Old Wesley RFC V St Mary’s College RFC
Energia AIL Division 1B
Saturday 2nd April 2022
Energia Park, or as it was, Donnybrook, home to Leinster Rugby for very many years and Mecca for school’s rugby, has certainly evolved. This time of year, the schools’ cup campaigns would have been in full swing, and junior club cups and league finals would be queuing to play. But playing resembled playing on shattered concrete, or an arid, African water hole, with obvious consequences. But no one would have demurred and all would still miss the old creaky, draughty stand and the echoes of rugby days past.
Today, we were at a shiny Energia Park, with comfortable surroundings and a high quality synthetic pitch. We faced league leaders, by some distance, Old Wesley. Over the years we have had some epic battles and indeed our highly revered head coach, played some of his early rugby here, so the joust had piquancy.
The sun shone, with a wind strong at times coming from the Bective end. It was clear from the start that Marys were there to play and to play con brio. This turned out to be a game of almost artistic expression at times and played with sportsmanship; a really fine example of AIL club rugby. In the end it was probably the attrition of losing several top players during the game, so when fresh legs were needed after a hectic 65 minutes on a lightning fast pitch, Wesley had a posse to bring on, we hadn’t; and so the balance tilted. Certainly for over three quarters of the game, Marys looked the better team, as Wesley were forced into hurried passes and errors. The camaraderie on the team was in much evidence, as Richie Halpin led his men with confidence and flair. Conor Dean was at his best, he varied his game and read each situation brilliantly. He held the game on a string and his chip leading to Mattie try was exquisite; now almost a Deano calling card. Once again, he was superbly supported by his partner Colm Reilly, who was also brilliant, keeping the ball moving, raiding and covering and making time and space for the backline. Conor was in fact, surrounded by virtuosos, the midfield have never been better and the back three were goluptious. Hugo Conway at 15 was a revelation. Mark Fogarty, when on, ran with his terpsichorean ability to flay spaces and keep defences perplexed and jittery.
The pack revelled in the zippy G4 pitch, in open play being fast to breakdowns and linking well. The scrum stood up to the big Wesley pack with Adam Mulvihill, only 19 and in his second AIL game, again showing his immense potential, helped greatly by having super skipper Richie, and mighty Mick McCormack in support. Understated secondrow of young Ian Wickham and Peter Starrett were crucially important to the performance, never putting a foot wrong nor flinching. Peter has proven to be a most valuable and valued player, whose loyalty and consistent endeavour have been exemplary.
The backrow today was at its best in the fast going. Unfortunately David Aspil, who was at his usual high level had to retire in the first half with a beauty impairing broken nose. Niall Hurley who likewise had to retire late in the game with a nasty knee injury, was at his best once again. Nick McCarthy replaced David and showed he is back to his best. Liam Curran did everything asked of him when he came on for Niall; and then there was Ronan Watters, there is no finite limits to his ability and attitude to the game. He had a soaring match. He carried with venom, he covered and tackled like a car car-crusher, he was vital at the breakdown and supported every action. He has been magnificent all season with a most admirable approach to every game, he is an inspiration to his teammates and most deservedly, received the SoftCo MoM Award.
The game was in its infancy when we conceded a penalty which was driven into the corner and Wesley took the lineout, forced a maul and when that broke, they attacked the line with drives, they found space out a bit, terebrated the line and scored a converted try. Undaunted, Marys went on a sustained offensive, full of skill and pace, with quick ball and quick hands and secure retention. On six minutes the ball came to Deano 50 metres out and he did his cheeky chip. On full pace Mick O’Gara who was at his superb superlative, plucked the ball from the sky and whizzed, he gave it on to Mattie Timmons, who had his best ever game, Mattie hit the burners through two, and beat all to the line for a very fine try, Deano converted. 7-7. Marys were deservedly back in the game. The visitors continued to play rapid accurate and penetrative rugby, with a penalty from Deano adding to the tally, 7-10 and then on 21 minutes the sustained pressure told when a sweet, timed pass from Deano in a tight rush of players, to Hugo and he did what Hugo does so well, he went hard and fast and over, 7-15. We could possibly have added to the tally but were good value for a half time lead of 7-15 and looking strong.
The second half was similar to the first until mid-half, when the pace and the pitch told and the game slowed slightly. Wesley got a fortuitous penalty on 65 minutes and took it quickly, to score a converted try and it was 14-15. They added a penalty on 73 minute and went ahead, 17-15.Into injury time they topped it off with a brilliant individual try, making the final score 22-15.
It was hard to take, after such a committed skilful and mostly dominant display. It is even more unfortunate, as Naas were beaten by Malone. In fact our losing bonus point garnered today brings us within two of Naas. They face Old Belvedere next Saturday, while we host Highfield. It is clear and simple, we win they don’t, we go to the playoffs. It is possible if we were to lose with two bonus points and Naas were to lose with nothing, we would go through on points differential. Any other outcome we would lose out. So all we can do is win and wait.
We have had a good season and now have a team of great ability and potential, no matter what. It is clear that if we the supporters want to help give every opportunity to the team, we must get up to Templeville Road for the game next Saturday. Even if you have to bring the baby with you this time, or wear the uncle’s old cagoule or come in your pyjamas, come; just come and Marys-Marys-Marys must be at 150 Dbs. Get there!!
Team (12 changes)
15 H Conway, 14 M Timmons, 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, C Corcoran.