Banbridge RFC V St Mary’s College RFC
Energia AIL Division I B
Saturday 22nd February 2020.
Afterwards, the 50 or so St Marys supporters stood in little copses of people, faces gently aglow with pride for their team. This was an almost cerebral victory. It was not frantic, but composed, full of determined concentration and grit. It took that approach to sway the contest against a strong well coached and skilful Banbridge side, in a most sporting joust. Banbridge are always particularly welcoming. Michael O’Flaherty our genial president and his officers were generously hosted by President Maynard Sinton, they enjoyed greatly the warmth of hospitality and of course the much needed victory.
This was not just a match victory but the outcome of arduous and intense work between coaches and squad over a testing period. They can all stand tall. For Tom O’Reilly our admirable club captain, it was also a marvellous expression of his dedicated and loyal endeavour throughout. It was privilege to be present today. Needless to say, this is not end and there is much work to be done to ensure a successful season. It was however, in its execution, an important statement of intent, a marvellously didactic and cathartic reset. Well done to all.
When it is said, that it was team effort it sounds clichéd, but far from cliché it was; it was 100% everyone. It was the nature and manner of the victory rather than the details that mattered today. Take into consideration that our super Six, David Aspil, and Mark Fogarty, both injured last week, were out, as were, our Leinster deadly duo, Ronan Watters and Cormac Foley. There was too, the continued absence of effervescent David Fanagan and Liam Corcoran. Additionally, during the warm-up, centre Ryan O’Loughlin, strained a hamstring and had to be replaced. This meant Ruairi Shields came in as fullback. He had a fine game. Mattie Tymmons, who had just come in at Fullback, then moved from 15 to partner centre Myles Carey in midfield. They sealed a formidable partnership with nothing getting through their channel and constantly keeping pressure on the Ban defence. Having come into the team this week and trained as 15, it was difficult for him, but Mattie’s contribution was such that he received the SoftCo MoM award. This was more to his great credit, as there were just so many contenders, such as the formidable Jack Dilger, who had come in for David Aspil. This exemplifies the importance of a squad system and the vital contribution of each member.
There were of course moments of tremor, but the defence was contumacious and refused to part. St Marys had a strong and profitable scrum, a backrow that were like hornets on the hunt, and a wilful pack core that demolished barricades. Alas, again there was pain in the lineouts, that often left defences scrambling; but scramble they did when necessary.
The weather was cold with a searing wind on a dry well kept pitch and Marys played into that stinging wind in the first half. That paid handsome dividends. It was clear from the start, all were recharged and energised, with an electric start. There was a new confidence and security about the play and ball retention, as Marys steadily moved up-field and after only four minutes a maul from a lineout led to Jack Dilger using his power to drive over for a try, 0-5. A promising start. Marys continued to force their way up-field keeping the ball in hand against that wind. A barrage of pick and drives brought us close to the Ban 22. When the ball came back Ruaidhri Shields wrong footed the Ban defence with a clever kick through which Craig Kennedy gathered and after an exchange of passes with Myles Carey he dived over close to the corner flag, converted by Mick O’Gara, 0-12.
Ban kicked for position and after sustained attack reduced the deficit by seven with a well taken try on 15 minutes, 7-12. Ban soon returned and with a strong maul made it 12-12. They added a penalty to go ahead, 15-12, Marys were not daunted, but continued to have slight dominance for the remainder of the half. When it was 42 minutes Nick McCarthy, from near the Ban 10 metre line with a sparkling break, weaved his way through a cluster of players almost to the line, he timed his pass perfectly to the industriously following up scrumhalf, Padjo O’Driscoll; he flew over, Half Time 15-19.
The second half started brightly for Marys as the wind was used well for position and keeping pressure on. It was 48 minutes when a ball in the Banbridge 10 metre area was kicked ahead. Craig Kennedy who was having a productive and exciting afternoon, followed, kicked ahead from near the 22 and fairly flew as he left the Banbridge cover behind, he controlled the ball and scored a really fine try, his second of the game. It was then 15-24. It was good to see both wingers employing floating cover attack. A lead like that seems substantial, however, with one score capable of taking a chunk of seven off, it is not really. We found that out when after being stuck in their own half, due to the pressure from the visitors, Ban broke up-field on 64 minutes, and using their forward power to good effect, they mauled a converted try; we were now looking at 22-24.
It has been pointed out clearly that this was a superb and controlled display against an impressive team. However, that does not mean we can relax, there is still a tough road ahead, five more matches, starting with Malone at home next Saturday, 29th February (it is also Ladies Day). It is not a leap in the dark. We know that Malone have a strong team which beat us last time we met. We will need the same determined attitude, speed play and absolute concentration for the 80 minutes. We are back to 8th of ten, on the table 3 ahead of Naas, losers to Shannon, this weekend. We are on 29 points, one point behind Armagh to whom we have to travel (28th March); and three behind Belvedere.
Saturday, with the festive atmosphere of our peerless administrator Marie Hammond’s Ladies day suffusing Templeville Road, you will be guaranteed an exciting day, on and off the pitch, with maybe a gentle brush with romance. Those of you who could not make it to Rifle Park, have good cause to find reason to come along, enjoy the day and join the chorus of Marys-Marys-Marys
Team up with Tommer
Team (Rolling Replacements X12)
15 R Shields, 14 H Conway, 13 M Carey, 12 M Timmons, 11 C Kennedy, 10 M O’Gara, 9 P O’Driscoll, 8 N McCarthy, 7 C Dempsey, 6 J Dilger, 5 H Diepman, 4 P Starrett, 3 M McCormack, 2 R Halpin, 1 T O’Reilly (Capt), S Healy, N McEniff, L Curran, S Heeran, B Watson.