J2 XV v Navan (H) – 15.12.2019

St. Mary’s RFC J2s vs Navan:

St Mary’s College RFC J2s got back to their winning ways on Sunday after a last-gasp 24-22 win at home to Navan at Templeville Road. The Men in Blue needed to summon every drop of fight to come back from second-half setbacks and seal the win with the last kick of the game. A bright, crisp December afternoon with the sun low in the sky and no breeze to complain of made perfect conditions for a game of rugby. Having been disappointed with last week’s performance away to Terenure, St Mary’s looked to bounce back with a win.

Some changes to the match-day squad saw Head Coach Gavin ‘Logistics’ Thornberry return to the prowl the sidelines, while team manager Harry Ebbs took his turn to go on the mitch. Ciarán ‘One-Leg Lenzo’ Lennon continued to bark orders from the Mary’s bench while Macklemore lookalike Cal did his best to keep up the festive cheer in the dugout – his crutches now covered in Christmas wrapping paper.

In terms of playing personnel, British Bulldog Alan Blake came into the starting XV at loosehead prop and Sean Tevlin added some ballast to the back-row, with the tear-away open-side Morgan Mooney shoved into the engine room. Another change saw Matt Fagan starting in the middle of the front row. U20 Stephen Landy came in at No.9, continuing the fine trend of flame-haired J2 scrum-halves this season. He wasn’t long making his mark though, putting in a string of fine tackles around the fringes in the early skirmishes.

Mary’s started brightly, taking the game to Navan with some fine carries from No.8 Mark ‘Zinzan’ Donnellan and skipper tighthead Fionan Magee. A reshuffle in the pack was soon needed as Fagan had to be replaced just a few minutes into the first half, after head-butting an opponent’s knee. Daz Kennedy was straight into the fray, still humming from his 10 pre-game coffees, and wasn’t long putting himself about.

Centre Andy McCarthy made some nice incisions in midfield and full-back Conor Sexton threatened a couple of times when Mary’s moved the ball wide to Navan’s defensive edge – Dillon Zaidel and David Sloan also making good inroads. But malfunctions at the line-out and indiscipline allowed Navan a foothold in the game – Saints’ left winger Sean O’Donoghue and the referee not seeing eye to eye on occasion. Navan counter-rucked effectively and a couple of Mary’s infringements later, they had their first points, kicking a penalty.

The game was evenly balanced however, with neither side giving an inch. One or two lapses aside, the defensive wall posed by the Men in Blue was extremely effective – Liam McKnight (still refusing to wear regulation Club socks) and fellow flanker Tev putting in some big hits on the gain line. But more indiscretions by Mary’s lead to them conceding a try, with Navan gaining a foothold in the 22 and their pack picking and driving over the line from close range. The conversion was missed, leaving the visitors 8-0 up.

Again, Mary’s showed they were up to the challenge by regaining territory and possession and playing some very attractive rugby; forwards running hard and out-half James Bourke picking holes in the Navan defence. A Mary’s line-out close to the visitors’ try line saw second row Robert ‘Bev’ Beverland soar highest and pluck the ball from the winter sky before deftly feeding the onrushing Morgan who waltzed untouched through the Meath men’s defence.

A laser-like strike by Bourkey saw the conversion dissect the posts and Mary’s were back in the game, trailing 8-7. All that good work was undone early in the second half though as Mary’s – now defending the Templeville Road end – conceded a breakaway try, which was converted. Bourkey kept Mary’s in touch with a penalty before the Templeogue outfit again conceded a soft try, making the score 22-10 to Navan entering the final quarter.

In recent seasons this could have spelled the end – but this year’s J2s are made of sterner stuff – exemplified by a last-gasp smash-and-grab win in Enniscorthy back in October. Huge workrate and plenty of skill by all involved saw Zinzan crash over. Bourkey added the extras as the clock ticked down. Mary’s then showed exceptional composure to work the ball out of their own half and drive into Navan territory and, with seconds remaining, the ever-young Donnellan grabbed his second try – again from a pushover. This left the score tied at 22-22 with the conversion to come.

Bourkey – who earlier in the season unilaterally decided that his team didn’t want a try bonus point against Skerries – did the sound thing this time around and slotted the conversation, giving Mary’s the win and a huge four points. His kicking kept Mary’s in touch throughout so, despite ZinZan’s brace, the Man of the Match award goes to El Gèneral James Bourke – well done Bourkey!

With seven games played, Sunday’s result leaves St Mary’s College joint-second with D6W rivals Terenure, on 23 points, eight points behind leaders Wanderers.

Mary’s have a game in hand though and will be hoping to pick things up early in the New Year when they’re away to Malahide.

Happy Christmas from all at the J2s and thanks for your continued support!!