J5 XV v Ratoath (H) 10.11.2018

St. Mary’s College RFC J5 vs Ratoath
At Templeville Road
Saturday 10th November 2018
2.30pm Kick Off

It was a tense morning watching the rain come and go and, after the deluge of the day before, it was looking touch and go as to whether the St. Mary’s J5s would be able to take to the pitch to build on the good results from the opening games of the season. With the rain still spitting down, we got the call to say the pitches were good and we were all systems go. As a forward, this writer was relishing the prospect of a close, ‘up-the-jumper’ affair, with plenty of carries and battles close to the line.

This did not quite come to pass. The weather had begun to clear when Andrew Manning got the game underway with a mid-range kick, with the pack chasing hard to put pressure on Ratoath right from the off. Following a few scrappy encounters at the breakdown St. Mary’s saw a period of pressure reap rewards with Alan McPhilips and Colin Foley expertly marshalling the backs and forwards, before Alan sliced through the defence to dot down for the opening score. Conversion from Manning followed.

After some minor confusion at the restart, St. Mary’s started applying the pressure again, with some thundering carries from front rows Andy Balfour and Gary Masterson. Unable to capitalise this time around, Ratoath gained possession and started their counter attack, resulting in a well worked backs try, although without a conversion.

Play proceeded with some huge efforts in defence. Colin Foley, Rory Litton and James Collery leading with quick reflexes, lightning line speed and crunching tackles. The defensive efforts paid dividends with St. Mary’s turning the ball over and mounting the next attacking sequence, culminating in a crash ball to centre Rob Dunleavy who dragged three defenders with him over the line to score. Again, Manning added the extras.

This time, Dan Hegarty (a GAA aficionado, I’m told), expertly fielded the high ball and got the forwards rumbling up the field again with some stand out carries from hooker Aaron Doherty. What happened next doesn’t happen all that often, so you’ll have to indulge me. St. Mary’s applied huge pressure on the Ratoath line. McPhilips, keeping his head on the swivel to spot the best opportunities, found this writer with one defender to beat and plenty of grass outside him. Try St. Mary’s. No big deal. With such precision ball placement right beside the corner flag, the angle proved too difficult for the conversion.

Ratoath kept themselves within 9 points on the half with another backs led try, despite the brave efforts of backs Caglar Tuc and Patrick Butler.

Ryan Barnes rang in the changes at half time with Elliot Chambers coming into the second row alongside Andrew Perkins and Idriss Mulenga and Shane Rylands coming into the back line. Elliot was on the pitch for no more than three minutes before going off for a blood substitution after an innocuous knock caused a nose bleed. We agreed it must have been the altitude.

At this stage, the weather had improved so much that some of us wished we had packed the Factor 50. With Chambers back on the pitch and carrying well, St. Mary’s built the phases, gaining territory steadily until McPhilips hit Manning, who in turn spotted a gap and booted the ball high. Eric Dunne, with speed and sublime skill, plucked the ball out of the air, landed, jinked behind the last defender and scored what some are calling the try of the season. Again Andrew Manning slotted the conversion.

Then things started to unravel dramatically. Fatigue or a momentary lapse in concentration resulted in Ratoath getting a foot hold in the game, sending wave after wave of runners at our line. Defensive slips, high tackles and knock-ons cost us dearly as Ratoath ran in three unanswered tries converting two, giving them the lead for the first time in the game with seven minutes to play. Standing under the posts watching the last conversion sail over the bar, Dan Hegarty reminded us that we weren’t playing Tiddlywinks and we re-focussed.

The closing minutes of the game were played at a high tempo, with the ball changing possession again and again through handling errors. Finally, with St. Mary’s in possession, inching closer to the Ratoath line and the clock in the red, Masterson carrying like a man possessed willed St. Mary’s on. McPhilips spotted a weakness and floated a skip pass to a waiting pod who crashed up to the line, with James Collery identifying a gap and masterfully placing the ball for the winning try. All that was left was for Manning to convert, the game ending St. Mary’s 33 – 29 Ratoath.

This win means that St. Mary’s J5s remain unbeaten in the league so far. The closing minutes of the match really showed what this squad is made of and, while there are multiple things to work on at training moving forward, we can come away feeling proud, knowing each and every player gave everything they had.