03.12.2011 1st XV v Clontarf (H)
St Mary’s College RFC V Clontarf FC
AIL Division 1A
Saturday 3rd December 2011.
Titans battle above the clouds, One inch to make the victor proud.
Think too of falling from the sky and how it makes the losers cry.
Superlatives often ruin reality and after last week’s doughty display it is hard to report adequately the unending determined courage, pride and concentration that led to a most important and possibly significant victory over a strong and well-organised Clontarf team. It must be said that both teams did club rugby proud and the return - game, on April 14th 2012, may well be a signal one. St Marys,after four fine wins in a row are now joint second with Clontarf, behind our next opponents, on 7th January, Young Munster. The scant or non-existent media coverage given to club rugby is a true shame and leaves the public often unaware of a stirring and inclusive entertainment that is readily available to them and does no justice to the highly trained and skilful teams involved.
Probably the organisation of the rucking of Marys and the slightly better ball handling, made the difference, as these were two well-matched teams; indeed early in the game, although against the very strong wind, Tarf kept the home team on the defensive and had some fine performers throughout the team
How proud Hugh Hogan can feel, not only ofhis own top class performance but also of leading his men to this memorable victory; and how well they all responded. Once again the forwards performed heroically, with a front row that took a while to assert itself but then was strong and skillful in the tight and loose with Jack Mc Grath off Leinster duty, showing he is no mere visitor but a dedicated Marys’ man, using his formidable bulk and ability to great effect, sometimes almost saxicavous and scoring a try, the other three members were not far behind him and how good it was to see Richard Sweeney back as he swept imperiously around the field doing all that he should and sprinting thirty metres for a fine try. Brother Robert was gargantuan in all respects and Colm Mc Mahon spared himself not a breath. Poor Logie, in the second row, had to leave the field injured early on so Steve Bradshaw, back from injury, came in and how well he did, he strove steadfastly and well in the lineout, the loose, and tight in, at the rucks.
Damian Hall is a massive man and today he used that mass to be critical on many occasions and never lost a moment’s concentration, playing a most important role in the final onslaught that led to victory. The back row again had a vital role to play; with, as mentioned, Hugh leading from the front, his almost uncanny positional anticipation in covering kicks and breaks is so valuable but maybe often not appreciated, it was evident again today. Ah’ what a mighty man is Ciaran Ruddock and what amighty game he had, as he pulverised ball carriers, took on ball at all angles and ever sacrificed himself for the cause. Every team in modern rugby needs an intuitive and sharp seven and Gareth Austen is one of those, Looking back over some of my missives, I noted his potential a couple of seasons back and he is now converting the potential into the kinetic, he won several balls, was ever in support and had a strong game.
Once more the halves were, as they are, pivotal, with Matt D’Arcy again commanding the game and showing his impressive pace both from the off and over distance, he made great efforts, along with his partner Phillip Brophy, in the second half, when against the wind, not to kick away possession yet vary attack and position. What can one say about Phillip, last week after a superb effort having taken a very heavy knock to the face, with the generous attention of Dr David Ryan, he made recovery enough to let him play today, then he puts in another super performance and scores the match-winning try. The two midfields were locked in intriguing battle all game, Mark Sexton, shackled his man and made many determined efforts to gain advantage, he supported well and looked comfortable, Stephen Grissing too, was busy all afternoon, tackling and looking to break free, which he did exceedingly well, leading to the first try. Today the wingers were, in the first half looking to make ground and both Darren Hudson and Conor Hogan looked dangerous and put in some fine runs, and were strong in defence when required in the second, as ever, Gavin Dunne, was there when required dealing with all necessities and when called on in the final moments to convert under severe pressure; he did us proud.
The rotatational system worked well today and adding their talents, additionally to Jack and Steve, Christopher Lilly (another returning from injury) and Marcus O’Driscoll, at wing, and wing and centre, did well. There are of course many others, of equal abilities,involved and who will be called on, both as backs and forwards, so it is important to stress again the squad effort it all involves.
The coaching and management teams can again take great credit, as can the reasonable number of supporters from both clubs, who helped make it an exciting and enjoyable afternoon.
As written above the early part of the game was dominated by Tarf, playing into a strong wind towards the Cabbage Patch End,They laid siege to our line a number of times, our defence was most impressive and well organised, in addition the Tarf hands let them down a few times. On 14 minutes we turned over a ball near our own line and Gareth made yards, the ball was swept out and when Stephen Grissing got the ball he beat his man neatly and stepped inside the cover, delightfully, he timed his pass perfectly to the following Richard Sweeney, who kept up impressive pace to score close in and Gavin did the rest, so it was 7 – 0. We started to get more possession then and on 14 minutes we put together a number of sequences before Jack picked and drove himself over the line wide at the gate corner, so it was 12 – 0. Fortunes swayed until the 33rd minute when we had a slight mix up in defence and their Ten, Ryan, picked the ball and gave it to the following Cogan, who scored a good try and it was 12 –7. On 38 minutes Phillip put a fine ball into Carvill Corner and when the ball was taken in from the lineout and driven on Tarf gave a penalty away and Gavin made it 15– 7. It was Half time
We wondered would it be enough with which to face a gale in the second half.
Marys played cleverly in the second half, as we held the ball in and when given out the midfield took it up or Phillip used runners inside or outside him and we worked our way up the field very successfully, they did get a break on 18 minutes with a penalty and on 24 minutes blue hearts sank as Richie Lane at 14 slipped in for a try to give Tarf the lead 15 – 17 and Lane got a fine penalty on 30 minutes to make it ominously 15 – 20. We found it hard to make headway then, until almost full time, when we got penalty which was moved on ten and then when in attack their impressive 5, James Chipman went to the bin for an indiscretion and we took a scrum, on his departure, we won the ball and there followed five minutes of relentless and continuous St Marys close in assaults on the Tarf line, they held out time after time and we varied our drives with twos and threes going left then right, then over, then left or right again. We had overlaps out wide but held patience as injury time went onand over, and still we held the ball and still we heaved, we drove we powered and pummelled, we never knocked on or erred, then suddenly Matt sent it to Phillip, he went to pass, but saw out wide blocked, he stepped in and stepped on the gas and drove himself towards the line with anxious hands clawing at him he slid in low and hard, beside the post and it was a try. It was 20 – 20 and only the kick to come. The gale scoured the ground and whistled angrily as Gavin steadied himself and he hit it, it left his boot and sailed through and it was over, in every way. 22- 20. Close!
Earlier, the Christmas lunch was held and Marie had the place sparkling and festive and she and Eileen and Aisling Fanning had worked long, during the week, to have a super surprise; for after the lunch Santa arrived, (and his helper Frank Doyle) to give out presents (all parcelled by the three) to all at the lunch. It added to the Christmas spirit, evident allover the club. One of our local TDs, Jnr Minister for PSR and OPW, Brian Hayes, originally a Clontarf man, delivered amost enjoyable and witty dissertation.
Unfortunately, having, unusually, to depart immediately after the final whistle, I am unable to report on the after match celebrations and the other attractions, distractions and entertainments over the evening. No doubt, it was a wondrous evening and night and morning. Well done to all.
As this is the last senior game report before Christmas, may I wish those who continue to read these reports, a very enjoyable Christmas and New Year period and I look forward to seeing the Young Munster game with you on January 7th down in Limerick.
Team (Rolling substitutions) 15 G Dunne, 14 C Hogan, 13 S Grissing, 12 M Sexton, 11 D Hudson, 10 P Brophy, 9 M D’Arcy, 8 H Hogan (Capt), 7 G Austen, 6 C Ruddock, 5 D Hall, 4 G Logan, 3 Robert Sweeney, 2 Richard Sweeney, 1 C Mc Mahon. D Kilbride, S Bradshaw, J McGrath, C Lilly, M O’Driscoll.