Cooke and Malone battled it out for bottom spot in this seasons All Ireland League. It’s been a difficult season for both sides and, while their may be some small green shoots of improvements ahead, it’s doubtful it’ll be enough to improve the lot of either side next season.
It’s the second successive meeting and the first half was certainly better fare than last weeks match. Malone were much more competitive up front thanks largely to the return of Lauren Maginnes and the late parachuting into the back row of Fern Wilson.
However, the continuing presence of Ashleigh Orchard in the Cooke back line has dramatically improved their organisation in attack and defence and it was the youngster Naomi McCord that reaped the benefit of Orchard’s expertise.
McCord, disgracefully overlooked in the recent trawl of players for the Ireland Women’s camp, was at her physical best, punching holes in the hard working Malone defence to prove to be the difference between the two sides.
Malone started the game on the front foot and had the better of the opening exchanges. However a break down the left by Orchard was taken on by McCord and India Daley before McCord got her hands on the ball again to blast over for the opening try at the end of the first quarter.
The visitors enjoyed another period of good possession but Cooke were more direct and a second break down the left from Tamzin Boyce was halted just short of the line by Holly Brannigan. Cooke blocked all chances of Malone clearing and a few phases later McCord strode over the line for her second try midway through the second quarter. Amanda Morton added the extras and Cooke led 12 – 0.
Malone kept to their plan to stretch the Cooke defence and they got their reward with Anna Stanfield going over in the corner with the last play of the half to take the score to 12 – 5 as the teams changed ends.
With the light deteriorating rapidly that was it for me, but Cooke went on to secure the game 33 – 5 with second half tries from Orchard, Ilse Van Staden and Dolores Hughes, Morton converting all three.
COOKE: Dolores Hughes, Claire Johnston, Kelly McCormill, Amanda Morton, Tamzin Boyce, Ashleigh Orchard, Teah Maguire, Ilse van Staden, Megan Simpson, Aishling O’Connell (C), Cara O’Kane, Naomi McCord, India Daley, Katie Hetherington, Helen McGhee. Replacements: Fiona McCaughan, Eimear McQuillan, Caolinn McCormack, Hannah Downey, Georgia Boyce, Claire McGowan.
MALONE: Holly Brannigan, Nicole Rafferty, Jana McQuillan, Jill Stephens, Anna Stanfield; Peita McAlister (C), Shirelle Wilson; Sarah Murphy, Ashleigh Currie, Katie-Anne McCallion, Hannah Beattie, Jennifer Collins, Rebecca Smyth, Cara O’Neill, Lauren Maginnes. Replacements: Donna McGovern, Fern Wilson.