day at the office as their defence, as rugged as it was, was struggling to come to terms with the Dubliners power and pace out wide but all of sudden the game was flipped upside down and it could hardly be argued that the Skins dominated possession and territory for the rest of the game.
It all started with a quick-tap penalty from Noreen Nethercott who gained 50 yards by tip-toeing her way around back pedalling Belvo defence, all of a sudden the girls found themselves on the opposition 22 meter line and pretty much camped there until the end of the half. That initial burst from Nethercott rallied the support of the forwards who went through phase after phase hard running at the defence, gaining only inches at a time until finally they found themselves on the 5 meter line. Some handling errors from both teams in this area led to a succession of scrums until finally the ball made it's way through the hands of the 3/4 line and into the hands of on-rushing full-back Louise Thompson who finished well in the corner.
This was the impetus Enniskillen needed, knowing their hard work was earning reward, and the duly picked up the pace of their play once again to bludgeon their way to within 10 meters of the Old Belvedere try-line. Another handling error saw a scrum given in favour of the defence but Enniskillen piled on the pressure and when Leona Hallet had gobbled up the scrum-half Aisling Maguire made sure of another try by bustling over from 15 meters out. This period of intense pressure had seen Enniskillen have two try's disallowed, one for a forward pass and one held up, but Coach Robbie Watson had said he was delighted to have clawed their way back into the game and 14-10 down at half-time wasn't a bad position to be in considering the bad start.
The start of the second half was a much more keenly contested game with both teams looking to stamp their authority for the forthcoming 40 minutes. Old Belvedere had started with 14 players as one of them had been sin-binned late in the first half due a number of repeat offences, which the whole Dublin team were guilty of. It wasn't long Until Enniskillen got back in their stride and began pummeling the Belvo defence once more, wave after wave of crunching hits were coming in thick and fast from the Skins pack who were trying to run over their opposition in stampede fashion. Unfortunately the ball was knocked on in the backs after an attempted wide play and Old Belvedere secured possession and ran in a try from 80 meters, a cruel, cruel blow to our girls who had played virtually all the rugby thus far.
Not to be down-heartened they dragged each other up and began from scratch after the re-star, duly beginning another assault on the Old Belvedere line. Phase after phase, tackle after tackle, carry after carry, Enniskillen bundled their way over the line. It had been held up. A 5-meter scrum ensued, an area Enniskillen had dominated all day long , was their next platform for attack and after a few phases Shauna McMorrow found her way over the line.
The match was finely poised heading into the final few minutes but Enniskillen couldn't find enough to breach the solid Belvo defence. I can't say I've ever seen a more physical game of women's rugby, both teams giving every last ounce of energy and effort to their overall cause, two titans wrestling for that all important place in the final but it was Enniskillen who found themselves on the wrong side of the scoreline.
On another day it could have easily been a victory for the skins ladies but sadly it was not to be. It's hard to pick out singular performers on the day but the forwards were absolutely immense. Their will and desire to constantly secure ball at the breakdown, to put their bodies on the line, to win every scrum and line-out, to take that ball into contact again and again cannot be understated. Of course, the backs played well too but it was the forwards who really caught the eye, which says a lot about a group usually resigned to all the unseen hard work of the game.
So the ladies end the season as Ulster Plate champions, league runners up and All-Ireland Plate semi-finalists, a phenomenal bunch of achievements but one can't help but feel that this group will be hungry for more next season, knowing how close they came to a clean sweep.