Midland Warriors 27 v Balbriggan 31
Balbriggan’s IXV beat Midland Warriors on Sunday afternoon in Moate in a crucial Leinster League Div 2B clash. Balbriggan needed to bounce back from the disappointing defeat the previous week away to Athy. A win of any description was a must if the North County men were to keep their title hopes alive. Balbriggan duly delivered but only after a truly incredible encounter where the outcome wasn’t decided until the very last play of the game. The final score 27 v 31 to Balbriggan.
Conditions underfoot for this match was certainly less than desirable. After the incredible amount of rain that had fallen in recent weeks, the pitch in Moate, only a few miles from the Shannon was heavy and soft, not at all ideal for the running rugby game Balbriggan typically favour. More importantly, Balbriggan lined out for this vital encounter shorn of key players who were missing through injury or the early onset of the Christmas party season! Even so, Balbriggan got off to the perfect start with an early try through scrum half Con Casey. Though it was uncoverted, Balbriggan looked set for the important task ahead. However, they were soon to fall behind and were to remain there until stoppage time at the end of the second half. First Midland Warriors struck back with with a long range penalty (3 v 5). They followed this on 20 minutes with a well worked try that was converted. Suddenly Balbriggan were behind and beginning to struggle. Things got worse when Warriors landed a further penalty on 26 minutes. Balbriggan trailed 13 v 5. However, Balbriggan heads did not drop. Just after the half hour mark, Balbriggan worked a beautiful try through their loose forwards and backs which resulted in new boy Tomas Murphy running in a try to the left of the Warriors posts. Healy landed the conversion and Balbriggan were within one point of their hosts. Balbriggan appeared to be coming back stronger at this point and looked good to turn around at half time just a point behind. Balbriggan won a lineout on their own 22 and Healy cleared with a kick direct to touch in the belief that the referee was going blow half time. However, the referee said there was time for one more piece of play. Warriors secured their lineout and from the resulting ruck, passed the ball to their outhalf. The outhalf fumbled the ball forward, only regaining control of the ball after it had traveled in front of him, off his hands, a few feet. The referee was unsighted, and Warriors set off on a move that resulted in a try being scored under the posts. The conversion was added and the half ended. Balbriggan trailed 20 v 12.
The second half started off better for the visitors. A period of pressure inside the Warriors 10 metre line eventually resulted in a lovely try by Balbriggan’s scrum half Kyle Healy. He added the conversion from the right of the posts and Balbriggan were again back within one point of the Westmeath outfit. However, Balbriggan then had to endure a period of pressure from Midland Warriors which led to the hosts scoring a superb try under the Balbriggan posts. The conversion was added and Balbriggan trailed 27 v 19. The visitors had it all to do and things took a turn for the worse when with 14 minutes left of the match, team captain Ciaran Malone was sent to the bin for putting his hand on his opposite number in the air in a lineout. A penalty? Yes. A yellow Card? Possibly a bit harsh. Nevertheless, Balbriggan were a man down, 8 points down and had only 14 minutes left in which to turn things around. However, Midland Warriors had no ideas of allowing Balbriggan back into this match. For the next 10 minutes, whilst Balbriggan were without their inspirational captain, Warriors pressed inside the Balbriggan 22 looking for the killer score that would earn them a try bonus as well as the victory they thought was theirs. Time and again they came up short of the Balbriggan line. Time and again the hard put Balbriggan men put their bodies on the line to keep the Warriors out and Balbriggan’s dreams in this league alive. Big hits were put in time and again by each of the Balbriggan men. One such hit by Graeme O’Reilly led to a turnover which finally relieved the pressure. Malone returned to the field with 4 minutes remaining but significantly Balbriggan had not conceded any further scores. With their full complement of players on the park, Balbriggan went in search of the try that would give them a try bonus point as well as a losing bonus point and some reward from this difficult visit to the midlands. With less than three minutes on the clock, a series of forward drives eventually resulted in Sean Malone diving in under a pile of defending bodies to secure what looked like two hard earned points for the visitors. The difficult conversion was missed. The score stood at 27 v 24 to the Warriors. The hosts walked slowly up to the half way line for the restart. They asked the referee how long was left. The referee gave a clear signal – one minute was left in the game. Time was just about up. Warriors kicked long and the ball was fielded by Balbriggan just inside their own 22. Warriors were up fast and tackled the Balbriggan ball handler to the ground. There was no quick escape for the North County men from their own end of the park. Balbriggan picked and drove a number of times until eventually Warriors conceded a penalty just outside Balbriggan’s 22. The referee then announced that this was the last play of the match. There was no time to kick the penalty to touch and take a lineout. Balbriggan had no option other than to run the penalty. This they did and ground was made. Balbriggan surged towards their own 10 metre line. Warriors infringed again. Another quick tap penalty was taken, but the referee called it back. The penalty was not taken from the correct spot. The retake penalty led to a series of rucks and then finally a passage of open play where Steve Keegan received the ball on the Balbriggan left wing and ran from the Warriors 10 metre line in under the posts. An incredible and dramatic win for the visitors. Healy added the conversion though this was superfluous as the referee blew the final whistle as the ball sailed over the bar. Balbriggan had incredibly secure a try bonus point win when three minutes earlier they looked like going home empty handed.
There were many heroes amongst the Balbriggan men in this game. The Malone brothers led from the front as ever. The front row of Paddy Joyce, Jon Davis and Chris McDonnell were magnificent. Connor Burke was majestic in the lineout and deadly in the tackle all over the park. Jay Mullen as ever was a rock in defence and Con Casey showed immense leadership. However, all present agreed that new man Tomas Murphy was deserving of the accolade of man of the match.
Balbriggan go into the Christmas break just two points behind leaders Roscrea who they play next, and at home, in early January.
Clontarf 0 v Balbriggan 31
Balbriggan Ladies put in an impressive performance to win convincingly away to Clontarf today in the Leinster League. Final score Clontarf 0 v 31 Balbriggan. The match was played on Clontarf’s new 4G Astro Turf surface, which in itself was a novel experience for Balbriggan. Balbriggan needed to follow up on last weeks victory at home to Greystones if they were to keep their interest in Div3 alive. They duly delivered with an impressive victory against Clontarf. Dearbhla Sheridan and Michelle Hutcheson got Balbriggan off to a great start with tries that were converted by Dearbhla. Val Van Veen bagged a third try before the first half was over and Balbriggan were up 0 v 19. This score was a fair reflection of how the first half had gone. However, the second half was a much tighter affair, with Balbriggan having to defend for long periods. The second half took a while to get going but a flowing movement led to outhalf Dearbhla Sheridan scoring a try under the posts after beating three defenders. The ladies had to endure a long 20 mins of pressure which eventually resulted in a yellow card for a Balbriggan player. Even down to 14 players, Balbriggan remained resolute in defence and held Clontarf out. The final score of the game came after a scything break from Rachel Mulligan which was finished off by Dearbhla Sheridan who secured her hat trick. Kelly Morgan knocked over the conversion to leave the final score 0 v 31. This was a wonderful display from the 16 Ladies involved.