1st XV v Blackrock (H) by D. O’Brien 27.02.2016
St Mary’s College RFC V Blackrock College RFC
AIL Division 1 B
Saturday 27th February 2016.
Sibling rivalry can be a potent spur and so it was today, as both sides competed, collided and crashed for 80 minutes. The pace was often feverish and the quality once again proved that AIL rugby has a great deal to offer and is a genuine step to professional rugby. The first half was close throughout and ended 17 – 13. Early on Rock ran quick ball wide and put pressure on the home side’s admirable defence which stood firm and in fact it was Marys who scored first. It was in the exhilarating second half that Marys’ dominance expressed itself to good effect and a bonus point win that included eight tries.
The coaching and management team can be proud and pleased as to how this team has developed over the season to have now an adventurous and skilfully effective system. There is a joie de vivre about the team that clearly shows when they play. There are a few positions where back up is thin. However, overall the squad is balanced right through and a feature is the confidence that allows the squad keep patient to the end and believe that they can and will score if required. We had stalwart, David O’Connor back, although Barry O’Flanagan was still out in addition to Sean Kearns.
Today was a day to savour. It has been the forwards that have, pre-eminently, carried the day for the past few games, however, this was a melange of breath taking back play that exploded like pyrotechnics all over the pitch. Each one of the backs played with élan, but two must get special mention. Sean Kearns at outhalf has been superb all season and, when he had to cry off with a hamstring strain, there was fear. Young Conor Gilsenan, son of John our chairman, and grandson of Matt- a former captain and president of the club-, stepped up and showed character, coolness and skill that was heartening. He varied his game well and made a major contribution to the victory, he was excellently supported by his partner, David Fanagan. The other is Steve Toal-Lennon at 15. He was to become Stevie Wonder due to his exceptional potential, but today he showed himself to be Stevie Wonder, for his actual delivery. He has lightening reflexes, step and acceleration, is also gifted with anticipation. Additionally, basic skills of catching and kicking are augmented by vision and true pace. He was involved in much of what was exciting and productive, scored a try, was involved in another and converted five tries. Not bad for an election Saturday, he left walking on water for another day. He was MOM. The way the backline worked was a credit to the players and Peter Bourke, the backs’ coach, as they constantly ran with forward intent and awareness. This was one of the main differences between the two teams. Needless to say, a team cannot score 50 points without major involvement from the pack and the forwards were foundation for the marvellous backs display. Our scrum which has evolved to become an important platform and our rucking is top class. The maul is sensational and is now a source of tries each week; two this week.
After five minutes of Rock attack, we worked our way up field and when a penalty was awarded, that wise and vital cog in our team McGov, decided to take it on as a maul from the corner. We took, set and went forward then McGov took it on, then out it went to Ryan O’Loughlin who is in superlative form at the moment and he went for the line, using his pace and determination; a try. 5 – 0. On 14 and 28 minutes, Rock scored a converted try and a penalty to lead 5 – 10. It was 35 minutes when lethal weapon 2 struck, a penalty converted into a lineout and maul and it was so irresistible, the referee awarded a penalty try; 12 – 10. On 40 minutes, another maul in the carpark corner broke down and led to a series of drives, then the ball came out to marvellous Marcus O’Driscoll, who is now playing at his finest. He saw a chance and sent a subtle cross Kick to the terrace corner where Captain, Darragh Fanning was lurking, Darragh soared and secured and went over for a lovely try. 17 – 10. Rock converted a penalty on 43 minutes and so at half time it was 17 – 13.
(Pictured: Left to Right – Kieran Sheahan, Michael Farrell, Dermot Barnwell, Eugene Bropy, Paul Dean and Terry Tierney)
The second half was in its 10th minute when from midfield Conor Gilsenan made a lovely break cutting right through the centre, he timed his pass perfectly to Marcus who went over for the bonus point try, to raucous acclaim. The terraces were stirring, the pace was sizzling and the game was boiling. 24 – 12.
Lethal Weapon 3 was unleashed on 61 minutes with a penalty into the Gate Corner, the take was good the shift strong then on stall, the impressively developing Hugo Kean ran wide and straightened and cleaved through to score and make it, 29 – 13.
Maybe the best try of the afternoon, followed on 64 minutes when a back movement got to Marcus and he seeing the defence up put an angled grubber behind, and Terry Kennedy, now on the wing scooped up the ball beautifully and set off with his nuclear pace. Super to see a young natural winger in full flight, as he straightened a defender, and zoomed outside. He was heel tapped and went down in the 22, but turned at full pace as he fell and offloaded perfectly to the ubiquitous Stevie Wonder who skipped over.36 – 13.
Another bewildering break by a Stevie again, and this time he connected with Terry and who took his try. 43 – 13. As is often the case under such circumstances, concentration dropped a bit and so Rock got two scores to get their tally to 25. But at the end we came back again with a fine interpassing movement which ended with Ian Cullinane well placed, to take the ball over and end the scoring. It was how it finished, 50 – 25.
A word of caution, although now on a mighty 63 points, TCD kept pace with a five point win V UL Bohs in Limerick and remain four points behind us, on 59. We have three more games with a trip to Limerick and Shannon next Saturday for a game at 1.30PM not 2.30 PM. Three games to go, we may need all, so the squad needs our support. It is very easy to be there. Get on to the bus organised by Joyce and Eileen. It is comfortable and inexpensive. Keep up the momentum.
The Squad (Rolling substitutions)
15 S Toal-Lennon, 14 R O’Loughlin, 13 M O’Driscoll, 12 I Dineen, 11 D Fanning (Capt.), 10 C Gilsenan, 9 D Fanagan, 8 M Fallon, 7 D Aspil, 6 K Sheahan, 5 D O’Connor, 4 C Ruddock 3 B McGovern, 2 H Kean, 1T O’Reilly, , E Ferron, M Elliot-Murray, Richard Sweeney, I Cullinane, T Kennedy.
(Pictured: Left to Right – Declan Fanning (Club President), Shane Cooke and Conor Cooke. A presentation collected on behalf of Sean Cooke by his sons)