05.11.2011 1st XV v Blackrock (A)
Blackrock College RFC V St Mary's College RFC
AIL Division 1A
Saturday 5th November 2011.
Fortunes twist and veer and swerve,
to favour those who hold their nerve.
This was a sweet trip to Stradbrook, a Stradbrook doused in sun and sporting a pitch in perfect condition. How different than last season when we played there in November with a covering of snow on the Stradbrook pitch. Although there is a keen rivalry between the clubs, there is a genuinely close and warm fraternal friendship too and it was good to meet many old friends again.
We had a repeat of last year, as Marys powered to a half time lead, showing significant forward dominance, only in the second half, to play with a little segnity, lose some concentration, give penalties and allow Rock creep up to within one point. However, a lot of credit goes to Hugh Hogan's side, which finally held its nerve and defended with calm resolve. Hugh, once again showed leadership and skill throughout the match and had an outstanding game in all respects, he took high balls with élan, he ran back elusively and strongly and his defence was unfaltering. When there was a fraught period nearing the end of the game he truly stood tall taking a vital ball against the throw and brought off a crucial tackle to stifle a dangerous attack. He was a deserving man of the match. Indeed his entire pack deserves credit and applause for a strong, committed performance, where none worked harder than David Kilbride and special mention has to be made of Gareth Austen, at Seven, whose starting debut for the senior AIL side was auspicious. He has the pace, battery and instinct of a seven and will have been pleased with his game. Speaking of batteries, Matt (Duracell) D'Arcy was in great form today, with astute accurate kicking and potent probes, one of which gave him a notable try. Others deserving of special mentionwere Gavin Dunne for his composed performance and Phillip Brophy and Ciaran Ruddock for tireless tenacity. The props, Colm Mc Mahon, Robert Sweeney and Jack Mc Grath were peerless and had the Rock scrum reeling; good to see Jack in the blue of Marys. The rolling substitutions system worked well today and those coming in made worthwhile contributions. Rock, who had to be content with second best in the pack, in spite of having some well-known names, looked sharp in the back division, particularly in midfield and fullback where Macken and Carr were especially quick and strong in attack.
From the start, it was clear that our pack was hungry and coordinated and so put pressure on Rock who seemed to take time to settle. We played the game in their half and were rewarded with a Gavin Dunne penalty after 13 minutes and he added a second on 25 minutes. Rock did settle then and got a good try on 36 minutes to bring the score to 5 – 6, but Gavin put over another on 37 minutes, and a last one for the half on 40 minutes so the half ended 5 – 12 and we were really looking powerful at scrum and in the loose and their front row was finding the going tough.
The second half saw Rock increasing their work rate and wide running, but we kept a strong grip on the game. On 8 minutes we got a penalty for a high tackle, put it to touch and following the lineout Robert Sweeney had a powerful stampeding run that brought us just inside the Rock 22, a fast ruck ball and Matt saw a chink, he went through, swerved round defenders, straightened and glided in under the posts for a lovely and well deserved try. Gavin added the two and we were in a strong position, 5 – 19. Our game management suffered a little and on 10 and 12 minutes they struck two really good long range penalties and with confidence rising they put together a fine series of phases, on 34 minutes, which ended with their getting a well worked try out wide, which they converted and at 18 – 19, we were starting to feel the heat. Rock did get an opportunity with another long-range effort, but it failed. Our men mustered in defence and worked close and wide, holding firm in a calm but determined manner and we came away with a deserved win. Well done.
Of course, next week (Saturday 2.30 PM) we have the LSLC semi final, which brings different challenges but is, none the less, a most important and prestigious competition that we want very much to win, a little ironic it is that we have to travel again to Stradbrook, while Clontarf and Belvo battle it out at Tarf. It should be interesting and if we are to win and face the final on 17th December, then we, the supporters, have to do our part and go along and support the team. At least you will know the way by now. Our next AIL game, V AIL Champions, Old Belvedere on 25th is our only one at Templeville Road under lights, sounds great, so you have lots to look forward to and Santa is not even due for six weeks.
Team (Rolling substitutions) 15 G Dunne, 14 C Hogan, 13 S Grissing, 12 M Sexton, 11 R Doherty, 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 D Kilbride, 1 C Mc Mahon. Replacements, J Mc Grath, C Lilly, D Keller, R Crotty.