- Result: Galwegians Women 19 - Cooke 14
- Venue: Coolmine RFC on Sat Jan 27th 2024
In a blockbuster weekend for Galwegians RFC, Galwegians Women’s team started the weekend in style by winning the AIL Energia Plate Final for the second year in a row, defeating Cooke RFC 19-14 in the final.
Both sides squared off in the previous round with hopes of taking second place and securing a spot in the Cup final but were usurped by Railway Union RFC. After a tricky start to their AIL campaign this season, silverware would be a morale boost for either team.
Galwegians kicked off to commence proceedings in Coolmine and found themselves in the lead just eight minutes into the first half. Galwegians’ offence was strong from the outset and they found themselves a couple of metres away from Cooke’s tryline.
Keeping their patience during the phases, the Blue Belles stretched themselves out wide and Nolwenn Dubois shrugged off the tackles of the Cooke defence and powered herself over in the corner for the opening score of the afternoon. A tight angle for Emma Keane meant the conversion just drifted wide to the right side of the post.
Galwegians wouldn’t have to wait long for their second of the afternoon as their second came just ten minutes later. Cooke was entrenched inside their 22 and Galwegians continued to apply the pressure, winning a penalty in the process.
Galwegians begin their surge towards the line and Roisin Maher, with the help of her forwards, pushed through the defence and touched down for the try. Keane made matters right and converted off the tee to increase their tally to 12 points.
Cooke struggled to escape their half of the field and venture inside Wegians’ 22 but was given a lifeline in the latter stages of the first half as Orla Fenton and Mollie Star visited the sin bin for ten minutes after Galwegians' indiscipline got the better of them.
Cooke began to make strides but had nothing to show for their efforts as they returned to the dressing rooms scoreless and Galwegians looked set to repeat the feat two years running.
But when the second half went underway, Cooke finally got on the scoreboard after beginning to win penalties inside Galwegians' half. Isle Van Staden made her move to tap and go but was repelled at the line. The second time was the charm, however, and Van Staden broke away from the tackles from the Blue’s forwards to find Cooke’s first try. Amanda Morton’s conversion just tipped over the bar to make it a five-point game.
The Blues Belles showed their character and responded empathically with their third try as Roisin Maher was the hero in sky blue again. Right in front of the posts, Galwegians incrementally pushed towards the try-line before Maher squeezed past in close range to lead by twelve after a straightforward conversion from Emma Keane.
Galwegians were given a late scare with just ten minutes on the clock as Orla Fenton was given a red card for too many infringements at the breakdown, bringing Galwegians down to fourteen for the remainder of the game.
The floodgates opened for Cooke with chance after chance for the Belfast side to steal victory from the jaws of defeat. Teah Maguire bolted through the Galwegians' backline only to be denied on the line by an extraordinary try-saving tackle from Evanna Finn.
Another chance went begging for Cooke as Tara O’Neill got herself over the line but was just held up after another heroic defensive effort from the women.
Their luck eventually ran out as the numerical advantage for Cooke finally came to their favour as Stacey Sloan skipped past the tackles to push herself over the line to make it 19-14 after Morton had no issues with the conversion.
Cooke tried their utmost to win the game but a forward pass sealed their fate and a jubilant Galwegians celebrated a hard-fought win with their heroic defensive efforts in the dying minutes and won them the Plate final. Focus will now shift to the league campaign but last weekend’s win will certainly be the highlight of their season.