1st XV v Ballymena (H) by D. O’Brien 31.10.2015
St Mary’s College RFC V Ballymena FC
AIL Division 1B
Saturday 31st October 2015.
Black and Blue is how the two teams finished, after this game, as they obviously always will after games between these two clubs. Ballymena were most welcome visitors to Templeville Road to renew a strong friendship going back very many decades. It was 2008 when they last played at Templeville Road. Our president Declan Fanning, having welcomed very popular Ballymena president Guy McCullough, recalled having played against Ballymena as a 19 year old, a few years ago, and coming up against legend Willie John Mc Bride.
Peter Smyth and his lieutenants perceptively understood the significance and challenge of this game against the leaders and impressively prepared a strong St Marys team appropriately. This was a real challenge and test of character and skills. Indeed, the first half showed why Ballymena were leaders, as their talented, structured side held sway with methodical set pieces and rapid defence. The visitors led 6 – 10 at half time, having scored two unconverted tries, one a sizzler, while Sean Kearns our outhalf who had yet again a splendid game, kept us in it with two penalties; in all, he kicked six out of six. In the second half Marys increased the pace of the game, moving the ball with speed and rucking rapidly. So, the gaps appeared and opportunities came. They were taken very well and so the game was won. It was a close game, played sportingly with unstinting heart and drive from both side; a credit to AIL rugby.
Sean was not the only Marys player to do well. The pack worked with fervour and although outsized was not out played. We did have a few missed lineouts particularly early on, but this problem was sorted out. The scrums were fairly even and great credit must be given to the front row who contributed in every way to a pivotal win, likewise the second row may have given away a couple of centimetres and kilos but gave nothing in endeavour and grit; brotherly love was not on display. Once again the backrow was perpetual motion and action and Kevin Sheahan continued his outstanding form.
Sean had an equal partner in Robbie Glynn at nine, he gave his ten a fine service, varied his game well and once again with balance and guile flashed in for a try. Midfield is an area of critical importance in defence and attack and today our midfield stood out, in both respects and Marcus O’Driscoll was irrepressible, he sliced defences and defended attacks superlatively well. He worked like a bumblebee, was scintillating and my MoM.
When you have wingers who strive hard and look for extra work you have a great advantage, and our two did that today and made a difference. Ray Crotty has a languid style and an unhurried ability and this season his skills have shone more so as it has progressed; he had a notable game today.
Usually, modern replacements are so much part of the team that they claim little mention, however, they are that vital nail that saves the day, or the coat of varnish that puts a beautiful gloss on the result. In our competition with rolling replacements, they also play an additional strategic role. Today more so even than usual that can be said, players like Tom O’Reilly who came on, gave not an inch and deservedly scored the winning try, after superb build up from Ryan O’Loughlin (happily coming back from injury and celebrating his birthday) and Marcus O’Driscoll. David Fanagan too, came on and put his special zest to the game with his (non-strictly) dancing feet, while Barry O’Flanagan who has matured into one of those backrow special agents, who is always at the action and does the dirty work at breakdowns to slow or win ball to such a high degree of ability, it often is not noticed, but he makes a difference and he did again today. While Ian Cullinane who has been evolving into the team continued that progress today and contributed well.
Top of the table we sit (with Chops we’re TOPS), ahead of Ballymena on points difference, well done to all concerned and now it is important that we keep up the standards and endeavour. Next Saturday we play the second from bottom team UL Bohs, we must not take this lightly in anyway, UL just beat Rock on Saturday. St Marys showed admirable character and ability today, next Saturday we must show consistency and concentration, then we can feel confident, especially if we all go along and support our lads.
3 min 3 -0 (Sean Kearns), 15 mins 3 – 5 (M Rea), 39 min 3 – 10 (McBurney), 42 min 6 – 10 (Sean Kearns),
49 min 13 – 10 (Robbie Glynn and Sean Kearns), 52 min 13 – 15 (A O’Connor), 57 min 13 – 18 (R McMaster [drop]), 25 min 16 – 18 (Sean Kearns), 62 min 23 – 18 (Tom O’Reilly and Sean Kearns), 73 min 26 – 18 (Sean Kearns).
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 Fallon7, D Aspil,, 6 K Sheahan 5 D O’Connor, 4 C Ruddock 3 Rob Sweeney (Capt.), 2 H Kean, 1 B McGovern, T O’Reilly, E Ferron, I Cullinane, B O’Flanagan. D Fanagan