St Mary’s College RFC V Malone RFC
AIL Division 1B
Saturday 11th December 2021.
Last time we played Malone, it was leap year day and a storm (Jorge) raged; we raged a bit too as we were beaten. This time we blew up the storm in the first half and Malone followed suit in the second. The result was a carnival of ecstatic and exciting rugby punctuated by disasters and almost bizarre brilliances. It also meant a 42-42 draw, for in the second half we realised it was the festive season and presents were offered and accepted.
We have a long-time bond with Malone, for in pre Leinster league days we played Malone every year, often on international match mornings. The games were close and the friendships likewise. It could not have been any closer in the end today, although leading in every way, 28-7 at half time, it looked like party time. It is hard to complain when both got three points and a match of sparkling entertainment was presented to the assembled followers.
Malone have a fine team and it was clear from today that they will not be far away from the top of the table, at the end of the league. They have available too, some fine Ulster contracted players, such as rising star winger, (playing fullback today) Aaron Sexton who was excellent today and scored two tries.
We had lost top second rower Liam Corcoran, in a fitness test, already being without captain, Richie Halpin, scrumhalf Colm Reilly, star wingers, Craig Kennedy, Mark Fogarty, Ryan O’Loughlin and Hugo Conway. Also missing were Nick McCarthy, Liam Curran and Loris Nikolov.
There was a most welcome return for Niall McEniff, David Aspil and Adam McEvoy. Adam, at 9, put pace on the game and on his passes. It was remarkable to see David Aspil, just back, yet he lasted 80 minutes at Six. He was influential throughout the game, cleverly taking positions in cover and carry. He has true quality and immense power which he used widely and well. It was warming to see him over the last part of the game when we were striving with guts and grind, he was still there making mighty metres and nonstop inviting work, outstanding as he had been from the start. He therefore received the SoftCo MoM Award.
With a game like that there were obviously some high quality performances, with the skipper on the day Ronan Watters exceptional. Ronan was majestic, he has a diamond dimension that just sparkles. He was ably supported by many in the pack and out wide, where David Fanagan ever amazes, wherever he plays; and today at wing he brought his innate ability to the task and put up a real gourmet dish, especially in defence. Ruairi Shields showed flair and some striking breaks in the first half and scored a try. The pack generally was highly effective, against a bigger, heavier opposing unit.
All that said, it would be naive to suggest that there were not costly errors, poor, tackling, handling and decisions on occasions, especially in the second half. To have a 28 (four Tries bonus point) – 7 lead, and cruising at half time, then end up frantically fighting for a draw, tells its own tale.
We are fortunate that results generally went our way and we remain third on the table, behind Old Wesley and Highfield who lost for the first time. So little harm done and we do have a break now when we can regroup, get injured players back and let Steve Hennessy and his colleagues do their magic and have all ready to face Malone again, in Belfast. Sadly we will not have Mick O’Gara, as he is heading off to USA for six months. He will be available in a similar manner next season, it is hoped. He will be a major loss, as he has been brilliant on and off the field and has formed a strong playing bond with Myles. He will be greatly missed, but we will all wish him well in his career and his social life. Come back safely to us Mick and thank you.
The game started fast, and Marys on this occasion, started the better of the two sides in action, and spent the first 15 minutes attacking in the Malone half towards the Templeville Road end, then lovely hands and a fine vector taken by Ruairi gave a quality try under the posts. Mick O’Gara converted. It was 17 minutes, when Malone struck back with a move similar to on which caught us out recently against Navan, and it was 7-7. But three minutes later a series of attacks, excellent hands by Conor Dean and transfer by Mattie Timmons, saw try master Mick O’Gara run through the defence and go in under to make it easy for himself to ensure 14-7. Then on the half hour, having run the ball back from a line clearance, Conor Dean did one of his geometrically gauged chips, into the path of rampaging Ronan, who glided in under, again, and Mick made it 21-7. Confidence soared, and a spell of delightful rugby continued, as the home side continued to press. On 34, minutes, the prestidigitation of King Conor, gave a ball to Niall Hurley on another fine vector, and he sailed in; over to you Mick, 28-7. The half finished that way, having earned a bonus point from four tries and a command performance. It could only get better!!!!!
The second half saw a drop in intensity and after 50 minutes Malone scored after a penalty line out on our 5 metre line. 28-14. Then, on 55 minutes, Malone took a quick penalty and full back Sexton ran through our defence from 40 metres out, and in under the posts. A slight worry, 28-21. We rallied hard and gained a penalty try from a disrupted strong maul on 58 minutes. That brought colour back into the ashen face of President Patrick et al. 35-21. A chip by the scrumhalf gave Sexton the ball and another try as he used his power and pace to burst through our defence from 35 metres out and make the score, 35-28, on 60 minutes. Shivers. On 66 minutes, they scored again 35-35. We set about getting ahead and attacked, unfortunately, we gave an intercept away on 74 minutes, and it was 35-42. There was a shocked silence except for the low sighs of the president. This is where the soul of the club emerged. Many might wail and hang heads. Our lads are a special group. Leaders stood up, Ronan, Mighty Mick, David Aspil and the young ones, Joe Nolan, and Eoin Byrne called on, took up the challenge. They laid siege to the Malone line and pounded it, non-stop, ones and twos they came with fire, almost over, then, back and forth ever straining and striving. They would not be denied and on 79 minutes, a try; and Mick did his business to convert. 42-42. How much time left??? We were going for the win, and almost did it in injury time. We came close several times, but eventually were penalised and Malone kicked the ball out. Sad but could have been inconsolable.
There just remains for me to wish all who read these reports, an especially good but careful Christmas. It is not the same, No club carols this year, nor are there team get-togethers. But do enjoy family times and hopes for the year ahead. I got a lot of questions about my reference to a lazy wind last week. It is an old country expression. ‘’A lazy wind, would sooner go through you than around you’’. So let us look forward to more sparkling rugby and a successful league second half. I apologise for the slightly late issue of the report. I had computer trouble and lost my work twice, so had to do it over again. That is life.
Happy Christmas to all
Team (12 changes)
15 R Shields, 14 M Timmons, 13 M Carey, 12 M O’Gara, 11 D Fanagan, 10 C Dean, 9 A McEvoy, 8 R Watters(Capt.), 7 N Hurley, 6 D Aspil, 5 D Leane, 4 I Wickham, 3 M McCormack, 2 S O’Brien 1 D Lyons. J Coolican, N McEniff, J Nolan, E Byrne.