1st XV V Ballymena – AIL by D. O’Brien 23/03/2019
St Mary’s College RFC V Ballymena RFC
UB.AIL Division 1B
Saturday 23rd March 2019.
A big game, a big win with a small attendance, brought joy to the home side and disappointment for the visitors. Sadly, Ballymena were doomed to drop to division 2A due to the result. Ballymena is an old, proud and esteemed club and hopefully it will not be long before they are heading upwards again. However, today belonged to the hosts with a most remarkable performance yielding 11 tries for Marys, seven converted by Ruairi Shields and a Paddy O’Driscoll penalty. The visitors who never wilted nor became petulant, played for the entire 80 minutes with spirit and did score two tries, a conversion and a penalty.
Besides the score line, the highest in memory, another remarkable feature was the appearance of second row Gareth (Logie) Logan, who played the full 80 minutes. He was the spine of the team and contributed strongly all through, especially in the tight and in set moves. What makes this so notable is Logie is in his 40th year. He is much more than a legend for he is actual, he is real and is a credit to himself and a fine role model. For him, and for all St Marys people, it was a letabund occasion.
The Marys’ performance itself was full of exciting, exhilarating, elevating and effervescent rugby, with a backline of talented young players, all drawn together by a superb captain, Marcus (Modser) O’Driscoll, who was at his best today. He does so much to keep his team, and especially his backline, humming in attack and solid in defence. Today, that backline was at times breath taking. The foundation for that sparkling performance was laid by the pack. As a unit it was harmonious. The scrum was again at its most effective, gleaning several penalties and so dominant as to keep us in forward motion. Each the three platforms within the pack surpassed its previous best. The days of a solely scrummaging, lifting, throwing, blocking, by 1’s, 2’s, and 3’s are well gone and that is perfectly exemplified today, by our 1, 2 and 3. Logie’s partner Liam Curran showed his footballing ability as well as his athletic ability and contributed nobly. Having mentioned forward motion. It is forward motion and space that transforms defence into attack. Our back row today was quite outstanding, playing together with perfect understanding. They produced that space and forward movement. It is really a joy to behold them in action, David Aspil was magnificent today. All season, he has been unselfishly and intelligently carrying and tackling to great effect, today he continued that work rate and added an exciting open field aspect, rampaging through defences at pace like a runaway stallion. Ronan Watters; quality of the highest order, he has the ability to turn a game, seeming always to appear just when needed, he has the instinct of a seven to infuriate opposition with his abilities at the breakdown. Near his own or opposition lines he is invaluable; like his partner David he has a great rugby future. The Warrior, Nick Mc Carthy, he just epitomises bravery and nous. His receipt of kick-off balls today was magnetic and on occasion uncanny. He just never gives up and adds that clever anticipation in attack and defence that can be definitive in a game. If there is a better back row in AIL, I have not seen it. They made that go-forward that gave time and space to our backline to spring into action in a symphony of magnificence.
Behind it all today was of course number 15, our young fullback, starting his first AIL game in that position. Mark Fogarty is son of one of our most popular members, Patsy, and once a fair player himself. In a team of scintillating performances, not only did young Mark equate perfectly, he just shaded it, in an arena of stars, to receive the SoftCo MoM award. From the start, before patterns or indications became clear, Mark, showing total confidence and command of his domain set about his task. He counterattacked with prestidigitation and courage, leaving defenders sprawled. His spatial awareness, in linking and supporting, was most impressive and his defence flawless. He had a top class game.
Although this has to be commended in the highest manner and all our players deserve unstinted applause, it has to be said, that today Ballymena were not at their best. Although they never flagged nor shirked, they left a lot space, especially mid field and out wide. They worked behind the gain line giving the opportunity for movement and momentum. The Marys execution however, was of the highest order and came from dedicated practice by Modser’s players and intense tutelage from the coaches, particularly recently. We must all remember the near despair after our visit to the City of Armagh, two weeks ago. So well done to all.
As the quality of all the scores were exceptional, only the sequence will be given. We played up towards the Cabbage Patch in the first half, against a light wind on a lovely mild spring day. After six minutes, Paddy O’Driscoll converted a penalty. Just two minutes later, the inimitable Modser made a fine break and marvellous Myles Carey scored the first try. It was converted by Ruairi, who standing in for Deano (withheld by Connacht) did very well. It was then 10-0. With 15 minutes passed a penalty for crossing, saw Ballymena change the score to 10-3. It was 21 minutes when Hugo Conway scored one of his high quality tries in the well corner, 15-3. On 30 minutes a maul led to David Aspil breaking from the side, brushing away a couple of tacklers and scoring in the cabbage patch corner. 20-3. Only three minutes later, 33 minutes, Cormac Foley, who had come on for injured Paddy O’Driscoll, after a stunning move, scored his first try of a super hat trick. That was the bonus point try and made the score 27-3. On 37 minutes Ballymena scored a good try, 27-8 and that was how the half ended.
The second half was only three minutes oldwhen another high paced and quality move down the left wing, Craig Kennedy scored his first try of the game in the Gate Corner. Lovely conversion by Ruairi, 34-8. It was not long before a rattler of a move involving half the team gave Myles his second try and the score went to 39-8. When 58 minutes arrived so did one of the moves of the game, with all the backs involved and the mercurial Cormac scoring his second try; 46-8. On 62 minutes, Micko Mc Cormack made a cutting run down the middle, switched to indefatigable David Aspil who romped in under the posts to record 53-8.
Ballymena still striving away, made a breakaway from mid field and scored under the posts, 53-15. It was 70 minutes when Cormac, from a ruck near the visitors’ line, fed Craig coming in at pace on a superb vector, skated over for his second and brought the score, after a fine conversion from Ruairi, to 60-15. Not finished yet, on 76 minutes super Skipper mesmerised the defence to score a lovely individual and well deserved try, bring the score to 67-15. And the soufflé was Cormac’s hat trick try on 78 minutes.
That was the final score, 74-15.
In case you do not know, in our next encounter we face Malone, who are third on the table with 43 points. We are 6th with 40 points, with 8 wins and 8 losses. As is the nature of this league, if we lose we are in grave danger of being in the relegation play offs. If we win we could leap frog them and secure our status at least. Once again, we have shown that when we have a reasonably full team, there is no AIL team we cannot beat. Much of this comes down to belief. Well, if ever there was reason for confidence now is the time. On our visit to Belfast, We were beaten by Malone, after a good start on a wet afternoon [28-10 and missed out on a bonus point]. They have a good team, and we need be at our best. We should be. We have two weeks to prepare before we face them at home on April 6th. Unfortunately, one of our outstanding players, all season, Myles Carey may not be available due to an operation he was due to have early season but postponed for the sake of his team. That is what we associate with St Marys, loyalty and dedication.
The attendance today was disappointing, and the squad will tell you how much difference support makes. Those of you who missed Saturday’s game missed one of the most entertaining and exhilarating games of rugby ever served up at Templeville Road. The lads intend giving you the same again so please do not miss it. Remember it is also Ladies’ day and is our last home game. We must come and wish our president, Jack Ebbs, Skipper Modser and his team well; and enjoy a super game of rugby.
March with Modser
Team (Rolling Replacements X12)
15 M Fogarty, 14 H Conway, 13 Myles Carey, 12 M O’Driscoll (Capt), 11 C Kennedy, 10 R Shield, 9 P O’Driscoll, 8 N McCarthy, 7 R Watters, 6 D Aspil, 5 L Curran, 4 G Logan, 3 M McCormack, 2 R Halpin, 1 T O’Reilly, S O’Brien, P Dundon, D Lyons, D Moroney, C Foley.