Balbriggan IIXV 7 Ardee 7
With the IXV not in action until next week it was left to the IIXV to provide the weekend rugby fix. Balbriggan played league leaders Ardee in an enjoyable encounter at Balrothery on Sunday. Having come off worst in their derby match with Skerries the previous week the IIXV were somewhat apprehensive about this fixture with the leaders who had put a big score up against them at the start of the season.
It was Ardee who started the match better with some good runs across their back line but as both teams would rue by the end of the game handling left a lot to be desired. Balbriggan though absorbed the initial pressure and then started to put on some pressure of their own. With veterans O’Connor and McFadden lending experience to the pack Balbriggan were able to develop a good mauling game and with former skipper Tom Hagan, more used to the number 7 jersey, playing at 9 this kept the Ardee forwards on their toes with him making a number of darting breaks. In the centre J Mullen, recently returned from down under, struck up a good partnership with Paul Quinn and both hard runners caused a lot of problems for the Ardee defence. However it was Ardee who got on the score board first when an intercept on their own 22 saw them score under the posts.
Balbriggan attacked for the remainder of the half and at the scrums props Shane Bissett and Paul Cullen were in charge. Eventually their persistence paid off when O’Connor set Quinn for a score that Mullen converted. The second half saw both teams trying hard to break the deadlock and while there was good play from both sides neither could break the deadlock. Mid way during the half and O’Connor thieved a ball at a ball and made a break for the Ardee line, while 30 years ago he may have made it he got to the 22 before being caught. Another veteran Dec Quinn joined the fray for the remaining 15 minutes and his experience gave Balbriggan the upper hand in the tight play. With the clock running into injury time Balbriggan were awarded a penalty 5 metres out. They opted for the scrum and while they managed to recycle the ball a couple of times there eventually was a knock on and the game was over.
A highly entertaining game and good for the confidence of the IIXV. There could only be one man of the match, at 48 and counting veteran Des O’Connor really rolled back the years and gave a vintage display of back row play. He certainly has put it up to the youngsters to emulate that!
The IXV are back on the road next week with an away fixture to Arklow in the last section of the league.