01.03.2014 1st XV v Ballynahinch (A)
Ballynahinch RFC V St Mary’s College RFC
AIL Division 1A
Saturday 1st March 2014.
The advance party that travelled a day early and comprised mainly Marys’ past presidents had a surprise when they visited Ballynahinch RFC. Most had been on away trips over many decades and are hardened old alickadoos, not easily impressed, but the natural generosity and friendship received was startling. The golfers in the group spent the day on prestigious Royal County Down Golf Course, courtesy of Ballynahinch Rugby Club and then the affable president and chairman, with several other Ballynahinch RFC members, spent the evening with us.
We had another treat that evening, for Brian (Spike) Fanning, who had organised the trip, invited his friend, the truly legendary Jackie Kyle, to dine with us at a delightful restaurant in impressive Newcastle. It was a sparkling evening. To add to our enjoyment we were later treated in the local hostelry. The entire St Marys travelling party was invited to the pre match lunch and were treated to free refreshments all day. Rugby clubs have a deserved reputation for generosity and camaraderie with other clubs, but I can say that the warmth and breadth of the spontaneous generosity of all at Ballynahinch was unprecedented. None of us will forget.
This was a game of particular importance for both teams and maybe it caused a certain tentativeness, particularly in the first half, when there were a number of errors and lost opportunities. We had a strong wind with us but, not unlike Ballynahinch in the second half, we chose to ignore it, generally. That said, Matt D’Arcy scored a neat try, from a fine Cathal Marsh break, and we showed willingness to run the ball wide and test the defence. The second half saw us develop the game well and use the power differential to good effect with a well worked mauled try. Ciaran Ruddock, who had a strong game, got the touchdown. Ballynahinch have a well disciplined and lively team, they may be a little on the light side in the pack, but are adventurous and skilled. Their defence is excellent and they used it to deny us on several occasions. Near the end they put on a lot of pressure, however, St Marys’ defence was clamp like.
Although close, it was a deserved victory for Marys and leaves us well placed, having now leap-frogged Dolphin. There were a number of strong performances. Cathal Marsh, who was well served by alert Matt D’Arcy, looking exciting and making a several breaks. Many of these were threatening; however, he sometimes lacked ultimate support. Outside him there was a potent group, including Ian (Nelly) O’Neill, who had a fine game, but there was little space, due to a well organised Hinch defence. The forwards looked formidable and carried well. They rucked solidly and defended admirably. Scrums were fairly even, although early on Hinch had the edge. Once again, the Skipper Kevin (Shiner) Sheahan, led with determination and intent and he was involved in all that was good. He is a clever player, has a firm defence and is usually found where the action is, then is well able to deal decisively with matters. He was impressive and effective and was once more my man of the match.
In our next game, on 15th March, we have Clontarf FC coming to visit us and we can look forward to facing the leaders with some confidence.
After a minute we had a missed penalty attempt, but when 12 minutes appeared so did Cathal Marsh with ball in hand as he sashayed through the Hinch defence. An alert Darce was in support to take it on and score close in. Gavin Dunne converted well. Only three minutes later Hinch got a penalty and it was 3 – 7. However on 23 minutes the Hinch right winger Mc Burney picked up a through kick and scampered over for a try. This was converted and Hinch led 10 – 7. They held that lead until half time, managing to repel a concerted Marys attack.
The second half hinted of a Hinch progression especially as they had a firm wind behind them. However, they seldom kicked for position and chose instead to run from all areas, or use high searchers. Marys realising their own power, took a lineout in the corner on five minutes and mauled it expertly, leading to Ciaran Ruddock’s try, converted by Gavin. The score was then 10 – 14. We added a penalty on ten minutes and so it remained at 10 – 17 for the remainder of the game. Hinch made valiant efforts and indeed Marys too came close but there were no more scores. I know all the Marys’ supporters were happy with the win and also pleased that Ballynahinch got their losing bonus point.
The Team (Rolling substitutions)
15 G Dunne 14 I O’Neill, 13 M O’Driscoll, 12 Rob Hudson, 11 C Hogan, 10 C Marsh, M D’Arcy 8 K Sheahan (Capt), 7 B O’Flanagan, 6 G Austen, 5 C Ruddock, D Frawley, 3 B Mc Govern, 2 D Fawsitt, 1 A Lyons, T O’Reilly, R Glynn, M Fallon.