1st XV V Highfield RFC – AIL by D. O’Brien 02/11/2019
St Mary’s College RFC V Highfield RFC
Energia AIL Division 1B
Saturday 2nd November 2019.
The water trickled down sad-faced players, while the wind, in wails, whipped through the trees. There was disappointment and a hapless hollowness in their hearts. The time was 16.27 and the referee had just blown full time at Templeville Road after an intense and tight game. It can be said with conviction that, few if any close calls or baffling bounces went our way today and had they, I have no doubt that we would have ended in positive balance. Although, there was no solace, there was still belief, having had a tantalisingly close tussle with the top team in 1B. Highfield RFC have galloped up the divisions and have a big pack and a clever pair of halves who kick and control the game well. The scrum dominance of the much lighter home team pack, once more emphasises the importance of technique in scrummaging; and is testament to Seamus’s tuition and the pack’s diligence and application. Improved width on defence was obvious as was second line cover defence. However, our ball retention needs some improvement and once again our lineout faltered. Even taking into consideration the significant physical size differences, it was an impediment in many ways. In the hardworking and effective pack, Ronan Watters was excellent in the loose, in defence and attack support. The front row was most impressive at scrum time and in the loose, with skipper, Tom O’Reilly carrying hard, tackling well and leading, especially by example. His overall performance earned him the coveted SoftCo MoM award.
The Marys backs always looked sharper than the Highfield three quarter line, and as though they could possibly swing it. Mark Fogarty looked keen and effective, and Darren Moroney, who came on in the second half impressed. Once again, Hugo Conway, who scored a coruscating try, showed his immense potential.
For Steve, Jamie, Barry and DoR, Alan, there was some satisfaction as there was patent improvement in most areas. There is frustration felt, as the results are not reflecting the abilities, and most of all the work being done by coaches, players, and all involved. This is a talented and totally integrated squad, it is vitally important that they all retain their belief and enthusiasm, their hard work and esprit de corps. It is likewise important, that we keep faith and belief, support them and our genial president, Michael O’Flaherty, enthusiastically and constantly.
Playing down towards the Road in the first half, Marys found the opening spell testing. Highfield made an early incursion into our half, held on to the ball tenaciously and put siege to our line. On seven minutes they set up a maul, we were penalised for coming in on the side; after the penalty, another maul was formed and when stopped on the line the referee penalised the home side and awarded a penalty try; 0-7. We got more into the game and soon we were putting some pressure on Highfield. It was a tough battle. When 23 minutes were gone, we had a scrum on the visitors’ line and demolished them. A penalty ensued, we took another scrum, again the Highfield scrum crumpled and a penalty came; no penalty try for us. Ruairi put us on the board; 3-7. With 28 minutes showing, they added a penalty and it was 3-10. Just on half time, Marys had a scrum on the 22, 15 metres in from touch. Once again our scrum was strong and Ronan, in at 8, took the ball, drew and gave, Cormac accelerated and switched to Hugo, who hugging the touchline, skimmed along, leaving the cover eating earth, to score a scorcher in Carvill Corner. 8-10 was the half time score.
The second half was close all over, 52 minutes had passed when under pressure, we gave away a penalty and conceded a yellow card; 8-13. We weathered the period well, then had a spell of prolonged pressure on their line, when it seemed a penalty try must be conceded, but none was given. Then Highfield converted a fine long range penalty; we were getting worried; 8-16. On 89 minutes, Ruairi hit a neat penalty and put us on 11-16. Then playing the last couple of minutes we launched a determined and controlled attack. After a number of phases, the ball was passed to Darren out on the touchline He went by two markers and was free for the line. Most unfortunately it was slightly forward and so it ended with only a losing bonus point, 11-16. Those bonus points are often life savers. We are 7th on the table, level on 6 points with Banbridge, 3 above Naas and 5 above Navan who are on 1 point.
Next Saturday it will not get any easier, as we travel to Belfast to play against long-term friends Malone. Malone have a large squad and a generous infusion of talented Ulster Academy players. None the less, if we travel with a dedicated band of supporters, then, given reasonable conditions, we will come away finding ourselves further up the table. Please make the effort and get there, either on the club organised bus or with friends. No doubt Eileen and Joyce will be on to you.
Team up with Tommer
Team (Rolling Replacements X12)
15 M Fogarty, 14 H Conway, 13 M Carey, 12 M O’Gara, 11 C Kennedy, 10 R Shields, 9 C Foley, 8 C Dempsey, 7 R Watters, 6 N McCarthy, 5 L Corcoran, 4 P Starrett, 3 M McCormack, 2 R Halpin, 1 T O’Reilly (Capt), S Healy, N McEniff, L Curran, A McEvoy, D Moroney.