Source: ©INPHO/Bryan Keane

Wolfhounds v Brython Thunder

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Round 4 – Celtic Challenge

Kingspan, Belfast

For the less inexperienced visitors this was invaluable game-time, one of the main reasons for the introduction of the Challenge. Their advantage lay in the back-row pairing of Alex Callender (skipper) and Sioned Harries, 110 caps between them.

But Wolfhounds took profit from the presence of Grace Moore, Brittany Hogan and Hannah O’Connor, up front, with Nikki Caughey steering the ship from the bridge.

The Hounds had the use of the wind in the first half. Caughey made good use of it with artfully placed kicks. Hounds produced a lovely move with well-timed off-loads; Thunder hung on well in defence, so Aoife Dalton had two bites at the cherry as she stretched for the line in a tackle. The Laws do not allow such generosity.

It’s unusual to see a cross-kick attempted by a side that’s in its own 22, but Brython did precisely that. They nearly paid for the indiscretion, but the referee decreed ‘knock-on’ as the quartered shirts drove to the line.

As the first 15 minutes passed, he had a long earnest chat with the two skippers (both flankers, as if that tells its own story) about how he wants to see the game played; so scrappy had it been.

Brittany Hogan, an Ulster girl herself, had the first try; the Hounds’ scrum came under some pressure, but it wheeled clockwise to give her space; she used it to make an unstoppable run to the line. Caughey converted. 7-0

One upshot was a potentially serious head injury to Niamh Terry. The medical services were prompt and careful. Mollie Wilkinson was the replacement.

Once play restarted Thunder at last put a worthy move together; the ball melted from hand to hand. They got their reward; In a rare visit to the Hounds’ 22, Chloe Thomas-Bradley was in possession as they drove over the line. 7-5

To the dismay of Thunder’s coaching staff, the hosts were allowed to counter at once, Sarah Delaney finishing a series of thrusts to the line. 12-5

Just on half-time Wolfhounds gained an advantage, but Caughey didn’t need it. She popped a cross-kick into the arms of Katie Corrigan, and she had the beating of the defence on the outside.

This double blow revealed the relative qualities of the two sides.

Half-time: 17-5

The bad news for Thunder continued. It looked like a knock-on as the Hounds developed another raid, but no, AR and referee agreed it wasn’t. Corrigan sailed over the line all alone. That was the vital bonus point. 22-5

When Thunder offended at a breakdown, Harries didn’t help the cause by questioning the ref’s decision, an all too frequent fault. Result: another 10 metres conceded.

It was all Hounds now. Thunder did well to win a turnover in deep defence, but a short relieving kick handed over possession all too easily. Corrigan was on the end of another move to complete her hat-trick on the far right. 29-5, conversion via the crossbar.

A second worrying stoppage on 55 minutes. This time it was Finley Jones, the doctor examining her state of health at ground level. The buggy was called into action a second time, but at least Jones was sitting up, propping on her arms.

On the restart Callender thought she was straight through under the posts, but no, ‘forward pass!’ This was another break initiated by Seren Singleton from the base of a breakdown.

Then – can you believe it? – the buggy was needed for a third time. This was the sort of hat-trick nobody wants to see. The medical outcomes are still to be verified, but the third, to Madi Johns the replacement prop was a lower-leg injury. Back on the field it meant yet another long delay as the night grew colder and darker.

Hounds were fully in charge now. Caughey went for a change of plan, a cross-kick to the left, where Niamh Marley wove her way in and out to cross. 36-5

Now Thunder put together one of their best moves, a chip over the top then a series of delicate off-loads and drives nearly brought a try, but the right touch-line undid the good work.

There was yet another injury, but this time, fortunately, Erin McConnell was able to walk off the field.

Another fine attack by Brython, only this time the left touch-line stepped in to hinder them.

Now came perhaps the best try of the night. Hannah O’Connor made another huge break. As the last defender approached, she fed Corrigan who sped in for her fourth. 41-5

Brython responded with another fine move. Harries exploded over the last few metres to cross unopposed. 41-10

The buggy hadn’t finished its night’s work, It ferried Mollie Wilkinson off with another leg injury. A curious moment followed: as Wolfhounds looked to be cantering over for another try on the right, the referee blew up for an injury on the other side of the field. For once, it looked a deal less serious. But the officialsd must have been concerned by this unwonted series of potentially serious injuries. Safety first.

Final score: Wolfhounds 41 Brython Thunder 10
Player of the Match: Katie Corrigan

Verdict

All those injuries prevented this from being an enjoyable game. We can only wish all the sufferers a speedy return to full fitness.

For all the criticism from Irish voices about shortcomings, you could see the advantages both the AIL and the Interpros give their players. Wolfhounds now bestride the table with four straight wins.

Teams:

Wolfhounds: 15 Ava Ryder, 14 Katie Corrigan, 13 Leah Tarpey, 12 Aoife Dalton, 11 Niamh Marley, 10 Nikki Caughey, 9 Erin McConnell, 1 Aoife Moore, 2 Sarah Delaney, 3 Sophie Barrett, 4 Eimear Corri, 5 Hannah O’Connor, 6 Grace Moore, 7 Molly Boyne (captain), 8 Brittany Hogan

Bench: 16 Meabh Clenaghan, 17 Megan Collis, 18 Christy Haney, 19 Claire Boles, 20 Ellen Boylan, 21 Jade Gaffney, 22 Abby Moyles, 23 Kelly McCormill

Brython Thunder: 15 Lowri Williams, 14 Eleanor Hing, 13 Ellie Tromans, 12 Meg Webb, 11 Amy Williams, 10 Niamh Terry, 9 Seren Singleton; 1 Chloe Thomas-Bradley, 2 Rosie Carr, 3 Cadi Lois Davies, 4 Natalia John, 5 Shona Wakley, 6 Finley Jones, 7 Alex Callender (captain), 8 Sioned Harries.

Bench: 16 Amy Morgan, 17 Madi Johns, 18 Katie Carr, 19 Charlie Mundy, 20 Katie Mackay, 21 Katie Bevans, 22 Mollie Wilkinson, 23 Sian Davies

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