Garda 32 Balbriggan 22
An exciting, all action game of rugby at Westmanstown saw Garda come out on top. Garda attacked from the kick-off and Adam O’Connor was tackled into touch, from the line-out the large Garda second row came straight through the middle of the line and was only taken down short of the line by a brave tackle from Andrew Browne. Garda recycled a couple of times before their openside flanker crashed over in the corner for the opening score with less than five minutes gone. Garda attacked back straight from the kick off and Mark Fay, despite his valiant efforts to get out of the way, was penalized for not rolling away and Balbriggan were 8-0 down. Garda weren’t done as the siege continued and this time despite some heroic tackling on the line Garda managed to keep their hands on the ball and then they were 15-0 up. Balbriggan appeared to be in a bit of a haze but slowly they started to come around and Tomas Murphy in particular made some good runs out of defence. From one of these runs Balbriggan got into the Garda 22 and whilst they lost the line out managed to get the ball back and a good move across the line saw Rian Kavanagh get in and Scannell added the points. Garda then lost their flanker for 10 minutes after a deliberate knock-on. Garda didn’t really appear to miss the man as Balbriggan battled on. Mark Fay made great ground and managed to get the ball back after being tackled only for Balbriggan to be penalized for sealing off a the ruck. The penalty didn’t find touch and Scannell counter-attacked and after the next ruck it was flashed across the line. Cal O’Connor took on a couple of defenders before letting the ball out to Browne who scored in the corner. The half ended with Balbriggan training 17-10.
Garda came out all fired up for the second half and in the first scrum blasted Balbriggan backwards and then fed the ball for their winger to score those important first points of he half. A mix up in the Garda line saw Mark Fay claim the kick off and burst his way into the home team’s 22. The ball was fed across the line and from a distance it looked as if Scannell was over the line but was held up just short. Balbriggan got a scrum and won a penalty from it. Conor Caldwell looked to go quickly but was held up on the line, Balbriggan knocked on and the pressure was relieved. Garda then had another yellow card for a second deliberate knock-on. Murphy started another move and some great running from Cal O’Connor and Browne saw good ground made before knocking on a the ruck. Balbriggan continued to pressure but were not able to break the Garda defence so at the next penalty they took the three points. Calamity struck when on the next Garda attack they seemed to suck all the Balbriggan players in to a ruck to give their winger the easiest of scoring opportunities.
Conor Caldwell was then pinged for encroaching into the 10 metre zone at a line out. A great kick had Garda with a lineout 5 metres from the line and they duly added another try. Balbriggan did hit back with a good break by Brian Mollahan which Scannell converted to bring the score to 32-22. With time running out Balbriggan knew they needed at least a penalty to ensure there place in the playoffs however it was not to be. Thankfully Champions Edenderry squeezed home 17-7 against Roscrea to leave balbriggan in second place and a playoff against Newbridge.
The Balbriggan side will be disappointed with their display, they appeared a little lethargic and too many plays broke down. To stand a chance in the playoff they will have to up their game to the level they had against Roscrea in their previous match. Reilly and Caldwell did a lot of damage in mid field but Balbriggan struggled to progress from it. Graham Reynolds had a good game and made a lot of tackles and overall the scrum held up well and apart from a couple had the upper hand. Adam O’Connor was in better from than the last match and younger brother Cal had probably his best game of the season. Tomas Murphy also had another good game. Man of the match though was Mark Fay who never stopped going both in attack and defence for the whole match.
Some work to do but Coach Walls will be confident that his squad can give it one last big effort.
The Leinster League Play-Off takes place at Coolmine RFC this Sunday, KO 3pm.