Balbriggan 22 Midland Warriors 8
Balbriggan wrapped up their league campaign securing the runners – up spot and a play off against New Ross next weekend for promotion to Div2A. To have watched this match it would not have been evident to the casual spectator that there was so much at stake as had Balbriggan lost Athy would have had the opportunity to steal the runners up spot. Balbriggan were lethargic through the match and really should have had the game wrapped up by half time but it was only in the last couple of minutes they put some deep water between themselves and the warriors. Without vintage props Joyce and McDonnell, the struggled all day in the scrum but in all other aspects of the game they had the upper hand on the men from Moate. Coach Conor Casey was substituting in the centre for Jay Mullen and hat ensured that the ball was moved across the line at all times and it was from one of these moves that Tomas Murphy for over for the first try. The Warriors came back strong and were camped on the Balbriggan line when a turnover set winger Dylan Staunton off up the line to score a good individual try. Instead of kicking on from there Balbriggan seemed to lose their shape. They lost Ciaran Verdon to a shoulder injury as he was tackling back but this gave Stu Mullen the opportunity to continue his return after a long time off injured.
In the second half the game seemed to be stuck in mid field. Stu Mullen nearly got over for a try but was tackled into touch. Sean Malone nearly got over from the 5 metre scrum but again was bundled into touch. Having survived that attack Moate got back up the pitch and converted a penalty. Balbriggan struck back nearly immediately and a good back move saw Dave Healy get over in the corner. The to and fro of the match continued with Moate attacked and a lapse in the Balbriggan defence let Moate in for a try and back into the game. Balbriggan steadied and with Captain Malone leading from the front and urging his men on they moved back into the Warriors half and a good back move was finished off by second row Anto Whelan sprinting over the line for another try.
A bonus point win left Balbriggan 7 points ahead of Athy who lost to league winners Roscrea, having won the same number of games. Balbriggan’s 9 bonus points were the difference in finishing runner up and show the value of fighting to the end.
After the match Coach Casey and Captain Malone left the team in no doubt that a much better showing will be required in the play off match. For Anto Whelan it was a man ofhematch display as he has now got used to crossing the line with ball in hand, a great reward for the engine room of the team who has given all for the season.
The play off game is next Sunday against New Ross with the Towns Cup match against Enniscorthy match deferred.