Malone RFC V St Mary’s College RFC
AIL Division 1B
Gibson Park, Cregagh
13th October 2018.
For the first time since the early AIL we travelled to Malone, to their now impressive grounds and clubhouse. The hospitality, as ever, was wholehearted, our president, Jack Ebbs and his entourage, were warmly welcomed to Gibson Park. Even before AIL, St Mary’s and Malone had an enduring friendship and played each other frequently. Many of you will remember that we frequently played them as pre-international games, at College Drive or Templeville Road. Unfortunately, the weather was not in line with the greetings as the rain continued to hammer down and a mist hovered over the surface.
After the most promising of starts last week we headed north with belief, however, as you will note, it did not turn out as hoped. Odd setbacks have to be expected and there remains well founded optimism that we will be contending around the top, throughout the season.
Malone play a fast, university-style game and with international Chris Henry at 7, put in a compact performance. They managed to draw in the defence, then moving it wide, struck.
That said, it looked almost right through, as though Marys could prevail, however, it never materialised.
The cohesion that was evident last week was missing. Decision making was suspect on occasions. There were too many missed tackles, some injudicious kicking, plus two kickable penalties missed at a crucial stage. Add to that, lack of secure ball retention, and so, the visitors let it slip away.
With the wet ball, our lineouts faltered too, although, our scrums generally held parity or better. There is no need for pessimism and no doubt we shall improve and progress. There is an abundance of talent, determination, patience and belief. It has to be said, however, that there were few top performances. The front row were secure and industrious, including the replacements. In that respect Michael McCormack who has been showing his burgeoning talent since graduating from the U20s this season, again put in a hardworking stint, with strong scrummaging, secure tackling and a number of effective carries. He was awarded the SoftCo MoM award.
The backline had to contend with a very wet surface and a slippery ball, but tried hard throughout and made the breakthrough for a last minute try by David Fanagan, converted from out wide by Rory Shields. One player, the skipper Marcus O’Driscoll, coped effortlessly with the conditions and continually beat defenders, and almost scored. He was to be seen in supporting and cajoling his forwards, he kept his defence aligned while leading in all respects.
It was learned after the game, that outhalf Sean Kearns is emigrating tomorrow. Although his departure is unfortunate, we hope to have our star outhalf, Conor Dean, who is at Connacht rugby, available for more games, and there are several talented young players who are more than capable of stepping up and can cover the position well.
For the first ten minutes St Marys looked to be on top and were playing fast controlled rugby, a neat drop goal from Seanie came on 4 minutes. A minute later we received a yellow card for a suspected tip tackle and just as the suspension was about to end Malone ran the ball wide and a missed tackle let them in, in the corner. So it was 5-3. Malone were coming to terms with the game and on 31 minutes they again ran a ball wide and got in in the same corner to make it 10-3. It was 37 minutes when a converted penalty for the home side ensured that the half time score was 13-3.
Early in the second half we gave away a penalty. Malone kicked to the corner and formed a maul, the referee played advantage to the home team (Marys coming in on the side of the maul) the ball was passed out, and, three phases later, Malone scored, again in the corner, and so the score was 18-3. Fortunes swayed and in the latter part of the game we raised the pace and kept possession well eventually on 37 minutes, we were awarded a penalty in midfield. Cormac Foley, now at 9, ran the ball and after a series of plays the skipper swept out a ball from the base of a ruck and as the ball travelled along the line, David Fanagan came on a tight vector and scored a good try, yet again in the corner. Rory Shields, now at 10, converted well from the touchline; it was 38 minutes. However, the whistle went for the end of the game. Nobody could deny Malone’s right to victory. They won 18-10. It was disappointing not to get a losing bonus point.
It looks like we are playing in the Northern League, as next week we head to Eaton Park, Ballymena to play the Braidmen, against whom we have played more recently; in 2015-16 twice, and fortunately came out on the winning sides on both occasions. The last time we visited in 2016 we won, 12-15, with the last play of the game, a monstrous maul from way out and the entire team involved. It was a crucial victory and rankled with the home supporters. We shall face stiff opposition but again we travel with belief, yet caution. Both sides will be anxious for a win. The signs from both our play and progress indicate that we have a good opportunity. We do need your support, so get yourself a comfortable seat on Joyce and Eileen’s bus. And March with Modser
Team (Rolling Replacements X12)
15 D Fanagan, 14 H Conway, 13 C Kennedy, 12 M O’Driscoll (Capt), 11 M Fogarty, 10 S Kearns, 9 P O’Driscoll, 8 R Watters, 7 D Aspil, 6 D McDonnell, 5 L Corcoran, 4 M Kennedy, 3 M McCormack, 2 R Halpin, 1 T O’Reilly, S O’Brien, C McMahon, C Foley, R Shields, M Fallon.