1st XV v Belfast Harlequins (A) by D O’Brien 05.12.2015
Belfast Harlequins RFC V St Mary’s College RFC
AIL Division 1B
Saturday 5th December 2015.
Although the trip to Deremore Park was not exactly Shackletonian, it was enough for those supporters, led by the captain’s mother, Joyce, who ignored the gales and rain, to feel extra elation at the five point Xmas present. The pitch itself was in good condition and it was clear from the start that Marys had a slight edge and if we played positively and patiently it would lead to success. This proved to be the case. With a diagonal, flamboyant wind, kicking was generally carried out in that direction and a preponderance of play was on one side of the field. There were a few little uncluttered clumps of supporters cheering on their champions in between umbrella retrievals and reversions.
Under the circumstances both teams mastered the conditions well with competent handling. The game was played at good pace, our set pieces however, were variable with some scrum and lineout difficulties.
The team is growing in confidence, players slot in well when changes are made and there is a distinct cohesion and interdependence which augurs well. The loss of the captain, out with a back injury was clear, especially in the scrum. There were, however, some excellent performances.
The backs again cohered, defence was coordinated and strong. There was one man who stood out with a totally dominant performance. Darragh Fanning was imperious as he sliced through, glided through or ploughed through, he was ubiquitous in attack and defence. He was well supported by all his confreres in all respects.
The forwards too, have built that interdependence that makes them a formidable unit and deserving of their victory today. Again, all played with power and direction. Brian Mc Govern, has become almost indispensable. Today he was formidable in every way. He was indomitable in the scrum at both tight and loose head and he carried, he led, he linked, he turned over ball. Of course he also scored a try when guiding home a clever maul. He was my MoM.
After eight minutes, Darragh, took a kick ahead just inside the Quins half. He set off at top pace along the touchline, swayed outside the first, stepped inside the second defender, bursting through two, then, when finally tackled, fifteen metres out he offloaded to Ray Crotty. Ray (who dealt happily with everything during the game) whizzed towards the line for the commendable Marcus O’Driscoll to finish it off. Super Sean converted into that piercing wind. 0 – 7. On 14 minutes, Sean converted a penalty and on 23, Quins put three on the board from Mark Best. Sean added three more on 28 minutes and Quins made it 8 – 13 with a try by Andy McPhillips on 38 minutes. It was well into injury time, 44 minutes, when hard working Mark Fallon, broke from the scrum ten metres out and battled over. Sean delivered again. 8 – 20 at half time.
The second half was seven minutes on, when a penalty was kicked to the corner, Hugo Kean, who has settled in well and proving to be a real asset and committed team man, hit his man and a maul was formed, McGov took control, we swung our way over, he hit the ground to make it 8 – 25. On 58 minutes it was 11 – 25 from another Best penalty. It was 68 minutes when we lost a man to the bin and Matt Fisher made it 16 – 25. Marys raised the pace of the game hammering, hammering, hammering at the Quins’ line. Eventually the intensity and persistence paid off when resilient and canny Barry O’Flanagan got over for the vital fourth try, Super Sean did it again and it ended 16 – 32.
Well, now we are half way through the campaign and proudly sit on top of the table, with 37 points from nine games. We are two ahead of Ballymena and three ahead of TCD, both formidable opponents, but we can be confident. Yes, we can enjoy Christmas and look forward to the resumption on 2nd January when we play hosts to today’s opponents at Templeville Road.
We should also salute all those in the club who voluntarily make the club work, thorough their own dedicated work. Whether in administration or rugby related areas these volunteers ensure that the club prospers and without them it would cease to exist. We should all wish them a really joyous Christmas.
May I wish you, who read these reports, an equally enjoyable Christmas and hope we shall march on together in 2016.
The Squad (Rolling substitutions)
15 R Crotty, 14 R O’Loughlin, 13 M O’Driscoll, 12 I Dineen, 11 D Fanning, 10 S Kearns, 9 R Glynn, 8 M Fallon, 7 D Aspil, 6 K Sheahan, 5 D O’Connor, 4 C Ruddock (Capt.), 3 B McGovern, 2 H Kean, 1, E Ferron, Richie Sweeney, T O’Reilly, B O’Flanagan, I Cullinane, B Hoey.