Old Wesley RFC V St Mary’s College RFC
AIL Division 1B
Saturday 9th January 2016.
There was a vibrancy about the new Donnybrook surroundings and the pitch which seemed to infuse the players of both sides. This lead to a scintillating, searing, sizzling encounter with both sides excelling and fortunes swaying to give a gulping, gasping audience an uplifting treat. Yes, both teams can be proud of a committed, continuous, velocitous performance that would have done justice to the highest paid professional teams and included a try that probably surpassed that. How both teams sustained the pace and accuracy for eighty minutes is a credit to all involved.
This season, St Marys College RFC has built a team with close interaction and understanding between the players and, never more was that evident than today. The selected squad and positioning showed adventure and that is how they played. Peter Bourke has moulded a formidable and admirable backline together, running penetrative vectors and defending closely.
The half backs revelled in the conditions. It is very sad to say cheerio to Robbie Glynn, another to emigrate. As this might be his last game, young Robbie went out with a super performance. He read the situations well, he again kicked well, broke well and supplied well. We will miss him a lot. Sean Kearns at Ten, loved the conditions too. Although the kicking tee did not behave itself on the artificial surface, his distribution and out of hand kicking were up to his highest standards. Midfield has become most impressive, with a stable partnership of Marcus O’Driscoll and Ivan Dineen complementing each other and today they were excellent with crushing tackles, hard determined, clever running and interplay. The back three were full of invention, with Darragh Fanning once again giving a superlative performance and captaining the side with steel It was that steel and drive that got him across to cover tackle and hold up his man brilliantly in the last few minutes and help ensure the Marys’ win.
The forwards too have moulded into a unit of formidable proportions. Today again, without captain Robert Sweeney, the pack worked hard to compensate. The rucking was fast and accurate and body positions in mauls made sure the lines were protected; and strong inroads were made in attack. The lineouts were as good as I have seen in two seasons and Hugo Kean played his part in this, as he did in the loose, where he was notable, with his fellow front rowers. Amusingly during the game, it was observed that the great warriors, highly influential Grand Master, Brian Mc Govern and his fast developing tyro, Tom O’Reilly between reset scrums, were seen, ritually bending to remove muck from their studs; for a better grip! It is often hard to quantify the enormity of the work done by the second row, and indeed today our two behemoths were superb. David O’Connor has blossomed under the tutelage of stalwart Ciaran Ruddock, and after a magnificent performance last week, he was again in top form today with a signal lineout and all round display. Where games are frequently won or lost is the backrow, today, playing on a reactionary pitch, tried reflexes, speed, stamina and fitness. Our backrow excelled in this test and the four on display were outstanding. Barry O’Flanagan, at Seven, managed every aspect of openside play near faultlessly and one could almost see the determined unselfish commitment to his team oozing out of him as he covered the pitch like an HS missile . He contributed handsomely to the lineout, supported ubiquitously and saved two tries with cover tackles. There is little doubt but that by the end of the game Old Wesley hated the sight of him. We loved him, He was my MOM.
For most of the first half, Marys were playing with such harmonious alacrity, that it appeared there would be a torrent of tries, but due to the defiant defence of the home side, only two were scored by Marys and one by Old Wesley. Wesley opened the scoring with a penalty by Cassidy, on seven minutes. 3 – 0. On 11 minutes when playing scrum advantage from their ten metre line, Wesley kicked ahead hard, Stevie Wonder Toal-Lennon on his ten metre line, caught it acrobatically on the jink, which put him through two defenders, he veered left towards the stand touchline leaving two more defenders, he slipped it to Darragh who accelerated through two tacklers and hit the turbo up towards the 22. The air crackled and hissed as he off-loaded to Marcus, who cut in at Mk2 and back passed to Ryan O’Loughlin, who zoomed in over the line. This may have sounded simple; it was in fact mesmerizingly brilliant and Sean converted with aplomb from way out. 3 – 7. Marys consolidated with another strike on 26 minutes. Playing advantage from a collapsed maul, Steve Toal-Lennon again made a telling break, Darragh, tore through, and big hard running Ivan Dineen was on hand to finish well and make the score 3 – 12. On 30 minutes, a missed tackle, let Wesley in for a straight hard running try, 8 – 12. And on 40 minutes a scrum penalty to Wesley left the score at half time 11- 12.
The second half was more even, with both sides battling at pace and showing some admirable skills and two well coached defences holding firm. On 52 minutes Sean scored a fine penalty, 11 – 15. Wesley replied on 54 minutes, 14 – 15. On 72 minutes, after sustained pressure by Marys and three penalties in the Wesley corner from collapsed mauls, the ball went right to left. The referee was playing advantage; the pressure told, as Wesley were short outside and this time Stevie coming in from fullback took the ball on a sharp vector and accelerated over to score himself.
Wesley then showed their grit, they mounted sustained pressure leading to a series of mauls and drives following penalties and to almost a mirror image of the situation leading to the previous Marys’ try, on 80 minutes. However, on this occasion Daring Darragh, made that miraculous cover tackle and hold up. That was not the end, (the referee played six minutes extra) and from the ensuing lineout in the Tennis corner, Wesley had a series of grinding drives, nearer and nearer the Marys’ line. They drove and drove, and each time they drove, you could hear gasps or groans. At one stage they were held up under the posts, but nerve held and we got there. Phew, close, respirators were called for.
The old hospitable Bective clubhouse into which we poured after the game was a nostalgic reminder of our rugby roots and that valuable close camaraderie between clubs.
This game was a credit to both teams. The efficacy of the surface is no doubt an incentive to other senior clubs to consider developing similar high quality surfaced artificial pitches. These can do nothing but good for the quality for the game and for skill development in young players. Of course it costs.
Especially well done to our players who adapted so readily and well to the pitch. It puts us in a good positon as TCD were beaten by Buccaneers, however Ballymena stay doggedly behind us by two points by beating UL Bohs in a close game at Limerick. Our next game is in two weeks’ time against UL Bohs. You will remember, that although we won 24 – 27 in Limerick, and got a bonus point we were not at our best and will need to be, to ensure victory. We then two weeks later head to Ballymena for the clash of the Titans. We are now we are on 46 points two ahead of Ballymena, and TCD are on 39 points, six behind. The following group is headed by Buccs and Wesley on 27 points. Our president, Declan, may be getting nervous, but it is not showing, he was alight with a vividly happy smile after the game and he has his club dinner next Saturday; so he has lots to which to look forward.
Now, is when your support is most needed, you are important, so be at the club for the UL Bohs game.
The Squad (Rolling substitutions)
15 S Toal-Lennon, 14 R O’Loughlin, 13 M O’Driscoll, 12 I Dineen, 11 D Fanning, 10 S Kearns, 9 R Glynn, 8 M Fallon, 7 B O’Flanagan, 6 K Sheahan, 5 D O’Connor, 4 C Ruddock (Capt.), 3 B McGovern, , 2 H Kean, 1T O’Reilly, D Fawcett, E Ferron, D Aspil, C Gilsenan, T Kennedy.