St Mary’s College RFC 41 V Malone RFC 34
Energia AIL Division 1B
Saturday 8th October 2022.
On the loveliest of autumnal days, with the Templeville Road resplendent in its pitch finery, honed by Pokie’s earnest efforts, and clubhouse splendour, enhanced by Marie’s tasteful touches, we hosted our first home match of the AIL campaign. The joyful mood engendered by the bright uplifting scene was subdued by the thoughts of the dreadful tragedy of last night, in Donegal. President Gareth Roche, thoughtfully and fittingly, approved a respectful minute’s silence before the game commenced.
Our visitors today, were our friends of old from Malone RFC, led by Gerry Gibbons their president and his committee. They were warmly welcomed by Gareth and his group. Gareth reminisced that they had a special place in our history, and so in our affections, being the first Ulster team that we played regularly, going back to the 1950s. These friendships and social contacts are very important in club rugby and make it such and enjoyable milieu.
This was an entertaining game, full of adventure and joy, with a fair competition. Both sides had yellow cards. It appeared, at 41-13 and over an hour gone, that the home side were clear. It may have so appeared but in fact it became a very close finish in the end. Although the scoreboard tells a story of an open exciting game, it also tells of two teams who can score freely but are less attentive to defence. In fact if you look at the differential (+73, - 62) for Marys over the two AIL games it shows the need to keep concentration and uniformity throughout a game.
All that said, it was an excellent result for St Marys, gaining five points, and showed the progress in the squad. It should be recalled that player/backs coach, influential Conor Dean, Mighty Mick McCormack and Nimble Niall McEniff are still out. There were many good performances. The scrum again, was ascendant. There were problems with the lineout and some personal errors, but open play support was impressive. Skipper, Ronan Watters, leads by deeds, and never ceases. Mick O’Gara looked comfortable, being back at 12, his place kicking was outstanding and he took a superb vector to score a fine try. Hugo Conway too, is coming back to his best; he scored a foraging try and had a fine game. Stephen Kilgallen scored two coruscating tries and again showed what a welcome addition he is. The replacements too, played their part, with Liam Corcoran and Niall Hurley showing well and Hugh Lane looking eager and active. Conor Hickey deserves special mention as he was instrumental in so many positive aspects of the game and his passing was crucial, especially for the searing first of two tries scored by winger Stephen Kilgallen. He also timed a perfect intercept and sprint from 40 metres, for a first-rate try. His all-round performance earned him the SoftCo MoM Award.
After only two minutes, Malone scored a well struck penalty, 0-3. That spurred the home side and it was only three minutes later that the ball came from a ruck in the Malone 22 and left to right, Magic Mick O’Gara took an acute vector and steered through to score a very neat try, he converted, 7-3. A well worked concatenation on 16 minutes, led to Conor Hickey, forty metres out on the glide, pausing the pass precisely to create a hole for Stephen Kilgallen on full turbo, and he zoomed in for a delectable try, converted by Mick. 14-3. Malone struck back on 23 minutes putting a penalty into the corner and mauling over, 14-10. It was 33 minutes and 38 minutes (while Marys were down to 14 men with a yellow) when Mick added penalties to leave the score 20-10 at half time.
The second half, on four minutes, Malone got their second penalty and 20-13 was the score.
Playing up towards the Cabbage Patch Corner, 58 minutes, a neat 30 metre ground grubber, led to a race to the line and Stinger (missile) Stephen Kilgallen hit Mk2 and scorched past defenders to dunk the ball down; and it was 27-13 and the sun shone!
A few inhalations later and Malone attacked from their own half. The ball went out along the line, and so did keen eyed Conor. He spotted a chance and took it and the ball on interception, and raced 40+ metres to the posts and scored. Mick did the honours once again, and it was 34-13. On 64 minutes after another attack, Hugo Conway, like good rapacious right wingers should, was off his wing and on the trail. He got the ball and whizzed over close in, and with the conversion from Mick, it was 41-13. We could not be beaten!!!!! Oh no?
Malone hit back on 67 minutes with a good move wide and a fine try in the Gate Corner, 41-20. They then made it 41-27, with a Maul, drive and a close worked try in Carvill Corner, 41-27 and added a Penalty try from a penalty again into Carvill Corner; and a disrupted maul, just before the final whistle. The final whistle sounded soon after and what appeared just after an hour gone, to be a comfortable win turned into a fraught nervous finish and reminded one of the last visit of Malone to Templeville Road and their comeback to finish 42-42.
So it ended 41-34
Head Coach Sean Cronin, will have been very pleased to win and get 5 points, however, he will be wary of next week’s match in Cork, V UCC. Having come down after a season playing in 1A they will play at pace. They have been adding players and will have been building confidence, with two clear wins under the tutelage of Michael Bradley. They must be considered one of the favourites this season. But I believe Sean and Ronan and his team will fancy their favour. St Marys are strong in all positions now, and have big bench bounce when needed. The camaraderie and confidence are at high levels now and with good reason.
That said, we must tighten defence and ball control, keep constancy of pace and concentration and add more variation. It is a really exciting prospect and one thing the team will need is you. It is no longer a herculean heft to get there by train, car or coach. Make up with de Mott and she will bring the car, oul fellas and oul wans (no scooters please) just use the pass; Ger Pelosi and Del Boy can run.
Anyway, just get there. Brian and Laura and taking a roll (not in the hay) to make sure you all come, including every parent, even those who watch through semi-closed fingers. Be there to Roar on Ronan.
Team (12 rolling changes)
15 M Fogarty, 14 H Conway, 13 T McMahon, 12 M O’Gara, 11 S Kilgallen, 10 C Hickey 9 A McEvoy, 8 R Foley, 7 E Baxter, 6 R Watters (Capt.), 5 D Leane, 4 H MacDonald 3 T O’Reilly, 2 S O’Brien,1 A Mulvihill. Billy Hamilton, P Dundon, N Hurley, L Corcoran, H Lane, P Starrett, A Walsh, D Lyons.