Balbriggan 22 Wexford 17
The top of the table clash saw the home team just scrape through in what was an exciting game of rugby. With a gale blowing down the pitch Wexford opted to play the game with the wind at their backs for the first half. The wind advantage meant that Balbriggan would be put under pressure but Wexford not being used to the Balrothery gale twice kicked the ball out on the full giving Balbriggan scrum advantage back in the Wexford half and allowing the locals to absorb some of the pressure.
Balbriggan put pressure on a Wexford srum and won a turnover ball which they then turned into an attack. Unfortunately it was Wexford that ended up on the score board from that move when a floated pass was intercepted and the Wexford centre took off to score in the corner. Balbriggan went on the offensive from the kick off and continued to pressure the Wexford defence. A good attack was halted short of the line and Wexford were awarded a penalty to relieve the pressure but Balbriggan attacked back from the line out and from a ruck five metres out scrum half Grogan and out half Healy combined well before slipping the ball back inside for skipper Malone to score. Healy added the conversion.
With Wexford having much of the territority and using the wind cleverly Balbriggan defended well and the pack absorbed anything thrown at them. Anto Whelan carried strongly to relieve Balbriggan time and again. If Wexford didn’t find touch they found that Mullen and his two wingers, O’Toole and Staunton who were more than happy to run the ball back at them.
Nearing half time Balbriggan held a slender lead but fell behind to a second try from Wexford which Wexford failed to convert. Balbriggan struck back either side of the break. Early in the second half a great break from Mullen was just halted on the line and in the ensuing maul centre Verdon burrowed over for a try. Minutes later it again was Mullen returning a kick and combining with O’Toole sent O’Toole over to stretch the lead. Wexford however were not finished and hit back for a try before Mullen returned the favour to score one of his own. While that secured the bonus point it did not secure the victory. Back came Wexford with another score that left it 22 -17 going into the last few minutes. Wexford got a series of penalties that brought them up into the Balbriggan 22 but with time running out they had to run it and Balbriggan managed to clear the ball down field and Wexford desperately scrambled the loose ball into touch fearing a further Balbriggan score that would deny them the losing bonus point. This was a very hard fought win by Balbriggan. The return match will be eagerly anticipated by all.
Everyone will be looking forward to the return leg in Wexford in December. Another good display and great team work but the man of the match goes to Mullen who has been having a fine season and today was instrumental in three of the Balbriggan scores.
S Mullen, T O’Toole, I Murphy, K Verdon, D Staunton , K Healy, P Joyce, (A McKiernan) J Davis (J Keogh) C McDonald. A Whelan, G Dennis, M Fay. M Geraghty (D Healy) C Malone