J5 XV v Malahide RFC



Friday 08.03.2024

Estuary Road, Malahide

Malahide RFC 30 – St. Mary’s College RFC 12

Malahide RFC is a tough place to go at the best of times and so it proved to be on a cold, blustery Friday night as St. Mary’s J5s suffered their first defeat of the season. Returning out-half Dan McManus got things underway kicking to a physical Malahide pack. From the off, the opposition put enormous strain on our defence, with big carriers relentlessly hitting the line. Despite putting in tackles all over the park, in particular by stalwart backrow, Rory Litton and giant lock, Dave Dixon, Malahide continued to pressure the line resulting in their first try of the evening, conversion missed with the wind wreaking havoc. Understanding that adjustments to tackle height and ruck management were required, St. Mary’s had mixed spells over the coming minutes, Caglar Tuc feeding McManus with precision, keeping lightning centres Eric Dunne and Karl O’Brien on the front foot.

Connor Kinnear was introduced when flanker Eoin Goulding, who had been so effective and impactful on both sides of the ball, shipped a serious knock, suffering cracked ribs (heal well, Eoin!). Kinnear injected serious pace into our attack, constantly applying pressure and keeping Malahide’s defence guessing, eventually culminating in a well-timed tap-and-go to dot down over the line. No conversion with both kickers struggling against the weather. St. Mary’s had mixed fortunes at set piece time.

This writer was particularly pleased with the decision not to push at scrum time, packing down in the front row for the first time. It was clear that hooker, Steve Walkin, was as sharp as ever fighting the wind time and time again to hit his target in the lineout. Malahide’s cohesion continued to cause problems for the St. Mary’s defence, with carries up the middle by the forwards and backs probing the wide channels, where they were met by Barry Norman, Kevin Perry and Chris O’Connor who put men three times their size on their backs with crunching tackles, all having key involvement in corralling opposition attackers into touch whenever possible, winning valuable possession. Nothing gladdened the hearts more than to have Chris back on the pitch following a lengthy spell on the sidelines following a serious injury in a pre-season friendly – Chris does so much behind the scenes for this side and it was fantastic to have him back, fighting fit. Another player that deserves a special mention is Patrick Casey, who after a 35 year hiatus, took to the park, replacing Walkin and, following a quick reshuffle, bravely manned the left wing. Malahide’s attack, however, never let up, the hosts scoring two well-worked tries before the half time whistle, making the score 15-5.

Coach Owen Clery’s half-time team talk echoed the players’ own analysis – tackles had to be lower, rucks had to be resourced appropriately and we had to string phases together to be in with a fighting chance of turning the tide. The second half remained somewhat disjointed, with brace of tries by the hosts, but the introduction of Keith McCarthy and Clery in the backline steadied the ship.

Replacement scrum half McCarthy was quick to every ruck maintaining possession. Gary Masterson, having a fine game in the No. 8 shirt, made a barnstorming run dragging two defenders with him over the whitewash to narrow the score, McManus adding the extras. The closing periods of play saw more dogged defending by the visitors – a truly valiant effort, exemplified by both Padraig Fox and Sean Tracey, who having put their bodies on the line throughout the game both in attack and defence found themselves needing some attention – leading to some simmering tensions bubbling over a touch. The referee called time on the game shortly after, Malahide RFC winning by 30 points to 12. While a loss is always tough to take, we can come away from this game with a clarity on what we need to work on at training to be competitive in our upcoming fixtures, firstly a friendly against Carrick-on Suir on Saturday 16th March at home followed by a competitive fixture versus Clontarf in the Guilfoyle-James Cup. Many thanks to our hosts and looking forward to the return fixture at Templeville Road. See you at training!

James Casey