St Mary’s College RFC 20 V Naas RFC 27
Energia AIL Division 1B
Saturday 18nd February 2023.
A crammed terrace, of a green and white and blue and Naas and Marys melange, a match of higgledy-piggledy, harem-scarem rugby, as the near gale force wind whipped around the grounds and played “silly billies” with the ball; all produced excitement, some excellence; with lots of errors and blood rushes. It was excruciatingly close, but the outcome was a win for Naas. Even without the vagaries of the elements, which affected both teams, there were factors which conspired against the home team. There were four of the backline that started against Buccaneers in the last game unavailable, and during the game inspirational Skipper Ronan, who was playing to his brilliant best and his flying wingman, No 7 Ethan, departed injured, as did secondrow Harry, who was also hitting the highs. Max Svejdar made his first AIL start today and fitted in well. He played a part in the first St Marys try. Well done to Max.
It would be grossly unfair to inveigh or ululate or hit the doom button, as for long periods the home team dominated and the scrum did so throughout. Yes, the young squad needs bolstering and improvements but there is much to admire about these lads. They are making good progress under Sean’s dedicated and expert tutelage. It must be recalled too that nigh on half a team of top players are currently out injured. The old adage Patience and Perseverance: made Bishop of his Reverence, might well apply.
The lineouts were especially difficult with the wind but Marys coped the better. There were some frowsy rucks but also some very adventurous and penetrative attacking phases. There were also some solid performances, especially in the pack where Liam Corcoran and Daniel Leane were particularly industrious. In the strong front row, Tomas O’Reilly, a former Club Captain, stood out, for he scrummaged mightily and carried and rucked frequently and well. Tommer has shown great loyalty to his club in spite of constant career demands. Today he had a fine game and well deserved the SoftCo MoM award.
The home team had during the course of the game, especially in the second half when playing down towards the Templeville Road end with the near gale force wind, enough open chances to win the game with a bonus point, but in the end only got the losing bonus point.
Notwithstanding all that, Naas and their multitudinous supporters came to play with a well-balanced team. They showed impressive concentrated defence and innovation particularly in the second half when they had their backs to their goal line for long periods. They had an adventurous fullback, Fionn Higgins, and a resilient pack with an impressive backrow, especially Killian Dempsey, an affable Naas man who had played with Marys for some time. They may have been considered slightly fortunate, but a team that stays resolute and aware and takes the opportunities presented, deserves their luck.
We played against the very strong wind and towards the Cabbage Patch in the first half. The aim would be to keep the ball in hand when possible, and the ball low if it had to be kicked. Unfortunately the game was only two minutes old when Naas picked up a loose ball and scooted in for a 0-7 lead. Four minutes later Ruairi Shields ran out of defence made very good ground through Naas defenders and transferred to Max Svejdar who went between two men and deftly kicked on the ball diagonally; alert and flying Conor Hickey scooped up the ball and jinked in for a fine try, 5-7. Naas made it 5-14 on 17 minutes and on 37 minutes, Conor Hickey again bamboozled the defenders, to bring the score to 12-14 with marvellous Mick O’Gara’s conversion. That was how the half ended and it was looking promising for the home team, having defended well under heavy pressure.
The second half was only eight minutes gone when Naas added another try 12-19, but Marys were now exerting lot of pressure and with the very strong wind. Naas were defending well, with sorties and break outs. Marys got back three points with a fine Mick O’Gara penalty on 53 minutes, 15-19 and then a penalty and a well worked mauled lineout at 62 minutes, saw Daniel Leane get the ball down and it was, 20-19. With territorial dominance, the home side looked to be in a propitious situation, now leading for the first time. However, Naas broke out of defence on 75 minutes and made it all the way from one goal line to the other, to score and make it, 20-24. They added a penalty on 78 minutes, 20-27. In the dying seconds Marys were unfortunate to miss a chance to draw level and attain a four try bonus point, so that was it, 20-27.
We remain 6th on the table, with Naas breathing down our necks, one point behind in 7th. A gap is opening ahead of us, but we can get back if over the next five games, we are never eleemosynary and continually perform to high standards. We travel to Banbridge next Saturday, then face Armagh City (the leaders) and UCC at home, before another northern trip to Malone; and finally we entertain local rivals Old Belvedere on 15th April. A way to go, so we the supporters must not baulk. We have our own team, our own club and our own kin. We are so very fortunate to be part of club rugby, and especially our own blue and white niche here on Templeville Road. We get so much, we must remember to give back too. And the more we give back the more we will get. Too often we all take it for granted. Onward we go with Ronan, Sean and colleagues. If you have not been to Banbridge and Rifle Park, it is well worth visiting. Go early, have a look around. There are nice little restaurants and bistros and much to see. You can record the international match; don’t discuss it when there and then you can watch it when you get home. Anyway our game is even more important.
Get there and Roar on Ronan.
Team (12 rolling changes)
15 R Shields, 14 A McEvoy, 13 C Hickey, 12 M O’Gara,11 M Svejdar, 10 C Dean, 9 R Fahy, 8 R Watters (Capt.), 7 E Baxter, 6 D Leane, 5 L Corcoran, 4 H MacDonald, 3 T O’Reilly, 2 S O’Brien,1 A Mulvihill. R Halpin, J Reidy Walsh, Dan Lyons, N Hurley, A Walsh, I Wickham.