St Mary’s College RFC V Banbridge RFC
Energia AIL Division 1B
Saturday 26th March 2022
A wistful, almost melancholy mood scuds across the mind, as the grounds stretch in sun drenched splendour afore. There is much to excite and elevate the mood, but also a thought of a season’s near end and all it has done to lift us from the contagion. We owe so very much to our game and our club, and therefore those who make it happen. We will thank them soon; we now nod to them.
These reflections boost further the joy of the game yet to unfold.
Banbridge, the place of Percy’s femme fatale, has also claim to a fine rugby team (since 1925) and lot of good folk. Our popular president, Patrick Crawford, happily welcomed his counterpart, affable Maynard Sinton and his gregarious colleagues, and they settled in for a long day ahead. They sat down to a very welcome meal in the main hall, beautifully adorned for the day by irreplaceable Club Administrator, Marie Hammond, who had also thoughtfully set out the match forecast envelopes in Ukrainian colours, for which charity the collection was. Well done Marie. The president in his welcoming speech, thanked all our generous sponsors, with a very special appreciation for our long-time main sponsors SoftCo and Jim Coffey, there present, who have stayed with us, through some tough and difficult times, and of course, some good too.
This was a rewarding game for St Marys, accruing 34 points and a winning bonus point. There was, with the perfect conditions, some effervescent rugby, especially in the early part of the game, when Marys were at their coruscating best. The fluidity and joy returned to team, for long periods. It was exciting to see Conor Dean’s execution, with some exquisite passing and running and his try was excellent. Having Colm Reilly as his partner certainly also enhances the environment for Conor. His midfield men were also back humming; and it was a joy to see super Hugo Conway and Craig Kennedy back and boiling, in front of the versatile Ryan O’Loughlin.
A very special word must be reserved for Adam Mulvihill. This young prop had never played any part of a senior AIL game before. However, injury to loose-heads Niall McEniff and Dan Lyons, meant he started today. He had an auspicious start, holding his own in the scrum and contributing well around the field. He is now a fully initiated member of the front row club. He was part of a fine front row with skipper Richie back to his best and marvellous Mick McCormack, who carried like a tank. We had an efficient and industrious secondrow, Ian Wickham scoring a neat try, with Peter to mind him; and how we are blessed with a young backrow that is often awe inspiring. The four on display today, Ronan, David, Niall and Nick, were in pulverising power mode, with signal carrying and crushing tackling. Niall Hurley is a young player, who since becoming a regular this season, has burgeoned into a quality Seven. He is an athletic and guileful player, who contributes in lineouts too. Look for the ball and within metres you will usually see Niall ready for, or just after action. He is a consistently high performer and with another fine performance, he received the SoftCo MoM Award. It was good to have the Warrior, Nick McCarthy back from injury and to see he had not lost any of his skills or total intent.
Our set pieces were solid, with our lineout back to highest quality and the scrum found parity. The skills at all levels were impressive. In fact there was real quality on show, although the latter quarter seemed to lack the earlier concentrated intensity. Highly commendable and impressive features of the game were, the moving mesh-like defence of St Marys, tight organisation and far faster chase.
One thing missing today was that essential, bubbling, penetrating support; Marys, Marys, Marys. Not a Mary within sight or sound and it does make a difference. Maybe today it was not vital, but it will be.
Banbridge RFC are always worthy opponents and once again they proved so to be. However, they had some problems today, with high errors and penalty counts. They had some handling difficulties in particular. That said it was a close contest to near end and they fielded some very fine players, including their president’s son at 8, Robin Sinton, also David McCann, former Irish U20 captain at 7 and three Cromie brothers.
Where does that all leave us? Well as it happened, Naas, the team immediately ahead of us by four points, defeated Highfield and so accruing four points; we only brought the difference to three points. There are two games remaining in the league proper, before play-offs. We have a visit to Old Wesley next Saturday. Naas have a trip to Malone. Then the following or final Saturday, we entertain Highfield and Naas host Old Belvedere. We must win and hope for a slip up by Naas (or two by Shannon) to get to the play-offs. Let us not forget that we have had a successful and uplifting season whatever the outcome and we should celebrate the development of a very fine group of young players with immense potential for themselves and our club.
The sun danced with short shadows, it sparkled with delight as though casting off the chills and tenebrose days of winter. Spirits then matched the sun and players chomped as they awaited the referee’s permission to spring into action.
It was the home side who got into stride first and thereon followed some uplifting high tempo and quality rugby, interplay, forwards and backs, some fine running and ball retention. Eventually after five minutes, following two penalties and several drives and almosts, with dynamic David Aspil to the fore, the ball went wide and Ian Wickham on a sharp well-judged vector took the ball and over he went. 7-0. Ten minutes later a lovely interchange of passing between Hugo Conway and Conor Dean, saw Conor show super pace and whiz in over 30 metres to score. As with the first try he converted his own one this time. Deano added a penalty, just after the half hour, 17-0. Banbridge who were coming into the game more and making some hard inroads. They had a break out try on 33 minutes, and it was 17-5 as half time was called.
Although facing the hill in the second half Marys started strongly again. And on 46 minutes Deano added another penalty 20-5. It was just after 50 minutes when Bann, put a penalty to the corner, mauled and attacked the line. They let it out again rapidly and the speed of ball to wing beat the cover and they scored in Carvill Corner; a fine try. 20-10. It was good to see Mark Fogarty back after injury and he showed his abilities and terpsichorean feet to good effect. It was also very good to see former Club Captain Tommer O’Reilly available and showing he has not lost his skills nor desire. After great pressure on the Bann line two yellow cards and line hold-ups, St Marys were awarded a penalty try on 67 minutes, 27-10. Bann received another yellow and were down to 12 men. Marys continued to attack using numerical superiority. On 78 minutes, several spearing carries put real pressure on the visitors’ line. Hugo Conway got the ball a few metres out and capped a very worthwhile game with a try. That was 34-10 and that is how it all ended. Bonus point and satisfaction achieved.
It is not so bad done at Energia Park and it could be the difference between play-offs or not. It is not too distant either, so now make up your mind. Bring the Mot or posh partner, or even again the oul granny and get down to Snob 4. Wake them up down there, but give it big bang.
The president and Joan were less stressed today than is often their wont, so they will be there relaxed and ready to greet you. I am even going to go, so see you there.
Team (12 changes)
15 R O’Loughlin, 14 H Conway, 13 M Carey, 12 M O’Gara, 11 C Kennedy, 10 C Dean, 9 C Reilly, 8 R Watters, 7 N Hurley, 6 D Aspil, 5 P Starrett, 4 I Wickham, 3 M McCormack, 2 R Halpin Capt., 1 A Mulvihill, S O’Brien, P Dundon, T O’Reilly , L Curran, M Fogarty, N McCarthy, A McEvoy.