Birr 8 Balbriggan 25
Balbriggan got their Leinster league campaign off to a good start with a hard earned win over Birr in Co Offaly on Sunday. It has been a number of years since the clubs met but the Balbriggan men knew what would be facing them, a good hard game up front and that is exactly what they got.
From the kick off Birr were in their face with their forwards taking the ball up hard into the engagement. It looked as if it was going to be long afternoon. After absorbing the pressure for the first ten minutes Balbriggan were let off the hook when Birr kicked their first penalty attempt wide. From the 22 drop out Balbriggan gathered and Sean Malone, playing at No 8 in the absence of his brother, showed that Balbriggan could also carry the ball. As Balbriggan settled into the game they were able alleviate the pressure and started to turn it over. Birr gave away a number of penalties for high tackles, the referee was very strict on the interpretation and Birr didn’t listen.
One of these was in kicking range and Healy put Balbriggan 3-0, unfortunately Balbriggan gave the 3 points straight back from the kick off. Birr used the wind on their back and attacked down the touch line but a fine steal in the tackle by Dave Healy gave Balbriggan the chance to attack up the line and they won a penalty for yet another high tackle. Kyle Healy kicked Balbriggan up to the Birr 5 metre line and looked as if Sean Malone got over for the first try when Balbriggan won the line out but Birr hadn’t engaged and Balbriggan were deemed to have been accidently off side. A few minutes later Birr played the same dangerous game, except this time John Davis stole one against the head and Balbriggan got the ball across the line for Marcel Brennan to score in the corner. Brennan had only just come on for Tommy O’Toole who picked up a shoulder injury.
The play was back and forth with both teams attacking and counter attacking. Birr with continuing high tackles lost a man to the bin and Balbriggan took advantage. Once again Balbriggan saw themselves in the Birr corner and they won a scrum and after a good break by Malone, Healy followed up to score at the posts and then convert it.
It looked that Balbriggan would take a 15 – 3 lead to half time but just as the half ended Birr spread the ball wide and got a score in the corner for 15-8.
In the second half Birr again came hard at Balbriggan with the intensity of the play Balbriggan were glad they had a full bench as first they lost Ian Murphy with an arm injury from all the tackling he was doing. Coach Casey substituted for Murphy and took on the scrum half role with Kyle Healy moving out one. Casey used the box kick to great effect and with swift follow up from Verdon and Dave Healy they managed to keep Birr pinned back. They then lost Spud Brown to the bin for a high tackle, while it wasn’t malicious the ref was at least being consistent. Birr were not able to make any headway with the one man advantage. Malone was the next to hobble off to be replaced by Mark Fay.
J Mullen looked as if he was through to score until upended by another high tackle where the Birr player went to the bin for the second time. Ciaran Verdon nearly scored a drop goal from the ensuing move but Healy then converted the penalty. It was Healy again who put the game out of reach grabbing the final try in the last quarter.
A tough win and a good one to get under their belt. Connor Burke and Mark Brown had good games in the back row. Anto Whelan pressed into front row duty did well considering the pressure he was in all weekend. He also carried well. The man of the match though had to be Healy who had his overall best game in a long time with a lot of intelligent plays coupled with his tries.
Next week is the local Fingal Derby against Swords.
C Verdon, D Healy, T O’Toole (M Brennan), J Mullen (Capt), D Staunton, I Murphy (C Casey) K Healy, C McDonnell, J Davis, A Whelan, M Geraghty, G Dennis, M Browne, C Burke, S Malone(D Bryan)