Balbriggan 24 v Wexford Wanderers 13
Balbriggan secured a bonus point victory at home on Sunday against Wexford Wanderers in Division 2B of the Leinster League. The final score in this entertaining game was 24 v 13. The match was played in near perfect conditions. Balbriggan played the first half with the benefit of the breeze and the sun, sitting low in the sky beaming into the players eyes.
The home team set the pace early and attacked Wexford at every opportunity through both forwards and backs. Early pressure led to a try for Balbriggan within 10 minutes of the kick-off through outhalf Ian Murphy. The try was converted by Kyle Healy and Balbriggan were up and running. The visitors were quickly back on the defensive from the restart with the Balbriggan pack applying pressure at scrum time and through their driving mauls off the lineout. Even so, Balbriggan had to work hard before getting their next score which came through second row Anthony Whelan. Whelan is enjoying a rich vein of form of late and he used his tremendous strength, with a little help from his fellow forwards to power over the Wexford line. Healy narrowly missed the conversion but Balbriggan were deservedly ahead 12 v 0. Wexford however did not roll over for the North County hosts and they did forage briefly for a spell inside the Balbriggan 22. Stout Balbriggan defence, led by man of the match Jay Mullen in centre held Wexford out. Balbriggan turned ball over at a crucial point in this spell of Wexford pressure and worked their way back down field. On 30 minutes, Balbriggan struck again with a third try, this time through outstanding wing forward Connor Burke. A break orchestrated by Ciaran Malone, and fast action by Balbriggan backs, helped put Burke in for a fine try in the left corner. The conversion was missed but Balbriggan were ahead 17 v 0 after 30 minutes and were already looking for a bonus point. Wexford however held out for the remainder of the half which was a great credit to their defensive work and their ‘never say die’ attitude.
These two teams played each other three times last season and Balbriggan found their visitors a very hard team to shake off. This match was to prove little different. Balbriggan started the second half as they finished the first, on the attack. However, though they came close in the first 10 minutes of the restart to scoring a bonus point try, Wexford held out and they gradually began to exert some pressure of their own. This pressure eventually paid off with a penalty after 15 minutes leaving the score 17 v 3. Wexford felt they might yet be in with a shout in this match. They made some changes, some forced through injury and began to build pressure on Balbriggan. The pressure paid off when, after a series of scrums, driving rolling mauls and elaborate back moves, Wexford eventually scored a try to the right of the Balbriggan uprights. The conversion was missed leaving the score at an uncomfortable (for Balbriggan) 17 v 8. There were still 15 minutes left to play. Balbriggan needed to up their efforts if they were to ensure victory and deny their visitors something from this match. The home team raised their game and their backs, especially Jay Mullen, but also Ian Murphy, Ciaran Verdon and substitute Con Casey led numerous charges into Wexford territory. One of these surging moves resulted in Anto Whelan scoring his second, and Balbriggan’s fourth try of the day. Whelan, again using his immense strength as well as some guile, forced his way through a number of defending Wexford players and placed the ball at the base of the upright. The conversion was added and Balbriggan were 16 points clear, with what they believed to be less than 10 minutes to play. Wexford however refused to lie down. back they came and, deep into injury time, they scored a try which they failed to convert. 24 v 13. Incredibly, there was still time left to play and Wexford came looking for a losing bonus point. Balbriggan held out however and secured a well deserved victory. They currently sit in third placed in Division 2B after two rounds, two points off joint leaders Athy and Roscrea. Next match is Sunday 29th November at home to Birr. Before then, Balbriggan RFC will celebrate the Club’s 90th anniversary since it was founded in 1925 with a Gala Ball in the Bracken Court Hotel on Friday the 27th November. Today against Wexford the team were magnificent. A number of players stood out. Amongst the forwards, Anto Whelan, Connor Burke and Leigh O’Toole are deserving of mention. Amongst the backs, David Healy, Ciaran Verdon, Ian Murphy stood out. However, man of the match was Jay Mullen for his incredible tackle count in defence and his numerous bursts through midfield in attack.