Old Wesley RFC V St Mary’s College RFC
Energia AIL Division 1B
Saturday 14th October 2023
Yes, we were back to Energia Park, today. All those who played schools’ rugby in Leinster have embedded in their hearts, the tremble of times gone by, of trotting out onto the mud of Donnybrook, and hearing the throb of cheering chants and schools’ rattling rants, memories of those halftime orange segments that tasted gourmet then; now forgotten. They were the days of cross kicks (not kick passes) and foot-rushes, feet up, crooked-ins, and when often, unused wingers or fullbacks, were forgotten and found later on the pitch in hypothermic trances. There was no jargon then, such as both sides of the ball. You lay on the ball and while going to ground meant hiding from creditors.
You can bet we at Marys will not forget this visit, the second time in a row we left with the points, this time five, and a boot up to the top of the league table, with 10 from 2 (no that is not a maths question). Old Wesley is an old friend and old rugby adversary. We have mutual respect and indeed a high degree of affection. For many years now we have had memorable jousts and memorable afters, as indubitably, our President, Bobby O’Connor and his Vice, Paudge McGill and Old Wesley President Ronan Bools had this evening. Doubtless, Chappers, Ken Richardson, Patricia Parfrey and Alan Browning joined in to cheer on the Irish Team and have a quaff.
After the games there is always a Conglomeration (A collection of Rugby Heads) around the precincts of Wesley Clubhouse and the East Gate all milling around. Seen there smiling, were Skipper Ronan’s parents, Brian and Laura, as they chatted with Milo and Rebecca. Paul and Lorraine Dean were looking extra pleased, with good reason. Mick the Medium was heard chatting to the ghosts of players long past. Paul Pender and Conor O’Neill took a few minutes off their important work to have a little chat and GMack was to the fore, as was Stephen Shirley, with his young boys, and Ronnie McBrien had a dummy microphone in his hand just in case. It was good to see Harry McDonald back in Ireland for a few days; and soon the players were joining in before they headed off in top form to watch the Ireland V New Zealand RWC match.
Even from last week’s fine display there was a noticeable improvement in performance. Sean and Mark, Jamie and Modser must get a boost too, when their remedial work is fruitful and the performance goes up. The defence and overall configuration were very tight and the pace of the game, and rucking were also up. To score four fine tries against Old Wesley is not easy, and to do so with such élan, is most encouraging and puts us top of the table. There were nine players in this match 23 who were involved in the last visit to Old Wesley. Ronan who led his men to victory last visit, November 2022, should be very proud. As with last year, he was magnificent as he led his men. He was unstoppable, scoring a brilliant try from the back of the scrum and was seminally involved in the exceptional first try, by flying Leandro, who is turning out to be a very valuable player. Ronan had to go off with a heavy shoulder knock, however, his irrepressible battling attitude ensured he was back in little time. His fellow backrowers were top-class too.
This was a stylish game. The 4G pitch ensured it was played at top pace, and with skill and few stoppages, the referee, Dermot Blake, helping in this respect. With the RWC quarterfinals on and the match being streamed the attendance was disappointing, but vociferous.
St Marys played the first half with a cold wind in their backs towards the southeast (Wesley End). The previous Saturday playing at home, the temperature was 25 degrees. There’s Irish weather for you!
There were no sub optimal performances, otherwise we would not be looking at the final score as it is. Old Wesley are a top 1B team and they competed with vigour and skill as is their wont. They were ahead at one stage and looked as though they might prevail, but Ronan’s men were not to be outshone.
The second row caught the eye, with Liam Corcoran hitting his best form in lineout and he carried with sharp bite. Beside him, Daniel Leane who has exceptional potential, seemed to spring into extra life today. He was superb in the air, his defence was adamantine, he did a lot of the tough chores in tight, as rowers do. His support play was notable with several carries, and he competed well at the tackle. He made a major contribution all round today and so he was accorded the SoftCo MoM Award.
The backline is developing well and Mark McHugh’s quality moulding can be seen in the shape and execution. Today, Conor Dean was imperious, with his dazzling distribution, his astute kicking and his attack lines. He almost scored one of his trademark chip and snatch tries, before being involved in a classical try and later scoring an individual try that is destined for his diary. Last time here the centres of excellence, irrepressible Mark and Mick were remarked upon favourably, that continued today, with the place kicking of Mick, an invaluable bonus. The back three were impressive too, Leandro’s two tries were brilliant, and Conor Hayes’s kicking was judicious and accurate.
Tommer O’Reilly was brought on late in the first half and had an impressive impact overall, and especially in the scrum. Leroy Jack, came on early in the second half and settled in well, using his power to good effect and getting around the pitch. Also, it was good to see Cameron Stuart make his AIL debut; and very promising Conor Pierce also get time. Very good too it was to see Myles Carey get back from injury with a vignette in the second half. Hugo Conway expects to make his return during the second tranche of matches and Craig Kennedy will make his just after Christmas. Things are all shaping up well.
On two minutes, then 17 minutes and 22 minutes Mick O’Gara converted three penalties to allow Marys to lead 0-9. Then on 26 minutes, following a lineout and drives, Adam fed Deano, he made a little space and gave the ball inside to Mark Fogarty at top pace, he fed Ronan who seared through the defence and made it to two metres out, as he fell, he popped it to Leandro who coming across at top speed jumped Ronan on the ground and went in for terrific try that Mick converted, 0-16. Then, a half an hour was gone when we gave away a penalty and yellow card They kicked to the corner and after lineout, maul and a series picks and drives they scored close in and made it 7-16. Mick made it 7-19 with a good penalty and. Then 35 minutes, with the visitors a man short, Wesley had scrum in our 22. They put pressure on and the 8 broke blind and scored far out. It was then 12-19. That was the score at half time.
The second half was four minutes old when Wesley made it 15-19 with a penalty and on 53 minutes Wesley scored a good try in the corner and the conversion made the score 22-19. Marys were behind for the first time.
Marys upped the pace and intensity and held onto the ball well, as they went to work. Ronan had his men in top gear as they got a scrum near the Wesley line on 64 minutes. We held the tension and Ronan broke from the back, arced around to the right and cleaved through the cover to score in the corner. Mick made the conversion with a really fine kick from the touchline. It was 22-26 and we were buzzing. On 72 minutes, after a superb attack, with Liam Corcoran to the fore and almost every man on the side handling the ball, it came to Deano and he cut loose, he slalomed through from 20 metres out, and scored under the posts, a beauty. 22-33. It was not finished yet; after several drives and recycles the ball was whipped out and came to Conor Hayes and he curved out before releasing Leandro. He showed blur pace as he whipped up along the edge of the pitch leaving defenders grasping and gasping, he flew through the air and touched down in the very corner. The excellent referee was up with play and it was 22-38 and it was also over.
We are top of the table with 10 from 10 points. A super start to the season. We must stay focused, for much can happen and when you look at the results of next Saturday’s visitors, UCC. They won away to Buccs, 20-36, so it is impossible to arrogate anything.
With Ireland sadly out of RWC, all of you all must concentrate on your own club and start turning up in big numbers home and away, and really get behind your team. If you are willing to do your part you could be sharing special celebrations next April. It does make a difference to the team when you are there and in full flow, Marys-Marys-Marys. We have a strong squad with good depth. We have a super coaching team and management team. The next ingredient is a super support team, we have to make that ourselves and how good that is, is again up to us. So let us make it happen. As pointed out before, if you have to mind the granny, bring her with you, if you have no transport, hijack a Boeing, just no excuses and no lazily looking at that old streaming stuff. Let us all start on Saturday, Come and Roar on Ronan.
15 C Hayes, 14 L Ramirez, M Fogarty, 12 M O’Gara, 11 S Sancery, 10 C Dean, 9 A McEvoy, 8 R Watters, 7 E Baxter, 6 B Taylor, 5 L Corcoran, 4 D Leane, 3 M McCormack, 2 J Harding, 1 J Reidy-Walsh. T O’Reilly, L Jack, C Pierce, A Walsh.