Saturday, September 20, 2014

St Mary's-14 Terenure-20


On February 16, 2013, two tries from Steve Toal-Lennon helped St Mary’s RFC to an impressive 30-12 win over Cork Con at Temple Hill in the AIL Div 1A.  They were reigning champions at the time though the defence of their title didn’t exactly go as planned and they finished 8th that year.

Meanwhile over at Corinthian Park on the Tuam Road outside Galway city, Terenure College weren’t so lucky on their travels as they went down 15-21 to Corinthians in Div 2A, also known as the league’s 3rd tier.  Wait - a rugby team from Leinster losing in Connacht?  Who could imagine THAT happening? ;-)

Anywho...the significance of that result out west was that it was the last time Terenure have lost a match in the Ulster Bank League.  Since then they have reeled off 25 wins in a row, including 2 bouts of revenge against those same Corinthians, as well as today’s hard-fought derby victory over local rivals St Marys.

I always say something like “this was a cracking contest” when I go to these matches, but that’s only because it’s true.  The derby nature of this contest meant there was no partisan advantage to be had from the crowd and this produced a real “cup final” feel to the occasion.

Truth be told my main focus in watching was to see how Cathal Marsh is progressing.  He certainly started brightly with some crisp distribution about the park but it was a scrappy opening 15m overall when neither side was able to get a foothold in the opponents' 22.  Referee Nigel Correll's speed at going to the whistle didn't help this much either.

But when Terenure had a clearance kick blocked down near their own line, Mary's had an overlap out the other way and while they took their time getting it there, Stuart O'Flanagan was still able to open the scoring.  The conversion was missed but shortly afterwards a late shoulder charge allowed them to extend their lead to 8-0.

You'd think the home side could kick on from there but right after the restart Marsh dropped a pass on his own 22 (to be fair to him it was around his laces but still catchable) and from that moment until half time Marys couldn't buy their way out of their own half.

Their defence was holding firm for now, and in all that time and with all that pressure all the visitors could muster was a single Mark O'Neill penalty right before the break.  With both sides able to regroup there were fears that Terenure's offence may suffer a similar fate to that of Leinster's on Friday.

Nure full-back James O'Donoghue had other ideas, however, and in the opening 2nd half exchanges he boomed a long spiral over Marsh's head, pinning Mary's back in their own territory and it was to be more of the same before O'Neill narrowed the margin to just 2 with another pen on 44m.

I have to say that when Gavin Dunne popped over 3 points shortly afterwards on his side's first appearance in their opposition half in ages, I thought the day was destined for a home win.  But whatever Terenure as a unit had been digging deep for to keep that 24-match streak going was there for them today as well.

The constant tackling from Marys had to take its toll and eventually the relentless pressure from the visitors created the overlap which they were able to exploit with relative ease on 65m as this time it was winger Shane Donovan getting the touchdown.  The conversion from O'Neill was good and suddenly Nure were ahead for the first time.

Things got worse for Mary's when their loosehead Brian McGovern saw yellow consigning his side to 14 men for the remainder of the day.  O'Neill missed the penalty but the extra space was there shortly after for the left winger Harry Moore to go over and with the conversion dropping over off the post, Nure now had a crucial 9-point cushion.

On his next possession Cathal Marsh decided to take the game by the scruff of the neck and he single-handedly put his side back into scoring position with a strong run, earning a penalty allowing Dunne to get Marys back within 6.

This plus the yellow card count being levelled on 76m set us up for an exciting finish but curious decision to tap and go at halfway when there was plenty of time for a lineout ended in a turnover for Terenure and in the end Mary's had to be happy with a losing bonus point as O'Neill pushed a last second penalty past the post.

Highlight reel moment of the match was early on when Mary's winger Marcus O'Driscoll did a move I haven't seen tried before at this level.  With the ball shipped out to his wing he dropped it behind himself, kicked it with his heel over both his own head and that of the onrushing defender, and went to retrieve it.  Think of what Zebo did against Wales only with him passing it to himself.  

It didn't lead to anything, but still an amazing thing to attempt.  Not quite sure the IRFU online stream cameras could have captured it properly from the other side of the pitch so I thought I'd mention it.  

Overall a great advert for the Ulster Bank League and definitely a tenner well spent for the privilege.  Check the website for a match near you and try to make it down - you certainly won't regret it. 

By the way - in case you're afraid that by constantly harping on about Terenure's win streak I may somehow jinx it, all I have to say is that the fact that I am a Blackrock supporter has absolutely nothing to do with it.  Ahem. JLP
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