05.05.2009 J4 XV v Blackrock – Donnybrook

05/05/20097:30pm in DonnybrookWinter’s CupSt. Marys J4 XV24 – 20Blackrock CollegeHome

The J4’s contested the Winters Cup Final on Tuesday night in Donnybrook against Blackrock.

Mary’s were attempting to win their 6th Winters Cup (and first since 1996) and fielded an unchanged side from the semi-final win over Coolmine. Rock fielded a side containing recent firsts outhalf, Emmet Farrell (who also happens to be a former Ireland U-21, Ireland A and Leinster professional) who was playing his first J4 game of the season apparently, as well as a former European Cup winner with Ulster.

Rock were quick out of the traps and set a high tempo in the opening ten minutes. They got a foothold in the Mary’s 22 and a succession of pick & go’s led to them creating an overlap on the right and the winger stepped inside for the game’s opening score. Farrell kicked the conversion from the touchline for a 7-0 lead. Rock kept up the pressure and forced a penalty just inside the Mary’s half and Farrell again slotted the kick to give Blackrock a 10-0 lead early in the game.

Mary’s adapted to the high tempo set by Rock and started to gain more territory and possession with Rock beginning to concede penalties at the breakdown, but the men in blue were unable to get points on the board by halftime and Rock still led 10-0 at the break.

From the first whistle of the second half, Mary’s just got better and better with every man giving absolutely everything. A kick in behind the Rock backline caused some problems and when the ball was recycled, scrum-half Ross Wynne kicked across the park into space behind the Rock left winger who failed to deal with it and was beaten by the bounce which fell favourably for free-scoring winger Nick Cunningham to get the touchdown. Anything a former Leinster and Ireland A outhalf can do, a former Leinster U-20 and AIL prop who made his senior debut in direct opposition to Peter Clohessy, can do better and Teddy nailed the conversion from the touchline to make it 10-7.

It was the little break that Mary’s needed and the balance of power in the match was shifting Mary’s way with a good spell of territory and possession. This was an extremely good Rock side though and they got the ball in their own half and spread it to their winger who put a kick through into the Mary’s half. After a bit of aerial ping-pong, Rock gathered a loose Mary’s kick down the middle of the park and ran it back with intent. Spotting space in the far corner, they spread it wide and managed to score in the corner. Farrell again added the points for a 17-7 lead.

A lesser team might have folded after conceding having just pulled ourselves back into the game but this Mary’s team is a tight unit having been together all season (and many of them for the last 3 years) with leadership in all parts of the team. Mary’s came right back at Blackrock and kept them pinned in their own half.

From a scrum in the Rock 22, a planned move saw Number 8 Padraig Nestor pick from the base and pop to Teddy who crashed over for the score. Ted dusted himself down to convert and make the score 17-14 to Rock.

Mary’s kept up the pressure and Rock were conceding more and more penalties at the breakdown. After a late tackle, the Rock fullback found out that having a European Cup winners medal doesn’t make you immune to yellow cards and spent 10 minutes in the bin.

After a succession of phases and recycles in the Rock half, space appeared out wide and Mary’s flashed it wide quickly and Nick has shown all season that he’s the type of winger who just needs a glimpse of space. He gathered infield, put on the afterburners and rounded his winger to score his second try (only his 22nd of the season). Ted couldn’t get the difficult conversion but Mary’s had the lead, 19-17.

Very quickly after the restart, Mary’s kicked down the line again. Their winger went back to gather but he was put under massive pressure by left wing Chi-Yuen Hui who tackled him and turned the ball over. Their winger grabbed him again but he offloaded to replacement Fionan Henry who ran through to score in the corner. Conversion missed but Mary’s had extended their lead to 24-17.

As mentioned, this was a very good Blackrock side and they came right back at us. With only a few minutes left they got a penalty just inside the Mary’s half and the Rock captain pointed at the posts and they added the points, confident that they could score a try to clinch it. 24-20 to Mary’s.

Mary’s had a lineout on halfway with the referee indicating that there was only a minute left. Unfortunately the throw was slightly crooked and Rock got the scrum. From there a succession of penalties against Mary’s led to a further 9 minutes of play (the game can’t end on  a penalty to one side) with Rock hammering away at the Mary’s line. Some fantastic close in tackling and general fringe defence held them at bay but finally they spread it wide and one of their backs, ignoring the overlap outside him, went for glory himself. The footage shows that he could have gone either side of winger Chi-Yuen, standing on the line, and scored but attempted instead to run through him. He’s not the first opponent to make this mistake when facing Mary’s diminutive left winger and all our previous opponents could have told him it was a mistake. Chi-Yuen did incredibly well to take the hit on his own terms and, as they fell over the line, to dislodge the ball from the Rock player’s hands.

The referee blew the whistle and 2 years plus of hard work had come to fruition. The Rock lads were understandably gutted but their fullback got his second card of the game, this one a straight red, for lashing out with a boot at a Mary’s player who had come on to congratulate his teammates.

This Rock team played very well on the night and I’m sure they’ll come back again next season and hopefully overcome the ‘Sunday curse’ and field a J3 team as well.

The lads went up and collected their medals and then Teddy climbed the hallowed steps of Donnybrook and hoisted the Colonel J.J. Winters Memorial Cup aloft for St. Mary’s.

On behalf of the team, I’d like to thank all the people who came out to support us on Tuesday night and all the through the season, especially the players’ families who have always been vocal supporters and our mates Mossy and the J5’s. I’d also like to thank the members of the inaugural (1963) Winters Cup winning team, especially their captain, Steve Treacy Snr. and their try scorer, Alan Whelan (now living in the US) for their words of support and encouragement over the recent weeks. It was great motivation for us. We think there’s more to come from this team and look forward to building on this success next season.

Gavin Rafferty

15. Colm Quinn 14. Nick Cunningham 13. Darragh O’Neill 12. Paul Moran (David Carpenter) 11. Chi-Yuen “Hail Mary” Hui 10. Brian Moran (C) 9. Ross Wynne 8. Padraig Nestor 7. Tim Henderson (Phil Conway) 6. Andy McCarthy 5. Joe Doddy (Fionan Henry) 4. John Twomey 3. Ross Kelly 2. Eamon Moran 1. Alan Godfrey

Replacements: David Carpenter, Kieran Morrissey, Fionan Henry, Phil Conway, Jim Nolan, Richie Pyne, Shane Levins