Midland Warriors 18 v Balbriggan 24
In balmy autumnal sunshine on Sunday last, Balbriggan RFC played their final pool game in the Leinster League Div 2B/3, before the League proper commences. Having already confirmed their position in Leinster League Div 2B the previous week, Balbriggan were looking to complete the pool stages with a clean sweep. They did this, to finish with five wins from five, but they had to work hard for their victory, holding out against a lively Midland Warriors team in Moate with ambitions of their own of finishing top of the pool. The final score was 18 v 24.
Balbriggan started the match at a hectic pace, putting the Warriors under the kosh from the off. Early pressure led to early penalties but Balbriggan were slow to turn pressure into points, missing a couple of chances at goal. However, hard work by the pack led to Balbriggan pushing the Warriors off their own scrum inside the Warriors’ 22. The pack turned the scrum into a rolling maul and drove the Warriors pack back over their own line. Captain Ciaran Malone came up from the bottom of the pile having secured the first score of the game. Kyle Healy added the conversion and Balbriggan were in the lead 0 v 7 after nearly 20 minutes of play. Balbriggan continued to apply the pressure and moved the ball through their backs in a number of sweeping moves. The constant pressure told when centre Jay Mullen ran in a fine try under the posts after breaking a number of tackles and jinking back infield, deceiving the Warriors defence. Healy again added the conversion and Balbriggan were up 0 v 14 with 30 minutes played. Balbriggan soon added to the score to stretch the lead to 0 v 21 after 35 minutes when a slick backline move led to an overlap on the right wing allowing Tommy O’Toole to score on his return from injury. Despite the conversion being far out on the wing, Healy found his mark and Balbriggan appeared to be on course for a bonus point victory. However, rather than add to their tally,Balbriggan conceded a soft try to their hosts deep into injury time in the first half when the warriors ran a number of penalties to eventually score to the right of the posts. They did not add the conversion but the half ended 5 v 21 to Balbriggan.
The try at the end of the first half clearly galvanised the Warriors who came out immediately on the attack at the start of the second half. The hosts scored their second try of the afternoon within 5 minutes of the restart and added the conversion making the score a barely believable 12 v 21 to the North Dublin visitors. From that point on the Warriors put Balbriggan under continual pressure which they sustained for much of the second half. Heroic try saving tackles were put in, time and again by Balbriggan as the warriors threatened to score on a number of occasions. Winger Dylan Staunton who played his best game of the season, was particularly outstanding putting in numerous tackles. Scrum half Con Casey led the defence turning over the ball at critical points in that difficult part of the game. He was ably assisted by the rest of the team who put in a tough shift in the very warm conditions. Even so, the Warriors inched closer and closer to Balbriggan. After spurning a number of kickable penalties, the Warriors eventually settled for kicks at goal to draw themselves closer to Balbriggan. They were awarded numerous penalties during this half and converted two of them between the 50th and 65th minutes of the match. They were now only three points behind Balbriggan (18 v 21) and clearly confident of bringing off an incredible come back. However, Balbriggan dug deep into their reserves and managed a rare spell of pressure inside the Warriors half with about 10 minutes remaining. This spell of pressure resulted in a Balbriggan penalty. Healy landed the difficult kick and Balbriggan were six points clear with eight minutes remaining. This was still not the end of the matter. Balbriggan had to withstand a late siege with the Warriors awarded a scrum, five metres from the Balbriggan line almost directly in front of the posts. Casey, quick as lightning all afternoon, managed to rip the ball from the hands of the Warriors scrum half and cleared the lines. Balbriggan held out for a hard earned victory. They will be meeting the Warriors twice more this season once Division 2B gets under way.