St Marys J4 v Wanderers:
Saturday February 6th saw the St Marys J4s travel to Merrion Road in search of their first win in 2016. With Dave Millard at the helm, the J4s were looking to keep the playoff hopes alive and nothing short of a win would be acceptable. The wet and windy conditions before kick-off suggested the game could go much the same way as the first encounter between the two sides, a tightly contested 15-10 victory for Wanderers at Marys. Thankfully the rain died down, the wind subsided and we were underway.
Marys looked to apply pressure from the off and it didn’t take long to yield results. Great kicking from the boot of fly half Dave Daly followed by powerful running in the forwards set up flanker Damien Mere to cross the line with barely five minutes on the clock. A successful conversion had Marys leading 7-0. As the J4s looked to keep Wanderers on the back foot, Captain Millard felt the full force of a Wanderers’ back foot to the face and was substituted to try and stop the bleeding. Lock Shane Fanning took over the captaincy and Chris Kane replaced Millard in the centre.
The Marys pack would prove to be an overwhelming task for Wanderers throughout the afternoon as they bullied them at the breakdown and creating multiple turnovers from the choke tackle, particularly at the hands of loosehead prop Taylor Berliant. It wouldn’t take long for the pack to show their dominance once more with a maul from the Wanderers’ 22 finishing with a try, grounded by scrum half Ryan Barnes. Another successful conversion had Marys up 14-0.
It was now the turn of the backline to shine as the game began to open up more for Marys. Strong running through centres Richard Pyne and Chris Kane opened up the field and freed up running room on the outside for winger Peter Daly and full back James Walsh. Exploiting this, Marys jumped to a 21-0 lead with winger Dan Hurley finishing off a great move from the backs. A penalty late in the first half gave Wanderers some points on the board headed into the break with a half time scoreline of 21-3 to Marys.
The second half saw the return of Millard to the game with what appeared to be feminine hygiene products plugging his bleeding nose. Wanderers showed tremendous fight at the beginning of the second half, refusing to believe the match was out of reach as they began to press the Marys’ pack and within 10 minutes of the restart they had a two penalties and a try to their name, the score now 21-14 with 20 minutes left on the clock.
Berliant returned to the game along with number eight Gar Lloyd, who had been substituted at half time for Gary Masterson and Carl Egan respectively, in an attempt to recapture a foothold in the game. The restart saw Wanderers continue to press home their new found confidence as they were awarded a penalty right in front of the post but everyone’s attention was further back up the pitch. Taylor Berlaint, who had delivered a man of the match worthy performance, was down with a neck injury and was carted off to Vincent’s hospital. Nailing the penalty left the score at 21-17 with 13 minutes left on the clock.
United by the loss of Berliant, Marys rediscovered the form that made them so unstoppable in the first half with continued power running by the likes of Damien Mere and leaping effort from the reintroduced Gary Masterson gave Marys secure ball and frustrated the home side. Not to be outdone by Masterson’s flying effort, Marys eight Gar Lloyd decided to treat the spectators to a spot of juggling as he fumbled the ball backwards not once, not twice but five times, all the way from the Wanderers’ 22 to his own halfway line. After finally securing possession, Marys played out the final few minutes to bring home the hard fought win and keep the pressure on the rest of the division.Next up for the J4s is a trip to face Old Belvedere February 24th, a game that will make or break the playoff dreams of the St. Marys J4s.
By Chris Kane