1st XV v Blackrock (A) by D. Brien – 20.01.2024

Blackrock College RFC V St Mary’s College RFC
25                                            24
Energia AIL Division 1B
Stradbrook Road 
Saturday 20th January 2024.


Shaken not stirred, the 1B leaders were shaken by this loss but have not stirred from the top, and in a healthy position.  Needless to say they will not want to repeat it.

On a blustery day with the cold gone, Marys returned to Stradbrook to play Rock in the AIL, the first time since October 2015, when Rock won 23-19. Today, the game turned out to be a paragon of club rugby that kept the crowd frantic, with chances to the end.  There was a large crowd of partisan supporters, adding to the excitement. Unfortunately, St Marys gave away a feast of frees and penalties and paid the price. On occasion too, they lost possession too cheaply and there was an odd leak in defence. Overall, they were two well matched teams that played at pace, with sharp rucking. Marys need not be too dismal, it may turn out to be a perfect stimulus to reset. The underlying template and its execution is robust, and with a few tweaks it will be back to apotheosis. It must be recognised too, that a four try bonus point, in addition to the losing bonus point, gave us a worthwhile two points. We remain top, with 51 points, 16 points ahead of our opponents next week, second placed, Old Belvedere.

There were many fine performances from both teams. A feature was the animated and dominating support from the visiting Marys supporters, with Marys-Marys-Marys, repeatedly rasping out, throughout the game.  Certainly there was no dearth of effort and skills from the Marys’ backline and several of the pack were in top gear. Today the Marys’ Paladin, was left winger, Hurtling Hugo Conway, or today,he was hat-trick Hugo.  He was coruscating, turning up everywhere, and always ready to help out in attack or defence.   He took his three tries superbly well and deservedly was awarded the SoftCo MoM.

The game 

There was fast start to the game with both sides pushing hard for advantage. We were missing big Liam Corcoran who has been in excellent form.  Leroy Jack started and fitted in perfectly. Our lineout was looking very secure with Daniel Leane secure and showing strongly. Our backs were looking sharp with Mark Fogarty and Leandro impressive. However,there was a shake for the visitors after nine minutes when Rock’s Colclough ran in a good try leaving grasping hands. 7-0. Marys set to work and on 14 minutes following a lineout, and superb pass from coruscating Conor Dean and transfer from Conor Hayes to hard running Hugo beat two to score his first, in the corner. 7-5. We had only to wait three minutes until there was another score.  A series of phases with most to the team involved worked the ball up field.  The ball came back from a ruck and Deano made an impudent and brilliant break, slicing the defence.  He connected with Mark who slipped it to Hugo, hurtling in and over. 7-12, after the invaluable Mick O’Gara’s conversion. The game was in full bullition now, and the crowd become more involved and in full ebullition.  Marys-Marys-Marys.   On the half hour Rock converted a penalty 10-12

After a series of penalties just on half time, and two scrums, Rock were awarded penalty try, to put them ahead again, and we were given a present of a yellow card. So half time it was 17-12.

The second half was as the first had ended, full of pace and adventure with both sides in full boisterous battle.  After 13 minutes of high speed rugby, the Rock left winger David Heavey, got the ball in his own 22, scorched the grass and left all in his wake as he scored a fine try for Rock and put them further ahead; it was 22-12. Not so good, but Ronan’s group has profound determination and belief.   The pace went up again as did the push.  A few fresh faces joined the fray and on 59 minutes the Marys scrum won a marvellous push over to get the blood running in the veins. As the scrum broke up, Jack Nelson-Murray broke up too and dived over, 22-19. Then 68 minutes, after a line out and drive, the ball came to Deano.  He dummied to pass, and instead neatly kicked out towards the wing; Hurtling Hugo took it deftly at Mk1, beat the cover and scored, 22-24. The crowd crooned.  Rock know spirit and they gave it a real go.  They attacked hard and on 75 minutes they got a penalty and converted it to make it   25-24.  Marys’ hearts sank.  But once again this team showed its real desire,and whizzed into action, Ronan leading his men with his flankers by his side.  They held possession and set up waves of attacks.  Rock stood true to their name.  Just on full time,Marys flung the ball out the line one last time and yes; there was an overlap, it got out but sadly the last pass was high, just too high to hold. It ended 25-24.

Rock deserved the win, given St Marys’ very high number of penalties conceded overall and lost opportunities. This will hurt but will act as a lesson and a spur.  Next Saturday we visit Ollie Campbell Park to take on second placed Old Belvedere.  It is a tricky venue and one where we have had mixed fortune, so we need a top performance from the squad and from supporters. Imagine the joy of visiting Dublin 4, so make sure you are there.

Come on and roar on Ronan

Team 15 C Hayes, 14, L Ramirez, 13 M Fogarty, 12 M O’Gara, 11 H Conway, 10 C Dean, 9 A McEvoy, 8, R Watters (Capt.) 7 E Baxter, 6 B Taylor, 5 L Jack, 4 D Leane, 3 M McCormack, 2 J Harding, 1 J Reidy-Walsh, 16 J Nelson-Murray, 17 T O’Reilly, 18 I Wickham, 19 F Burke, 20 R Fahy, 21 M Carey.

D O’Brien