05.12.2009 1st XV v Blackrock (H)
St Mary’s College RFC V Blackrock College RFC
Saturday 5th December 2009
AIL Division 1 A
Sometimes it is difficult to translate a game to thought and print and this is especially so if the game is, as today’s was, an illustration of the emergence to full ability and maturity of a team. The Mary’s team today played with collective exuberance and adventure tempered by patience and determination. Rock had a short spell of dominance in the second half, but overall were somewhat behind the home side; although, given that they were missing some important players they remained competitive, especially their forwards, for most of the game, although our defence was not seriously tested. But today was a good Mary’s day in many ways and ever popular president Niall Rynne was justifiably proud of his team and the day. Coaches Ciaran Potts and Shaun Mc Carthy can feel happy and deserve great credit; for their preparation and analysis proved prescient. They would acknowledge that the background work of Peter Smyth was likewise important. Now St Mary’s are four points clear at the top of AIL Division 1 A. Of courses we must be cautious for many potential threats are no doubt latitant.
Today the rucking was fearless, fast and effective, the set pieces were unyielding and the ball retention, lines of running, offloading and support play top class; the kicking too was good especially in the second half when faced by a fickle wind. But most of all today was about harmonic player interrelationships, exemplified by forward-back cohesive understanding, working ever with combined conation. The entire game was played at high pace and skill and was an outstanding exposition of club rugby. It was also a sporting game between two old friends and rivals who carry immense respect for each other.
The team today played really well, each one who made up that, including the replacements, was splendid. The front row was strong, Robert Sweeney, who had a terrific game, was ursine in strength and character and continually put real pressure on defenders, Gavin Hickie showed a return to the energetic form of old and his deliveries were accurate, Colm Mc Mahon too had a bruising game and will be happy. The powerhouse 2nd row was just that, a powerhouse, with Gareth Logan a bulwark against their advance and taking any ball aimed at him, Robin Copeland, the complete and consummate athlete with two more tries, speaks for itself. Again the backrow was core to the success, with the captain leading as ever, Paul Nash was back to his best, he never took a backward step nor stopped working and Damian Hall exploded into action today with skill and grit. His lineout work was faultless and he took on ball with thunderous intent, his support play was good and he tackled with terrible tenacity he had a marvellous game and deserved his man of the match award. Cormac Quinn was like an extra backrow, covering everywhere, showing skill and courage under multitudinous high balls and he varied his game cleverly and combined well with Shaun who was at the top of his game, playing with panache, taking ball flat and fast with excellent vision and decision making, his distribution frequently opened their defence; rugby’s Andre Previn. Rob Hudson put pressure on their defence especially early on when he took on ball straight up and gave honesty to the attack and Stephen Grissing supplied much artistry and attacking precision and acceleration and the wings outside looked dangerous anytime they attacked, Ronan Doherty was sharp and Darragh Fanning must be, by some distance, the best winger in AIL rugby, he has developed so many invaluable ancillary aspects to his wing play. Recently Gavin Dunne has developed a secure composure to his game which was in much evidence again today; he did the chores with alacrity and added many attacking probes in various guises.
All of those who entered the battle played with the same spirit and ability of those they had replaced which shows the value of a squad system. One such person back from injury was Phillip Brophy, who illuminated the dull December day with his introduction; his touch was sure and unhurried and yet he seemed to raise the tempo of the game and his tackling was torpedo like, how good it was to see him back.
As I mentioned above, the game was played with adventure and that was clear from the kick off, Gavin Hickie taking on the ball, then for the rest of the half we attacked with pace and style and put severe pressure on Rock, who defended well. On six minutes Shaun gave a delightful pass to Stephen Grissing who stepped his man and cleaved through at high velocity to be stopped just short. Our fast low rucking was causing them big problems and they conceded two penalties in quick succession the second one being converted by Gavin to open our scoring. Several good attacks followed and on 35 minutes when Darragh attacked hard from defence and Gavin took it on then let it go to Shaun, who made good ground, again we were just thwarted, so a half of high action ended 3 – 0.
The second half saw a transformation in Rock and they began to compete more positively and due to their over exuberance, coming in on the side of a ruck, gave Gavin the chance which he took, to put us 6 – 0 ahead, although they caught us off side on 13 minutes and their 10, James Power, landed the penalty; five minutes later, when Rock were really putting pressure on us, he got a chance to make it level but missed. This seemed to have a profound effect on both teams in diametrically opposed ways, we stepped up the game again and took almost total control while they seemed to lose confidence and appeared content to defend. Defend they had to, Shaun and Gavin kept them pinned in with astute kicking and on 26 minutes a series of fast rucks saw the ball come to Darragh who made ground and recycled the ball Shaun dawdled with the ball for the exact moment and he released Phillip Brophy who needed no invitation and using fast feet he twinkled through almost to the line, Gavin was up in support and soon the pack got working and Damian Hall dived over with a little bit of help from his friends and Gavin converted so it was 13 – 3. With 30 minutes on the clock a high kick ahead to the top Club house side corner, was followed up with ultra celerity by Philip who rocketed into the defender and put him on to his back and then he was dragged into touch. They tapped back from the lineout and who but Robin was there to pounce and so it was now 18 – 3
With a man in the sin bin they were finding defence difficult and on 39 minutes a lovely move involving Phillip Brophy, Shaun Mc Carthy and Robin Copeland saw the latter do a double shuffle and skip a tackler before running in a fine try close to the posts and Gavin made it 25 – 3 and it was all over
On a special day for us, when we had many of our heroes back visiting, including Victor Costello, who spoke at the lunch, Denis Hickie Jr and Brent Pope and when the president Niall Rynne welcomed the Doddy family, we consolidated our position as leaders of AIL Division 1 A and played splendidly to achieve it. It was good that Scott Walker and Gordon Black, Domestic Games IRFU, were there today to see a fine example of top class club rugby and enjoy the sociability; the Heineken cup also paid us a visit. The seasonal atmosphere could be felt as the Rock and Marys members renewed acquaintances happily and great Rock men like Niall Brophy, Noel Turley, Doney Grehan and Ben Underwood happily chatted with our John Hussey Jr V President IRFU and of course our own president and his alickadoos. There was an ecstatic atmosphere in the dressing room and indeed all through the club, all night. The squad and management raspingly bellowed out the anthem (poor Fr Wasser would turn in his grave) with delight and the supporters, then having expunged the ringing in their ears with the help of on duty Dr Dave Ryan, headed for the post mortems and the sociability. The bars and halls were crammed full of cosy cheer the evening swayed onward and later as the crowd thinned out Rynner conducted a real sing song with the help of many including Spike of course and Peter Dennehy was found to be extra anxious to demonstrate his vocal chords; meanwhile team manager Terry Tierney happily basked in the warmth of the win and even with the pool table closed Quinner managed to sink a few blacks and John Murphy was back giving darts tutorials to some of the younger members who do not remember the old inter rugby clubs darts leagues, some of us, including JB, have seven in a row trophies. Memories are made of days like these.
Team: - 15 G Dunne, 14 R Doherty, 13 S Grissing, 12 R Hudson (P Brophy), 11 D Fanning, 10 S Mc Carthy, 9 C Quinn, 8 H Hogan (Capt), 7 P Nash, 6 D Hall, 5 R Copeland, 4 G Logan (S Bradshaw), 3 C Mc Mahon (K Carroll), G Hickie (D Kilbride), 1 R Sweeney.