UCD RFC V St Mary’s College RFC
UB AIL Division 1 A
The Bowl, Belfield
Friday 6th October 2017.
Perfect pitch (and pitch perfect), clement evening, sparse crowd, but, enormous result, that is the story of the Friday night, examination at the University. The marks were not revealed, but every player deserved honours. Yes, this was as near to a must-win, as could be; and heading in to that dreaded break, we are feeling good. If we can play as well as we did all of tonight, and parts of last week, then we can do as tonight’s guests’ emblem says, “Ad Astra” We will certainly entertain Lansdowne on 27th October, with optimism.
It was almost a year (Saturday 8th), since the equivalent fixture, and that time we won by six points (13 – 19). This time the difference was slimmer but the performance was even sharper. Seven of the starting 15, and 10 from the match day squad were the same who played both then, and in tonight’s sparkling uplifting, exhilarating game. It takes two teams to bring scintillating excitement, and so, UCD went, spark for spark, score for score, toe to toe.
In emphasis of what is the very being, the essence of Marys, you could spot Jordan Larmour, fast rising Leinster star, frantically running around with water and support to the players during the game. On the sideline, his injured colleague Caelan Doris was to be seen almost living every move in support of his team. Well done lads.
Generally, the Marys team has raised the efficacy and pace of the game to a significant degree, the scrum continued to be impressive, showing command tonight, and the lineouts are improving weekly. There were less wasted balls, errors and penalties conceded, and consistency was high. Ball-follow and cover level were also improved. We were found a little narrow in defence on occasions, but the tackling was more secure. There was so much to admire and bring confidence. That nigh frenetic, desire was beautiful to behold. The pace of the game, that almost set the manicured grass afire, was gasp-causing.
There were many high quality plays and performances from both sides. It takes two good sides to play a game like this, and UCD has a good side. For us, there was no performance more crucial than that of Sean Kearns. Besides his valuable contribution from play, his kicking was high-professional level; exemplary. He just had to receive the SoftCo MoM award. His perfect conversion kick from the touchline for Myles Carey’s terrific try, was match decisive.
On that beautiful level, smooth lawn that is the Bowl pitch, the game started at high pace, with both sides running from everywhere. The game deserved a bigger turn out, but being a Friday evening it was understandable and those who did come, got a treat of fast skilful, competitive rugby between two balanced sides. After 16 minutes, Craig Kennedy on the left wing swooped on a ball near to halfway and took off, he veered infield, beat three and straightened between defenders, as he got to the far corner he was halted. He quickly transferred the ball to cleverly supporting, David Fanagan, who dinked and drove, and went over in the corner. It was worth seeing, it cheered, and so did we. 0 – 7, after a fine conversion from Seanie. Five minutes later, it was clear Seanie had his kicking rhythm as he scored a difficult penalty, to give Marys the lead, 0 – 10. On 32 minutes, UCD hit back with a try of their own, after a good team build up and finish by their winger McNulty. Outhalf Frawley, missed the conversion, as he had, a reasonably easy penalty for offside at the ruck, earlier. 5 – 10. However, this started a good spell for the academics and after fair pressure, outside centre Glynn, got over on 37 minutes and with the Frawley conversion, UCD led 12 – 10 and that was how the half ended.
The second half was again a ding-dong, high tempo, interchange, all through. After a great long kick into the corner by Paddy O’Driscoll on 51 minutes, a penalty for interference at the lineout, gave Seanie the chance to make it 12-13; and he took it. It was 56 minutes, when deadly Seanie made it 12 – 16, before a penalty from the home side on 58 minutes, brought the score to 15 – 16. It remained like that, as the play swung, ebbed and flowed right up to 76 minutes. There was an extraordinary number of Marys’ pick-and-drives on the UCD line, certainly in excess of 40. UCD defended wonderfully well. Then the ball was suddenly delivered to Conor Dean, 15 M out, and just in off the left touchline. He swivelled and launched the ball from his boot. It soared, then dipped over the line in the right corner, Myles then launched himself and got up ahead of the defender, safely held and dropped himself onto the ground. A super try! It was in the very corner and looked extremely tricky for the conversion. Why did we doubt Seanie? While all around may have been nervous, Seanie never doubted for a moment. He hit it long straight and true, and through the posts, easy!
UCD are a gallant and highly motivated side, and they ripped into action, moving the ball from everywhere. Eventually, after a continuous bombardment, Mathew Gilsenan, Conor’s brother, scored for UCD. Then, we saw how important Seanie’s conversion was. What a result, 22 – 23.
Sean was not the only one to shine, every one of our men who took the field tonight showed his soul is deep Marys’ blue, and his heart labelled leonine.
As well as their scrummaging, the front row added enormously to the value of the performance. Tommer was just Tommer again, back to last year’s heights, tackling and covering like a demented daemon, and taking ball like a rampaging rhino. Richie in the middle, adds cerebral nous to his “hard drive” and contributes fulsomely. While Adam has quickly riveted himself into the firing furnace, he was super tonight. The rotation of front rows, so important in modern rugby, has worked well for Marys this year and new addition Jack Aungier showed that he too, is a mighty man, while, Steven (Sobby) O’Brien is developing very positively, with game appetite, and ethic.
The second row of Skipper, Rudds and partner David (Doc), were almost the definition of auto-flagellation, as they pushed themselves incessantly past normal limits, to support and lead their team mates. Two admirable beacons. The backrow too, was industrious, David Aspil showed his worth as an Irish U20 player, but now he is no longer an U20, he is big mature marvel, he was unstinting, as he worked to turn over, block, frustrate or overcome at the breakdown, and destroy in the tackle. He was one of three. Nick was fearless, fast and unselfish and along with the mighty, impervious Jack, they caused grave discomfort to the opposition in all manner of ways, in attack and defence. Young Darragh McDonnell contributed vitally too, when he joined the fray and he has a nice rugby future.
Guiders and Gliders
Behind the pack is the linkage. The halves play a pivotal role of course, and must guide the game and dictate the pattern. Paddy O’Driscoll, is a resilient and resourceful scrumhalf who unselfishly feeds, and kicks strategically and well. He links well with Seanie and indeed did likewise with Conor Dean who came on in the second half, while Seanie showed versatility by going to full back. Conor, now back from injury showed impressive game control, always keeping pressure on the opposition, his kicking game too is developing very nicely. How lucky we are to have two fine Tens, and with the versatile Conor Gilsenan, also returning from a foreign assignment and getting a useful run out, we are well placed. Our midfield let little by, and put strain on the UCD defence time and again, as mercurial Ryan O’Loughlin probed, beside him the fleet-footed and indefatigable Darren Moroney rammed through inch gaps and hurtled at attackers. The neophytic wingers need special praise, as one set up the first try, and the other scored the second. Craig Kennedy has shown superb judgment and locked defence, he did again tonight and also took every opportunity to spearhead elusive attacks. Myles (or sounds like 1.6!!), is a big, young man who like Craig is revelling in the game as he gains experience and wing play. He too showed enormous appetite and courage and finally -273 degrees coolness, when collecting that exquisite, Conor Dean forty metre kick, to score. It was a most welcome return to action for David Fanagan. He had a fine first half scoring a delightful try and enjoying his mischievous adventure, with his balance and brilliant directional choreography. Welcome back David.
Well done to all, particularly Rudds and his boys, not forgetting Peter and Steve, who worked so hard to bring it all about. Also to Alan; and Paudge and his lads. See you 27th.
Team (Rolling Replacements X12)
15 D Fanagan, 14 M Carey, 13 D Moroney, 12 R O’Loughlin, 11 C Kennedy, 10 S Kearns, 9 P O’Driscoll, 8 J Dilger, 7 N McCarthy, 6 D Aspil, 5 D O’Connor, 4 C Ruddock (Capt), 3 A Coyle, 2 R Halpin, 1 T O’Reilly, S O’Brien, J Aungier, D McDonnell, C Dean, C Gilsenan.