07.01.2012 1st XV v Young Munster (A)
Young Munster RFC V St Mary’s College RFC
Saturday 7th January 2012
Tom Clifford Park
AIL Division 1A
Electrifying, Exciting, Exhilarating and Emphatic; this win was a harmony of combined will, a sustained determined, brave and forceful torrent of talented direction. To come to Tom Clifford Park and leave with a bonus point victory may cause overstatement or hyperbole, but such is not possible, so good this was. The twenty Marys’ players who graced the grass of this fine ground, all deserve accolades above anything this old head can conjure, as indeed do Peter, Ciaran, James Terry, Dave et al for divining it. It is difficult to visualise the differences in pace, intent and execution to those displayed in the post Christmas game and those exhibited today against a strong committed Young Munster team. This was the finest example of AIL rugby; club rugby at its best, that can only be good for the club game and it exemplified, that the gap between club rugby and B and I cup level is non-existent. This shows why all the development and academy players could well be integrated into their club sides, to the betterment of the game right through.
As has been the noble tradition for many years, the admirable John Pyne had along, his well travelled St Marys’ flag, fluttering for the team’s entrance to the pitch and John was flanked by Kevin Conboy, and President, John Gilsenan, willing the players on. On the far side of the field the John.3:7 banner oft aligned to YM, was clearly seen. The faithful bus travellers, including the Fannings, the Grimsons, the Kennedys, Robin Bailey, Dr Dave Ryan, Peter Mc Laughlin, Barry O’Sullivan, Barry O’Donovan, Dennis Kelleher etc. were all along in vociferous support , as were many more who travelled by car and train.
In compliment to both teams, they stood toe to toe and battled tumultuously from 0 to 80 and not a foully intentioned action from either side was seen and YM never buckled or whinged; they fought to the end to their credit and proud tradition. But today was blue heaven day when the St Marys’ team showed its full range of skills and character. Without triumphalism, the St Marys’ support tripudiated with joy, frisson and abandon. A marvellous Marys’ day.
The pack was powerful and concentrated each member in full battle gear willing to lay himself down for his team and his skipper. The scrums were irresistible, with a front row of pulverising power, propelled forward by five bulldozers, each of the terrific trio happily adding exact lifting, throwing and carrying to their chores. The lineouts were a synchronised symphony of action, lifting, leaping, driving and blocking. The second row was admirable, the great warrior Logie and young bull Steve Bradshaw putting in particular performances, both as jumpers, blockers, tacklers and runners, and the back row was bordering on sensational; Ciaran Ruddock is a mighty man and carried, fetched and blocked all game. In the first twenty minutes with, YM running close in to the rucks, his work-rate was inspirational as he macerated runners and set out the schema for the entire game, to that was added a fine try where he showed determined skill and some pace, Gareth Austen, at Seven, made a real nuisance of himself all game and all over the pitch, all over the 80 minutes; and it is impossible to quantify or describe the work and leadership roles of skipper Hugh Hogan, even the meanest zoilus could not find fault with his game. The fact that St Marys are now top of the table is in no little way due to this great athlete and leader.
The team has seldom rucked with such purpose or counter-rucked with such passion or position. In defence the team was composed yet terrifying, as they consumed attacks, closed gaps and how they counteracted the YM maul was superlative, with low trajectory, immediate readjustment as required; and predatory power.
Behind the scrum this was an unprecedented performance, James Norton will have been uplifted to see the superb vectors they ran, the composure in defence and the pace of the attack, support play and off-load. The follow up was fast and concentrated making it uncomfortable for the YM defence. At the back Gavin had fine game all round, supporting play, fetching; and kicking the points, he also engineered an excellent try. The wings too, were all action looking for work, boring holes in defence, defending solidly and covering cleverly. In the midfield, I cannot recall a better more committed presentation from Stephen Grissing, and Mark Sexton, who made several telling breaks, supported players and rucks, showed admirably sharp hands, strangled efforts by opponents and made a lovely break leading to a try. Steven Grissing has returned to his best form too and besides taking a lovely try, he ran until dropping point in attack and defence also doing some important support rucking and robbing.
One should not leave the best wine until last; however, on this occasion it is how it is, for even how good everyone else was, the halfbacks stole the show. At Nine, Matt D’Arcy was perpetual motion, in true Duracell Bunny style, he tackled almost every opposing player on the park, he gave an intelligent service with perfect variation and was up for every breakdown and in support of almost every break; he had, as afters, two vital tries. When it comes to Phillip Brophy, a new lexicon is needed. He is probably the most iconic player in the club, combining skill, bravery (bordering on reckless self-destruction), fleetness of feet and mind and is a true sportsman, admired by all. Today, he did everything right and was the baton that conducted the orchestra , his distribution and decision making were perfect, his defence was frightening and unrelenting and his running game kept pressure on the opposition throughout. He was without doubt, even in a team of heroes, the man of the match. The five young men who came on at various times during the game slotted in effortlessly to the system and all played an important role in the momentous win.
It all started as expected, with both teams clattering into each other with virility at break-neck pace; yet there was distinct cohesion about the visitors’ game and soon the purpose and directional power was starting to show, the pressure causing penalties to be conceded; Gavin kicked one on four minutes. On nine minutes they drew level and on 15 they went ahead 6 – 3. But on 20 minutes we drew level with a penalty, while they had a man binned for killing the ball, the intensity and pace became Mach 1 as we went through fast phases. Robert Sweeney ploughed through several defenders, the ball was recycled to Phillip Brophy who whistled through a gap, beat another, straightened and gave it to the ever-present Matt D’Arcy who skipped in for a lovely try, Gavin converted to make the score 6 – 13. Marys continued to attack for the remainder of the half , with several fine strikes and fast ruck and run series, the score remained the same and so it was 6 – 13 at half time.
The second half showed that Marys had deadly intent and went straight into attack, however, Munsters counterattacked and had a maul repelled and Marys moved down the pitch putting on pressure with fast ball, and so, won a penalty, this was driven towards the corner and from the lineout, the pressure rose further as we drove on, then paused and drove again, then the pressure impelled by the forwards made a chink and that was all Matt needed, he went through from ten metres, with hands grasping at him he hurtled forward , slid low and in; the conversion was missed so it was now 6 – 18 and looking a little more secure for the visitors. Four minutes later Marys turned over a ball in their half and set up a counter attack from Darren Hudson, who with great determination beat several defenders, Logie took it on scattering a few challengers, the ball was recycled quickly, Mark Sexton feinted and went through a gap and gave a good ball to Gavin who made a significant progress, timed his pass well to Stephen Grissing who did the rest, flicking through a gap and accelerating hard for the line, this made it 6 – 23 and it was starting to look really good; could we dare to hope for the fourth?
Fortunes swayed for another 16 minutes before Conor Hogan picked up a kick ahead and showed his sense of adventure, as he slanted off from his own half , half-slowed, put on the turbo and went outside three men, cut back in and goal-wards; as the posse closed he found big Ciaran Ruddock in support just inside the Munsters’ 22 and he stretched his legs and went for the line with the chasers flailing futilely, then with couple hanging on he drove himself over and it was 6 – 30 after the conversion. Gavin then got two more penalties on 25 and 27 minutes to make it 6 – 36 and then after a deal of pressure, YM got a try in the corner on 36 minutes and so it ended 11 – 36. A good afternoon.
We are now coming to the last game of the first half of the league, as we play Cork Constitution next Saturday at Templeville Road and there is no need to remind you how important this will be. We have not had the best of luck against Con and we will need to be at the same best form of today and will also need a strong support, so you know what to do, come along and add your voice; and then after the game you will enjoy the warmth and friendliness of the club as you have cup of coffee or a drink and relive the game; it could be a great one, so get there.
Team (Rolling substitutions) 15 G Dunne, 14, D Hudson, 13 S Grissing, 12 M Sexton, 11 C Lilly, 10 P Brophy, 9 M D’Arcy, 8 H Hogan (Capt), 7 G Austen, 6 C Ruddock,5 S Bradshaw, 4 G Logan, 3 Robert Sweeney, 2 Richard Sweeney, 1 J Mc Grath. D Kilbride, C Mc Mahon, D Keller, C Hogan, S Toal-Lennon.