1st XV v Malone (A) 09.11.2019

Malone RFC V St Mary’s College RFC

8                          13                                

AIL Division 1B

Gibson Park, Cregagh

9th November 2019.


A flame of fellowship was lit in our team today and by the end of the game it had become a fiery furnace, burning deep in the heart of all. Today, should now drive us forward with fair wind to future success and true belief. This St Mary’s performance on the saturated sods of Malone’s second pitch was gargantuan, goluptious and glorious.

Although success was achieved with the last play of the game. It was all the more praiseworthy for that, for the players, from first whistle, threw themselves with abandon into the joust and never relented. Their opponents were worthy ones in all respects, boasting several Ulster contracted players including complete front row of that dimension, and playing with commitment and flair.  It was a game worthy of two such sporting opponents.  It was remarkable for all that, as the weather was dark and drear with dense black rain rasping players in an incessant barrage. For President Michael, who relates to his team, closely and with dedication, it was a superb fillip, as it was for his travelling officers. His happy smile lit up the dying day. Of course there was a gracious interaction with our long-time friends from Malone, who had been triumphant on our last visit to Gibson Park

It would be naive to suggest it was flawless, for there were errors in handling, as would be expected, there were some missed tackles, a few ill-advised kicks, especially when in strike zones, and although greatly improved from last week, there were some askew lineouts. The scrum must be applauded, especially the front row of Skipper Tommer, Richie and Mighty Micko (who also scored that invaluable try). Most of all to be admired and celebrated was the sheer determined, sustained courage and skills of all 20 players; this was, emphatically, a group performance. Both backs and forwards played their parts today. There was variation of play which is important in the evolving game, where innovation is vital to break modern defences.  The Marys defence was generally very strong meaning that Malone could be pinned back. Few penalties were conceded, another element driving the valuable win. Head Coach, Steven Hennessy, and his colleagues, have to take enormous plaudits, as they have been analysing and fixing flaws.

On a day such as today, it is difficult to mention individuals, however, one man demands it.  He has been getting back from a long-term injury and certainly arrived today.  David Aspil was like a marauding lion, as he carried, carving out space, covering, destroying attacks mauling and rucking; magnificent.  He was presented with the SoftCo MoM Award.

The Game

The game was held on the auxiliary pitch due to flooding on the first pitch.  It was not a factor as the surface was good and the pitch flat and level.  From the start St Marys showed that they were here to play and compete like vigorous voltigeurs.  They had good possession and attacked with variation and bite.  After eight minutes, Ruairi converted a difficult penalty after a maul was stopped illegally, 0-3.  We continued to attack and kept Malone busy inside their 22. It was almost on the half hour when we gave away a penalty which they kicked for position.  They ran the ball from the lineout and after two recycles they went wide right to left and scored in the corner, 5-3.  We returned to attack for the rest of the half but no more scores were registered.  We probably could have scored two tries that half with only a modicum of good fortune; half time 5-3.

The second half was more even, with both teams running the ball at any opportunity and using good variation. St Marys still looked the more potent and eventually on 68 minutes Ruairi converted a penalty and it was 5-6.  Nick McCarthy was now on and helping greatly with the cause.  We held sway until 78 minutes when we lost the ball in attack, then two penalties, used down the line, bringing them to just outside our line.  They mounted a massive attack.  A remarkable and combined effort by defence kept them from scoring, but a ball held up over the line led to a scrum which gave Malone a penalty.  They converted that and so with minutes to play they were 8-6.  Time was running out, nerves were running out, frayed in the small supporter group.  However, the team held nerves and came back up-field and firing on all four.

We made some progress, but around the 22, we failed to advance further, then three phases and a ruck just outside the 22, Cormac picked from behind, swayed and sashayed through the melee, then arrow-straight  he went at Mk 2. Taken down 8M out, then four pick-and-drives, under the posts. We waited, we gasped, the ball was picked again; did it slip? No, okay, take again, and again.  Mighty Micko was waiting, poised.  He picked, strained, went in low, fiercely, under the cover; pause, pause, an arm was raised, it was the referee’s arm; it was a score.  Ruairi, stroked the ball for the conversion. The whistle went long and sweet.  The end. 8-13. Sheer Beauty.

Next Saturday we entertain Banbridge.  Banbridge are on the same points’ total, 10.  This is a crucial game, one that could put us up behind the leaders, leaving a gap to the bottom three.  Obviously, as we know from last season and the current situation, this will not be easy.  So please do come along.  We need to hear Marys-Marys-Marys.  After today the players and all the management deserve it loud, clear and often. So bring your megaphone, or your loud neighbour.

Team up with Tommer

D O’Brien

Team (Rolling Replacements X12)

15 M Fogarty, 14 H Conway, 13 M Carey, 12 M O’Gara, 11 C Kennedy, 10 R Shields, 9 C Foley, 8 R Watters,  7 C Dempsey, 6 D Aspil, 5 L Corcoran, 4 P Starrett, 3 M McCormack, 2 R Halpin, 1 T O’Reilly (Capt), S Healy, N McCarthy, P Dundon , A McEvoy, S Heeran.