ST Mary’s College RFC V Naas RFC
UB.AIL Division 1B
Friday 15th February 2019.
“Last night was made for love” but tonight was full of love for all at St Marys, when, in the tensest and tightest of finishes the home side prevailed. There are games when there is a special relevance and special need; and this was one. This result may have been one of the most important for the home side so far this season. It has to be observed, that in spite of several high quality absentees the Marys men on the field revived that earlier seen, joie de vivre and esprit de corps in all aspects of the game. There was a melange of frisson, fever and fervour in the air, before and through the game and felt by all.
Naas RFC and their president, Phil Kelly, were welcome guests of our genial and popular president, Jack Ebbs, at what was the first AIL match at Templeville Road between the sides. It was clear that Naas, ahead of us on the table, would be formidable opponents.
On a mild night with a strong wind blowing towards Templeville Road, a fascinating joust unfolded, when a fast, young determined Marys’ side faced a Naas team that had a structured approach was bigger, and with impressive maul and a strong scrum and lineout.
The home lineout was good tonight, the scrum as ever, competed strongly, and the defence was greatly improved. This was particularly seen and needed to be, in the last five or so minutes of the game. The big failing was again, the concession of a procession of penalties which could have been decisive. Our ball retention and attack was much improved.
Performances all round were refreshed, exuberant and ambitious. This was obviously the result of hard work put in over the past three weeks’ hiatus in the league programme; credit to the squad and their coaches. This was an honest team performance with an uplifting result.
It has to be mentioned that the most consistent performers have been the front rowers. They include Tom O’Reilly, who deserves special mention and credit for his recent selection and performances as an Irish Club International player. Everyone is very proud of this unselfish, committed, Marys’ man, with the most admirable nature. The second rowers were to the fore tonight with Liam Corcoran again excellent in the lineout. He also carried well and put in some blunting tackles, especially when most needed. Hugo Diepman has settled in well and he continues to improve each game, an equitable partner for Liam. In the backrow, to have Nick McCarthy back, his not having played for over a month, was revelatory. He was inspired and inspirational. Nick the warrior, led as he hunted, as he skirmished, as he carried, as he urged. In the endgame he embodied the team resistance, at the bottom of breakdowns, over the ball, and almost glued to the action. He was awarded the SoftCo MoM award.
Both halfbacks were again vital to the success, as they cleverly guided and managed the game, both Paddy and Deano raise the quality of performance to great effect. The centre partnership of the skipper Modser and Myles was particularly reassuring and effective today. When it was do or die time, Modser was, additionally to be seen in the centre of rucks or fringe of mauls, urging, cajoling, leading and shepherding his men.
The back three showed some real magic. They were strong, and once again Hugo Conway was weaponised as he sliced through opposition at every opportunity, and was unlucky not score at least one more try. He came close to being the SoftCo MoM. A superb young winger, with all the courage and skills to be tops.
The replacements need mention, all giving an extra magic, the class of Cormac Foley shone out, and Stephen O’Brien was wonderfully effective in his unusual role in the backrow. It is encouraging to see a young player coming on and not only blending but excelling. Sean Heeran, a lad who played last year on the SCT at St Mary’s College, was a delight to behold when he came on, as he zoomed around, looking for work, tackling the heavyweights, and flattening them fearlessly. Well done Sean.
The home side played towards the Road end with the wind in the first half and so with that wind spent most of the half deep in Naas territory. After only a couple of minutes Hugo Conway on the right wing, after a scintillating run along the touchline, was stopped just short in Carvill Corner. A beautifully placed kick from Deano into the same corner, kept on the pressure. On 19 minutes Marys won a penalty from a scrum and put the ball into the gate corner. This led to a mauled lineout, Skipper Modser took the ball on a super vector and penetrated close to the Naas line. The ball came back and out left to right to Deano. He held it wonderfully well. He held his line, then spun a delightful pass out the line and on to Hugo via a great pass from David Fanagan. He made no mistake, flashing over; Paddy O’Driscoll converted masterfully, 7-0. It was 24 minutes, when Paddy converted a tough penalty, 10-0, and he added another on 32 minutes. Naas were trying to run out with hard straight sorties but were well contained until 36 minutes when they got up field with the help of penalties and a lineout. A well-controlled maul led to a break away and a good forward try, unconverted. Marys were fortunate to escape another, which could have been fatal, just on half time when Naas threw in too short to the line out on our goal line and so were thwarted. The home side probably felt that they could have garnered more in the first half, from their dominance and field position. However, it ended 13-5.
The second half looked as though it could be tough for Marys, playing uphill against a strong wind and against an organised and muscular team. However, the home team buckled down and fought every inch of the way. Another distinctive factor in their favour, was Naas’s incomprehensible decision not to use the strong following wind. Time after time, they ran the ball from their own 22, even when awarded free kicks.
On 55 minutes they did add a penalty and another on 72 minutes. At 13-11 you could hear the trembles throughout the grounds. Were we to be denied after all? We fought our way back up when on 74 minutes, Paddy now on the wing made good ground. A series of drives led to a ruck. From this, Cormac fed David Fanagan, now at outhalf. Only the magician that is David Fanagan could mesmerise the close defence when he stepped, twisted and zipped through defenders, he was stopped well inside the Naas 22. Cormac fed again to Modser who made good ground timed his pass perfectly out to young Ruairi Shield. He held it on a loop and swooped in at the Well Corner. What a cheer. The conversion was narrowly missed in the wind and it was 18-11. Still time for battling Naas. They launched themselves at all that stood in their way. Nerves all round, but not on the field. Marys stood firm, then got hold of the ball and showed that love for it, an almost mystic amalgamation of thought and determined resolve closed in on the team. They carried, they rucked, they drove and they held the ball close; time ticked and tocked, crawled, stalled and then, at last was whistled the end to a great hurrah A deserved one, after a commendable game from both sides. Another credit to AIL and fair play.
Strangely, we moved not on the table, still on 7th place with 30 points. However, we closed the points’ differences, now only three points below Old Wesley who are in second place. It once more exemplifies the parities of ability throughout 1B and how easily a team can lose or gain ground. We must push on with renewed confidence and determination. We head to Athlone next Saturday to face bottom team, Buccaneers; a big danger if armed with Connacht players.
We, the supporters must travel with them and give them all we can.
Team (Rolling Replacements X12)
15 D Fanagan, 14 H Conway, 13 Myles Carey, 12 M O’Driscoll (Capt), 11 C Kennedy, 10 C Dean, 9 P O’Driscoll, 8 D Lyons, 7 N McCarthy, 6 D Mc Donnell , 5 H Diepman, 4 L Corcoran, 3 M McCormack, 2 R Halpin, 1 T O’Reilly, S O’Brien, P Dundon, C Foley , R Shields, S Heeran. priority65 \ls