01.11.2013 1st XV v Clontarf (A)
Clontarf FC V St Mary’s College RFC
AIL Division 1A
Friday 1st November 2013
I suppose we do forget now and then that club rugby is a truly embracing joy, cementing close feelings and bringing personal warmth and friendships for life. No two clubs’ interaction embraces that more than Clontarf and St Marys. Although the warmth part might have been forgotten tonight, as 1st November presented the first winter’s night of cold winds and cool temperatures. Our president Steven Hennessy was welcomed and deservedly lauded for his outstanding contribution to Irish rugby and to St Marys, by Clontarf president, Derry Kealy, an old friend of St Marys. Derry and our great, late John O’Donoghue were great pals.
We were then treated to a most enjoyable meal and camaraderie before all faced the cold night and icy lights and the kick off.
Clearly, the Marys lads will not be overjoyed with the result, but both teams can be proud of a sharp engaging encounter that never lost its edge. At times it looked as though Marys might accelerate to ascendancy, while again it appeared as though it would be a Clontarfian culmination. The latter was the outcome and Clontarf were the deserved winners.
It was encouraging to note that Marys were in control in the set pieces, particularly the scrum and their overall quality and composure has improved greatly. The maul too was a credit to the pack and the forwards will be generally happy with their contribution. Tarf’s counterattack was commendable, as they ran back with power and direction and their tactical kicking was of high quality, as their half backs looked composed and cerebral. Both teams’ pick and drive was impressive. The St Marys’ off line defence and the chase defence were rapid and decisive. The ball protection was also good.
In the Marys’ pack, the front row was not only dominant in the scrum but all contributed significantly in the loose, with Brian Mc Govern particularly prominent. The second row men are each week growing in interactive understanding and efficacy, while the backrow worked hard, with Barry O’Flanagan in particularly fine form. He was found effodient at most rucks, wining ball, and his positional back up play was top class. He was my man of the match for his overall consistent contribution.
Behind the scrum, Matt D’Arcy kept the pace on the game and was a welcome returnee. It was unfortunate that his partner at Ten, Gavin Dunne, had to withdraw injured during the game. There were several enforced changes before kickoff for both teams. The addition of Darren Hudson at 15, released from Leinster, was a boost and the confirmation of return to form of Stevie (Wonder) Toal-Lennon was a real bonus, as he scored a wonder try.
The game started as it continued throughout, at high pace and intensity and was a credit to the fitness and concentration of amateur players. After only three minutes a penalty from a scrum gave the Tarf Ten, David Joyce, a chance to put three points on the board, and he did.
After 18 minutes, with a penalty, again from a scrum, Gavin Dunne took his opportunity to level the score at 3 – 3. On 2 8 after a fine take by Barry O’Flanagan in the lineout, just inside the Tarf half a superb Marys’ maul formed. Three wide running phases followed that ended close to the Tarf line with their illegal interference and a penalty. Gavin converted and we went ahead, 3- 6.
It was 36 minutes when it was Tarf’s turn. They had an excellent attacking move, which when stopped illegally by the Marys’ defence resulted in a penalty, duly converted by Joyce. The half ended 6 – 6.
The second half continued on the same competitive plane and after only five minutes a series of attacks by Tarf was rewarded with a good try converted by Joyce. Then things began to look bleak for Marys, as soon after this, the Tarf 6, Simon Crawford broke well from the scrum and combined with scrumhalf Cronin who dummied and grubbered, the kick was retrieved by right wing McGrath and a very fine try resulted. Also resulted a score of 19 – 6 and a worry for us.
A riposte of beauty and brilliance was forthcoming, on 18 minutes, in the guise of Stevie Wonder. A counter attack from inside the Marys’ half saw the ball reach Stevie just inside the Tarf half. He did a pirouette and step, hit the peddle with spin, then skimmed through two, accelerated and left defenders in the mud. He cut inside went Mk 11 for the posts; what a score! With the conversion it was 19 – 13, and all to go for.
Unfortunately from our point of view, try as we did, two more penalties, from Tarf on 30 and 43 minutes, ended hopes and it finished 25 - 13.
I have to say, I would be optimistic, rather than pessimistic after this game and feel if we continue to make progress we shall be in contention to the end. There are many new combinations and changes and they are all starting to integrate smoothly. However, we have little time to reflect, as on Friday evening we face Lansdowne the holders, at Templeville Road.
For many of us, Saturday afternoons are synonymous with club rugby and most feel comfortable in that regard, but modern pressures necessitate fitting in games whenever possible. Therefore we will enjoy them whenever they happen. And a big one happens next Friday. The players have made it clear that support means a great deal to them, they really do need and appreciate you. I hope all of you will respond and turn up. Speaking of responding, my repeated appeal last week for spotters resulted in three positive responses. All three were from past presidents who have already done an enormous amount for the club. Surely, some others can spare the time to watch a few entertaining junior games.
Finally, I should note that the J1s did exact partial revenge with a fine 21 – 10 win over their Clontarf counterparts on Saturday at Templeville Road. The team, under excellent Coach Jonathan Garth and dedicated team manager Gareth Roche continues its successful league campaign.
The Team (Rolling substitutions)
15 D Hudson 14 C Lilly, 13 R Hudson, 12 M Sexton (Capt), 11 R O’Loughlin, 10 G Dunne, M D’Arcy, 8 K Sheahan, 7 B O’Flanagan, 6 G Austen, 5 C Ruddock, 4 D Frawley, 3 B Mc Govern, 2 D Fawsitt, 1 C Mc Mahon, A Lyons, R O’Donovan, S Toal- Lennon,. C Hogan M Donnellan.