St Mary’s College RFC J5 XV 36-26 Stillorgan
Stillorgan were the visitors to Templeville Road on a nippy Thursday evening on the 9th November, for a game that was high on energy, effort and tension for every one of the 80 minutes played.
With Christmas around the corner, the J5s were in a charitable mood and gifted Stillorgan 3 converted tries in the first 10 minutes. With the game now set on “difficult mode”, the team rallied under posts, decided that was probably enough of a headstart, and came out to play seriously good rugby for the remaining 70.
Stillorgan had brought their most physical players but were no match for the front 3 of Donogh, Walkin and Keith, who held square in the scrum and won several against the head. This set the platform for the comeback, and what a comeback it was.
Some great carrying at speed from the forwards led to Dave Dixon taking the ball like a bulldozer, planting the ball down with the entire Stillorgan pack still holding onto him. Dan Hurley, cool as ever, popped the conversion over the bar.
Within minutes Mary’s were back in again, Andy Fitz pulling the strings from the back of the ruck, with the ball passing through the backs hands to John Whelan on the far touchline. No longer full of wedding cake, his jet heels left the Stillorgan team still on the halfway line as he touched down, and Dan adding the points. Comeback most definitely on.
The back row were playing a stormer, Gary, Beef and the ageless Collery providing a masterclass in tackling, rucking and carrying. Stillorgan were struggling to stop the rhino charges. With the backs keen to get in on the action, Collie O’Neill and Caglar combined to set Niall O’Donovan free to stretch his legs and open his J5 account for the season. A penalty from Dan nudged Mary’s ahead.
Head injuries to John Whelan and Eric (who now looks like a pirate) and an ankle injury to Gary saw them leave the field just before half time. Seeing their opportunity, Stillorgan threw everything at the Mary’s lads, getting a try just before the whistle to lead 26-24 at the break.
The half time break over, Mary’s took the field knowing they’d seen everything Stillorgan had. Mazy runs from birthday boy Rob Trew, huge carries from James Casey and Beef and sniping runs from McHugh kept Stillorgan on the back foot. Something had to give and it did, James Roche spotting the gap to take the lead again, and take a few Stillorgan lads out of it for good measure.
With Stillorgan still reeling, the forwards game plan kept finding holes for the lads to attack, setting up flowing moves out to the backs. With Stillorgan’s defence stretched, the ball got popped to Foxy, who pulled a glorious sidestep out to take the defence out of it and run in unchallenged under the posts. A try that will be spoken about in hushed tones for years to come by any spectator lucky enough to witness it. The points added by Dan and Mary’s were in control.
The last 20 minutes of the game was an epic battle, as Stillorgan tried everything they had to break down the J5 defence. Barnesy, feeling left out, came out of retirement to join in and Dave McGill entered to add some more defensive expertise. The scrum held firm, every tackle was made, pillars knocked back every Stillorgan attack. Push, pull, left right, the J5 team turned over everything thrown at them. With Stillorgan running out of time, camped on the 5, one last chance was driven back past the 22 by Keith and Rochey before the guy knew what hit him.
Perfectly controlled Rugby as the clock wound down, and Mary’s held on to their 10 point lead to win 36-26. This game was a superb squad effort, every man played his part, every man put his body on the line, and every man deserved this win. Character, pride and belief is something this squad has in droves and this game showed that to its full extent.