Balbriggan 20 Ardee 6
The Rugby season is back – for the second year in a row Balbriggan opened their Jenkinson Cup campaign on a very wet night in Balrothery. With a gale force wind and torrential rain it was very difficult for both teams in particular the team facing into the wind which in the first half was Balbriggan.
With a gale blowing down the pitch the simple tactic was to kick the ball to the opponents half and let the wind do the rest. The only problem for Ardee was that Balbriggan full back Andrew Miller enjoyed nothing better than running back at the opposition at full tilt and with the three quarter line joining with him Balbriggan made considerable ground but then the weather took over and the ball was spilled. Ardee used the elements to put Balbriggan under pressure and as usual Ian Murphy led the tackling but the visitors managed to recycle the ball and the next man up was J Mullen but the ref adjudged the tackle high and the ball was slotted between the posts for 3 points. Soon after Balbriggan gave away another penalty for not rolling away and went 6-0 behind. Winger Healy gained himself a yellow card for querying the refs decision. For the next 10 minutes the game became a little fractious and an Ardee man joined Healy in the bin. Skipper Malone had severe words with his team and from then on the game was played as it should. It looked as if Ardee would hold their lead into half time but they gave away a penalty for straying offside. Scrum half Healy found a touch inside the 5 metre line. Balbriggan went with a 4 man line out and Geraghty fed Malone who was standing at scrum half. Malone dumbied a pass out and then headed to the line, he was held up short but younger brother Sean took the ball on to get the try. 6-5 at half time.
Balbriggan now had the wind and should have just kicked to the corners but on numerous times they tried to run from deep. There was good running from Mullen and O’Toole in the centre and with the skipper popping up as an extra centre they were testing the Ardee defence.
The second try came when Ardee failed to catch a kick from Murphy and winger Dylan Staunton showed his soccer skills to keep the ball in play and dribble it to the line before scoring in the corner. Balbriggan were now exerting their power and strong running was stretching the opposition. Skipper Malone eventually got on to the scoreboard when after a one two with brother Sean he dived for the line and his physical strength kept him from being tackled into touch.
The final quarter saw the introduction of new boys Jaedon Gibson at scrum half and new CRO Connor Burke in the back row. Both brought their skills to the game with Burke showing himself to be a strong forager at the break down. He capped off his debut by winning an opposition line out and going over from 5 metres to gain the bonus point.
A good work out for the Balbriggan team, with a few players not available there is going to be good competition for places. Geraghty in the second row had probably his best game in a Balbriggan shirt showing great carrying ability. Veteran front row Joyce, Davis and McDonnell showed the youngsters will have some work to do before they are displaced. Ian Murphy showed both attacking and defensive skills but the man of the match award must go to skipper Malone who ran tirelessly all evening. He also showed his leadership skills in getting the team to settle down and play rugby when in the past a Balbriggan team may have become too distracted by the off the ball events.