- Result: Galwegians Women 26 - Highfield 18
- Venue: Tullamore on Sun Mar 30th 2014
- Competition: AIL Womens Cup
Galwegians Womens XV made it a memorable Cup double for the club when they won the All-Ireland Womens Cup for the second time in three years in a thrilling contest against Highfield in Tullamore on Sunday.
Highfield came into this game as pre-match favourites and they were determined to seek revenge for their defeat in the Final against the Blue Belles two years ago. However Wegians came into this Final in a rich vein of form, having seen off Dublin’s leading lights And things started well for the Cork side when their early pressure was rewarded with the game’s opening try after only six minutes, when Ger Rea crossed the whitewash with Norita Duggan converting for a 7-0 lead.
However Wegians, coached by Connacht no. 8 George Naoupu, refused to panic and recovered well from the early setback, working their way back into the game. They served notice of their intentions on 15 minutes when they opened their own scoring account. And what a try it was, when out-half Clare Raftery launched a peach of a crosskick for winger Michelle Fitzpatrick who gathered to dot down out wide.
Although Raftery missed the difficult touchline conversion, things got even better for the Blues as they scored a second try almost immediately to hit the front for the first time. Having reclaimed the restart, some good hands fed full-back Mairead Coyne who made a superb break, piercing the Highfield defence before feeding centre Lisa McDonagh who crossed for another excellent try worthy of the occasion. Raftery converted this time and suddenly the Blues were 12-7 to the good before the end of the first quarter.
However Highfield kept their resolve, and a penalty by Duggan in the 25th minute reduced the margin. The second quarter saw the game ebb ald flow as both sides showed no little skill and endeavour. And right on half-time, a second penalty from Duggan gave the Cork women a slender 13-12 lead at the break.
It was more of the same in the second-half, and Wegians were under the cost early on as their opponents went in search of more points. On 50 minutes a great clearance kick from her own 22 saw Raftery clear her lines. However it was short-lived respite as ‘Field came back at them, and the pressure eventually told as Heather O’Brien crossed for her side’s second try. The Corkonians were good value for their lead, however crucially Duggan was wide with her conversion attempt, leaving just six points between the sides.
But when the chips were down, the Blues really showed their true mettle. They never lacked in self-belief, and Naoupu brought on subs Carol Staunton and Edel McMahon to freshen up their attack. The final quarter belonged to the Blues, and the defining moment of the game came on 65 minutes when Raftery made a beautiful break to score dive over for a third try for the Blues. The out-half then held her nerve to land the conversion and put the Wegians back in front for the first time since the restart.
Wegians were given a scare when Staunton was sin-binned for a high tackle moments after the restart, and it looked like it would be a case of backs to the wall for Wegians. However they proved that the best form of defence is attack, and in the 73rd minute a brilliant move was finished in style by full-back Coyne who dived over for try number four, with Raftery adding the extras to give the Blue Belles a significant 8-point cushion.
Highfield tried everything to get back into the game, but with Staunton back on the field, there was no way past the 15-woman defence. And the final whistle sounded to signal great celebrations from the Wegians camp, with captain Ruth O’Reilly lifting the cup to jubilant scenes. Both sides deserve enormous credit for serving up a spectacle fitting for the occasion, and while it was hard luck on a gallant Highfield, there was no denying the Blues who deservedly bring the trophy back to Crowley Park.