Result : 8 v 7 to Balbriggan
Photos kindly provided by Joe Curtis
Balbriggan completed the hat trick of league victories over Midland Warriors, but only just. This was the toughest league match to date. Having been run close in Moate before Christmas, Balbriggan were looking forward to the wide expanses of the home pitch and were hoping to put a few tries on the board. The match started off as if in fact they might. From the kick off the ball was gathered in by Anto Whealan and then fed back to Scrum half Casey who flashed the ball out the line. After a couple of recycles Balbriggan found themselves inside the opposition 22. A penalty was awarded when the maul was pulled down. A quick tap by Casey saw him feed skipper Malone who set up another another maul and again a quick feed saw the ball flashed across the back line and winger Staunton scored in the corner. From the restart Balbriggan attacked again and looked as if they may add to the score but the Warriors defended well. A penalty was given away, Balbriggan decided to go for the corner and not take the three points. A decision that may have come back to haunt them. They were held up on the line and the chance was gone.
As the half went on the Warriors got back into the game. With their main line out jumpers side lined with injury, Balbriggan were not having their way with the line outs and the Warriors front jumper was winning more than his own share of the ball. The Warriors had one game plan and it only involved numbers 1-9. The rest of the team being superfluous to their attacking moves. The Balbriggan defence remained firm and just when it looked as it was breached Con Casey came up with the ball and cleared the danger as the ref ended the half.
The second half started as the first ended with pressure from the Warriors. Eventually the Balbriggan defence capitulated and from five metres out a gap appeared that allowed for the Warriors to get onto the score board and they converted to take a two point lead. As much as Balbriggan tried it is difficult to play without the ball. They lost Kieran Verdon to a knee strain but the experienced Jay Mullen took his place. Jay helped strengthen the defence and was like an extra forward in holding up the rampaging Warriors. When Balbriggan did get the ball they were able to run the ball wide and get some ground. Stu Mullen and Andrew Miller on the wing made some telling breaks. Tom Hagan replaced the hardworking Mark Fay and Paddy Joyce was replaced by Alan McKiernan. The fresh legs gave Balbriggan a bit more impetus but Warriors were happy to concede penalties rather than ground. Eventually a penalty was conceded in Healys range and Balbriggan regained a slim lead. Warriors, true to their name battled away and with the clock well in injury time Balbriggan conceded an unnecessary penalty for back-chat to the referee. It was just out of their kickers range and they kicked to the corner but knocked on at the ensuing line out and Balbriggan scraped home.
While still on track for a show down with Wexford, Balbriggan will have to improve on this display. Not having played since early December showed up in the play. With no game for a fortnight when they play Ratoath the team could do with a run out. The man of the match was Con Casey, having moved in to scrum half, his play certainly moved the back line and would look as if it could unlock the potential that is there.
A win is a win and great credit must be given to the defensive ability of the team.