28/08/20102:30pmFSaint Jean de Luz Olympique22 – 13St. Marys 1st XVAway
Saint Jean de Luz Olympique V St Mary’s College RFC
Saint Jean de Luz
Saturday 28th August 2010
A well laid out municipal stadium awaited us in the September sun in the Basque Country, with the locals’ French, sounding from a distance like Spanish. St Jean de Luz, 550 Kilometres west of Argeles sur Mer; the new setting was equally daunting and especially since the local team is two divisions higher than Argeles. After a longish, hottish summer it was good to see the squad, under new, highly regarded and most popular, captain Paul Nash looking tanned and tough and ready to roll. Ciaran Potts and his support had obviously worked hard on all aspects during the week and they looked forward to a tough test. Indeed Ciaran had spent long weeks planning his schedules and sessions and is well prepared for the season ahead. It was sad to note our president Ronnie Mc Brien could not attend, being in hospital, recovering well I must relate and VP John Gilsenan took on the role admirably in all respects
This was truly a tough test against a big, hard, fast team. Both teams played open attacking rugby, in a good spirit, and taking a leaf from the book of the Tri Nations tournament the frequent and monotonous high hoofs were gone and it was rugby again. It was obvious that there had been a break and there was some rustiness but the systems and intent were there. Obviously, the intensity was not sustainable after a week of high physical activity and there were some dropped balls and turnovers from both sides. They were having their first game too. Our set pieces were not, as one might expect, exact, especially the scrum in the second half, but it was a good game and all learned a lot. Our new Australian addition, scrumhalf David Campbell, was a revelation organising, running, talking and tackling, you will all like him in all respects and speaking of revelations, two under 20s were outstanding Steve Tole-Lennon at 13 and Darragh Keller at 6. Steve has style as the song goes, real style, he has the potential to be tops and Darragh is a brave warrior undaunted by size or position, another of several seen today, with a foot on the ladder. It was good to see Johnny Molloy getting back to fitness, if he can stay injury free he will enjoy the season, another long-term injury return was Paul Gillespie and he also had an impressive return at 12. Of course the skipper was in great form and his predecessor Hugh Hogan was, with Gavin Dunne, as good as they both were in the last game of the last season; superb. Generally the team showed the endeavour and skills which brings hope and confidence and with unlimited and rolling subs (good to get used to this as it will come into play for AIL) the spread and depth were to be noted and likewise the progress in all of the younger players was readily evident. Obviously a game on a bright night in France is not the same as AIL in dull December, but, not a bad start.
We started with the wind and applied good pressure straight away, but as the game settled they came into it, with their big forwards taking on ball and then swinging it wide. This led to a good spell for them when they converted a penalty on 8 minutes but Gavin levelled it on 12 minutes. From then really for the rest of the half we were slightly in the ascendancy and after a good maul, if a little high, we had strong pressure on their line and we got three penalties, two of which we ran but failed to breach, and the third which Gavin converted on 19 minutes.
Our form continued and after some good running with Steve Tole-Lennon showing fine hands and Ray Crotty, Craig Morrin and Conor Hogan eager for action, on 37 minutes we had a scrum under their posts, Hugh Hogan took the ball beautifully, drew in the cover, and quick hands found Steve who did what good 13s do beat the man outside and went over out wide, but Gavin obliged anyway, so at half time it was 3 – 13.
We made many changes for and during the second half and although all fitted in well and made significant contributions, it was clear that it did have some effect on our game. On six minutes they ran the ball wide and although the winger was tackled the 15 went outside him with inches to spare and took an exquisite slip ball to sprint clear and over for a converted try and so it was 10 – 13. On 10 minutes an accidental high tackle saw us lose a man for 10 minutes and they draw level with the ensuing penalty. While down to 14 men we conceded only two penalties and worked very hard. They added two more penalties on 34 and 37 minutes to lead 22 – 13. That was a stimulus to St Marys and we ran at them with everything, gaining several penalties and making a sustained onslaught on their line, with two occasions being held up just short. We ran it wide we ran it close. Their defence was impressive and disciplined; in fact it was probably their un-French discipline which probably made that slight difference in the end.
The two teams and two sets of supporters mingled well and the hosts supplied lots of amuse-geules and later in a large marquee they supplied a local dish, lamb roasted on spit with haricot beans, followed by a local gateau and all washed down with unlimited Bordeaux (red and white); our own meat baron, Paul Murphy, approved. John Gilsenan spoke very well in French and following on the tradition of his two predecessors, Phillip Brophy and Hugh Hogan, Paul Nash spoke in excellent, (locally much appreciated) French and thanked the hosts and praised their set up and the game. There were lots of songs and the highlights were Johnny Molloy showing his immense potential as a Ballerina and Nelly his as a French Puppet. A most sociable night.
The dozen or so supporters, having been there from the previous evening, were in full flow (literally) by then and really enjoyed the entire experience. Peter Mc Laughlin will have gone home a good deal lighter and Patsy will not have wanted to go home, Quinner would not have been sure and the Kennedys were certain.
Starting Team: – 1 Colm McMahon, 2 David Kilbride, 3 Johnny Molloy, 4 Robbie Fields, 5 Stephen Bradshaw ,6 Daragh Keller, 7 Paul Nash (Capt), 8 Hugh Hogan, 9 Dave Campbell, 10 Gavin Dunne, 11 Conor Hogan,12 Paul Gillespie, 13 Steve Toal-Lennon, 14 Craig Morrin, 15 Ray Crotty
Daragh Maher, Gareth Logan, Richie Sweeney, Kevin Carroll, Neil Murphy,
Cormac Quinn, Shaun Mc Carthy, Stephen Grissing, Ronan Doherty, Ian O’Neil.
At Training Camp but not considered due to injury
Paul Collins, Sean Preston, Kevin Sheahan, Christopher Lillie, Phillip Brophy and Stuart O’Flanagan made an outstanding contribution all week and on the night as physiotherapist. He and his brother Barry will be taking a sabbatical from the club as Stuart goes to Limerick to study medicine in the family tradition and Barry is off to Bristol University to study European Environmental Science. They will be missed and we all wish them well and look forward to their return.
A Peep ahead.
The loss of Darragh Fanning, Robin Copeland, Robert Sweeney and Conor Mc Phillips will be felt. The ingress of Ian Mc Kinley (Outhalf), David Campbell (scrumhalf) and the Ruddock brothers will have a very positive effect and the dynamic development of the younger players coming up will ensure strong teams throughout the campaign. In addition we have to welcome back Kevin Sheahan, who will make a most positive contribution and will allow Damian Hall to switch to the row if required. We do not have t be concerned this year about relegation but having gone so close we must be thinking strongly of winning AIL. As noted above the switch from incessant kicking will suit our game, as will the scrum rules, as both Hugh and Kevin are especially good, from scrum, breakers. Belief has really grown now, so all we need are the breaks and a continuation of the wonderful support of the past couple of seasons. Best hopes and wishes for the season ahead will go to our president Ronnie Mc Brien, captain Paul Nash, Ciaran Potts and his coaching group, Terry Tierney and his management, Dave Donohue and Rugby Council and all the teams up and down the line. Without strong junior and underage rugby there can be no success and no real esprit de corps.