St Mary’s College RFC V Old Belvedere RFC
AIL Division 1 A
28th January 2017.
A mixture of jubilation and relief was the sentiment after this closely fought match. It was the turning point in the season, as the league goes back to front, and possibly a turning point in fortunes. Once again it showed that, when Marys play with confidence, real pace and unpredictability they can be nigh on unstoppable. Today they showed courage and determination, with a dominant pack, hard leadership and willingness to dare. Belvo too attacked with flair, however, they dropped or gave away too many balls and that was one of the main differences. Belvo worked throughout, attacked hard, often on the counterattack, their defence too was generally strong and so it meant a close entertaining game with many moments of unease and fear for the home support.
Before the game the captain, Brian Mc Govern, about to celebrate his birthday, confidently promised a top class performance. He was as good as his word and he helped ensure it with a fine individual performance and powerful leadership. He scored a try, with aplomb and afterwards was aglow with justifiable pride in his team. That dominant pack had eight hard warriors and today the front row in particular was adept and attritional. Cathal O’Flaherty at Five, also caught the eye as he soared in the line out and scoured the field for work. Behind the scrum there was a kaleidoscope of talent and besides the half backs, notably Paddy Lavelle was powerful and Ryan O’Loughlin was full of initiative and skill. Ryan’s adventure, his spatial awareness and his adjacency alertness to use his support, are exceptional.
There was another difference, a young man, grandnephew of the great Banana Joe Fanagan (there to see it all) bristling with his genes, David Fanagan. David is a flying fullback or scrumhalf or even a winger, but never an outhalf. Who said that? He was asked and stood up fearlessly and took on the challenge, amid some supporters’ doubts; and what happened. To the manor born, it looked as though he had been genetically engineered for the job. Getting a fine service from his partner, Nine, Paddy O’Driscoll and behind a dominant pack he revelled in it all, taking the ball right up on the line in the face of a defensive wall. His distribution was good, his judgement good, even his kicking was good, his defence, granite and his individuality was astral. He scored a try that was breath-taking, made a try and ran the game with the authority of a Jonno. It goes without saying he was emphatically the SoftCo MoM.
So, overall a fine performance and a win built on a hard working pack and an artistic backline. The team will improve further, and while tackling was very good close in, and in rear guard action, line-speed in defence needs some attention, as does reception of opposition kick-offs. Additionally, discipline, especially around the new tackle laws, needs tightening. It has to be recalled that there were two yellow cards during the game, and so, twenty minutes with only 14 men.
Having made the least of our chances on our pre-Christmas match up, we needed to make the most of them on this occasion; and we did. There was a good crowd filling the club terrace and a fair one dispersed around the ground for this long awaited game. Spike et al. were very pleased to see Marys playing up in the first half against a mild south west wind. Belvedere attacked initially and kept pressure on, however it was Marys who scored first with a well taken penalty from David Fanagan and he followed it on 17 minutes with a lightening break. The ball went on to Conor Hogan who arced for the corner, the cover closed, ten metres out from the cabbage patch corner, and a high tackle from the side led to a yellow card and a penalty try for Marys, converted by David,10 – 0. Belvo had a penalty for coming in on the side at 21 minutes, 10 – 3. it was 25 minutes gone when a Marys’ penalty driven towards the 22, led to a Marys lineout and maul, Tommer O’Reilly like a rampant rhino, broke from the maul swatted tacklers and made a thunderous charge towards the line. Having made it tom 15 metres out he deftly switched to Conor Hogan who finished the job and scored in the cabbage patch corner. David hit the ball from way out, the ball soared towards the post, seemed to fade, tipped the upright and the cross bar, did a hop and flipped over; super; it was 17 -3. It was 29 minutes when Belvo gave away the ball in their own half and David Fanagan mustered magic, he flashed through a gap, swayed, faded, then jinked through flailing arms, on went the turbo, past two more men, switch and fly, he zoomed another ten and over, wheee a try of celestial quality; breathless, gasping and it was 22 – 3. Could we hope? On 41 minutes Belvo added a penalty, as Marys collected a yellow card, so half time, 22 – 6.
The second half commenced as the first one had, with Belvo running hard vectors and putting severe pressure on the Marys’ defence and after only 30 seconds they made the break through, with a top class individual try by winger Shane McDonald, it was after the conversion, 22 – 13. Terror time, but on 58 minutes there came some breathing space. The home side set up a series of attacks at the road end and after multiple pick-and-go’s the ball came to Ryano who dazzled and flicked the ball to the supporting skipper and McGov made no mistake in gaining his well-deserved try in Carvill Corner. It was now 27 – 13. And we did hope.
But no, fear pervaded our doubting hearts as Belvo revved and ran at defence, wide and narrow, in and out. We swayed and bent but did not buckle, but just as hearts nearly burst (and that was the supporters} the visitors, having been pinned back again burst out of defence and skipped up along the wing on the clubhouse side, they were checked, but came again and David Brandon got over. They had a conversion to earn a losing bonus, but Mirabile dictu, the kick sailed wide, 27 – 18; a wonderful win, so badly needed. Thank you McGov
As is often the case, in a tight field, those teams with similar points won, giving us only a slight movement upwards, one step. However, renewed confidence will make a big difference.
Now going to the leaders’ lair on Friday, is going to be tough, but the team will not be daunted and will fancy a cut at them and after today you might not bet against them. You know what you have to do, see you there!
Team (including rolling replacements) 15 T Kennedy, 14 C Hogan, 13 D Moroney, 12 P Lavelle, 11 R O’Loughlin, 10 D Fanagan, 9 P O’Driscoll; 8 K Sheahan, 7 N McCarthy, 6 H Kellegher, 5 C O’Flaherty, 4 C Ruddock, 3 B McGovern (Capt), 2 R Halpin, 1 T O’Reilly, H Kean, C Ryan, J Dilger, C Gilsenan.