Header2014 IRFC

1st XV win 45-25 at home to Skerries 1st XV


Photos will appear:


Club Rugby – The Front Row Union Sport

Instonians Rugby Club | Facebook

On Saturday 1 April Instonians welcomed Skerries to Shaws Bridge for a top of the table clash which did not disappoint. It was great to welcome affable President Padraic Connolly to the packed pre match lunch and to have two British Lions in attendance in Bill Mulcahy from Skerries and Davy Irwin from Instonians. Everyone was richly entertained by fellow Instonian Colin Barkley and an impromptu and impeccable rendition of “The Lion King” by rugby club chairman Pete Bradley. Instonians President Owen Lambert was presented with a gift on behalf of the club by Davy Irwin for his fantastic year in office and his son Ben Lambert also received a gift from well known Instonian Steve Martin (son of the great Tony Martin for older Instonians) for the great work he does on social media. A proud day for the Lambert family.

With festivities over it was down to business with Skerries up to 2nd place after 8 wins on the bounce and looking for a home semi-final in the play offs. Instonians may have already won the league (and knew that they would be presented with the trophy after the game) but their sole focus was to add another bonus point win to the 16 they already had achieved.

It was dry overhead with just a slight breeze so perfect for the running rugby both these sides like to play. Expectation was high on the packed balcony and on the touchlines.

14:30 – Instonians kicked off and Skerries immediately secured possession and kicked deep into Instonians half. The Instonians coaching staff will have been delighted with what followed as quite clearly the week’s preparation for this week’s huge game had not been wasted.

14:32 – Instonians 7 – Skerries 0

Instonians immediately went through their phases with willing runners off the 9 and then spreading the ball wide. The support play was on message and Skerries defence was called into action. The visitors initially defended well but the speed of ruck ball and precision in the handling allied to very good support lines in attack eventually found space deep in the Skerries half on Instonians left hand side of the pitch. The ever willing Mark Mairs took a pass and seemed to have an overlap on his left hand side but he held on to the ball and passed back inside to prop Schalk Van Der Merwe who forced his way over the line to touch down just to the left of the posts . Jonathon Milliken added the extras and Instonians were up and running.

14:37 – Instonians 7 – Skerries 7

The response from Skerries was immediate as they showed that they were intent on keeping the ball alive and testing the Instonian defence. Skerries already looked threatening out wide but Mark Keane read the danger and went for an intercept on the half way line. It would have been a superb interception had he gathered the ball and he would no doubt have raced in under the posts. Unfortunately for Mark he could not quite get control of the ball and his disappointment would have increased as he was deemed to have deliberately knocked on and was given a yellow card.

Skerries took immediate advantage of the extra man as they kicked to touch on the right hand side of the pitch just short of the Instonian 22 and then immediately moved the ball left and a clever kick over the heads of the defensive line saw the centre gather the ball and barge over to score. The extras were added and we were all square.

Shortly after the restart Instonians had their 1st scrum and a chance to see how Skerries coped with the vaunted Instonian scrum. The answer was well as although Instonians won their ball the scrum stayed relatively steady.

When Instonians knocked on the attention turned to the next scrum with a Skerries put in but an early engage from Instonians saw Skerries quickly tap and move the ball wide and only a great piece of covering across by scrum-half Rhys O’Donnell stopped the outside man on the Skerries 22. The intent from Skerries to run the ball from deep was evident even at this early stage of the game.

14:37 – Instonians 12 – Skerries 7

Instonians driving maul off the line out was working well now and when they won a penalty at the breakdown just 30 metres out in front of the posts they turned down the relatively easy kick at goal to set up a line out 10 metres from the Skerries line and the tried and trusted driving maul saw hooker Conor Gallagher score in the corner. The conversion 10 metres in from the touchline was missed by Jonathon Milliken.

Mark Keane now returned from his yellow card to make it 15 v 15 again and did not waste any time getting into the action. Instonians took a scrum against the head on their own 22 and scrum half Rhys O’Donnell immediately broke blind and fed Mark who made a great break half the length of the pitch but just couldn’t get the final pass to hand. A penalty advantage had been signaled however and a kick to the corner on the left gave Instonians a line out deep in the Skerries 22. A good clean catch from the impressive Harry Gallagher at the tail saw him immediately pass the ball back to hooker Conor Gallagher at the front but the subsequent drive was well held up over the line by Skerries to give them a relieving goal line drop out.

Instonians were in full flow now however and keeping the ball alive and testing the Skerries defence. Following a clever chip over the defence by the effervescent Ruari O’Farrell at 10 a Skerries knock on gave Instonians a scrum. A penalty followed but unfortunately Matthew Keane overcooked the kick to the corner and Skerries survived again.

Skerries showed great character to come back hard at Instonians disrupting their next driving maul and turning the ball over. Both sides were now going toe to toe in the high quality encounter we expected to see. It was living up to its billing for sure.

15:12 – Instonians 19 – Skerries 7

Instonians were now playing at a very fast tempo and were also showing dominance in the scrums and winning the breakdown.

Following a penalty to Skerries at the breakdown they set up a great position with a line out 10 metres out from the Instonian line and a chance to level the game. Instonians had other ideas though and won the line out and moved the ball right where Max Preston made a great breakout of defence. Skerries were penalised at the next breakdown and Rhys O’Donnell at 9 took a quick tap and made good ground before feeding his support with Max Preston prominent again in a great team passage of play sweeping deep into the Skerries half with right wing Zak Davidson nearly getting in under the posts.

Skerries defence was excellent however and they managed to turn over the ball but quick thinking by the impressive Robert Whitten saw him charge down the attempted clearing kick to score under the posts right on half time. Jonathon Milliken did the needful and you felt that was a very important score in the context of this top of the table clash.

HALF TIME – Instonians 19 – Skerries 7

That late score came just at the wrong time for Skerries who had defended well and also given Instonians plenty to think about when the visitors attacked with ball in hand.

15:12 – Instonians 19 – Skerries 14

If the half had ended badly for Skerries, by contrast the 2nd half could not have started any better as when Max Preston was penalised for not releasing Skerries took a page right out of the Instonian playbook with a kick to the corner , driving maul and it was try time . The excellent touchline conversion had the sizeable travelling Skerries support firmly believing there was a game to win here.

Skerries were sensing an upset and following a driving maul in the Instonian 22 they moved the ball infield towards the posts with willing runners off the 9 but a fantastic jackal by the outstanding Mark Mairs drew great applause and no small measure of relief from the home support on the packed balcony.

At this stage 2nd row Harry Gallagher had to leave the field with injury. Harry has been excellent all season in the row but this did not look good with only 1 league game to go. Harry has had trouble with his ankle on occasions this year but this seemed to be his knee. We wish him well with his recovery as he will be a very important player in 2B next season.

The strength of the Instonian squad and the pack in particular was epitomised by the reshuffle with player coach Paul Pritchard coming off the bench and the outstanding player that is Robert Whitten showing his versatility by seamlessly moving from 6 into the row.

Skerries were intent on seizing their opportunity to take the lead but the Instonian defence was resolute and some big tackles were going in from the home side.

Matthew Keane then showed that it is not just forwards who can make great jackals by making one of his own from inside his own 22 and for good measure he put in a fantastic clearance kick. Proving yet again what a smart rugby player he is and the contribution he makes to the side on the left wing when his natural and normal position is at 9.

In this topsy turvy game it was now Instonians turn to apply pressure on the visitors both in the scrums and at the breakdown. Instonians are a very fit side which we have seen all season and use their bench well and you sensed that if they could apply all their pressure into points and get the 4th try and the bonus point that went with it then that would be the key score in deciding the outcome of the game.

15:34 – Instonians 26 – Skerries 14

When Mark Mairs soared into the air to pinch the Skerries line out the Instonian backline clicked into gear and a slick transfer across the line saw Matthew Keane tackled into touch just short of the goal line. Instonians won this line out at the tail and there was no stopping the powerful prop Anton Lupari who crashed over for the bonus point try with Jonathon Milliken adding the extras.

15:38 – Instonians 31 – Skerries 14

Skerries were still mixing up their game by occasionally kicking for territory and position in between the constant desire to spread the ball wide. From one such kick Matthew Keane put in a great relieving kick downfield and then saw his cousin Daniel Keane make a crunching tackle just inside the Skerries half which forced the visitors to lose the ball forward.

From the resultant scrum Instonians scored a magnificent try which looked like one straight off the training paddock. Scrum half Rhys O’Donnell broke from the base of the scrum and great interchange from the Keane brothers Daniel and Mark saw Zak Davidson put clear in the corner. Jonathon Milliken missed the difficult conversion but with this try the result was secured for Instonians with only a quarter of the game to go.

15:44 – Instonians 38 – Skerries 14

With Instonians now completely dominating the scrum (it really must be disheartening for the opposition when they see Schalke Van Der Merwe take a breather shortly after half time and then they have to deal with Alan Whitten entering the fray, there really is no let up) and having the ascendancy at the breakdown the Instonian backline were simply expressing themselves and how they did that with the next play. From a scrum in front of the posts on the Skerries 22 Rhys O’Donnell sprinted right from the base and then stopped dead in his tracks and fired a long pass left to full back Jonathon Milliken who gave a lovely pass to Daniel Keane to sprint in for a great score. Again the result of excellent preparation during the week running up to the game and prefect execution on the day.

15:49 – Instonians 38 – Skerries 21

The scenario for Skerries was very different now and their revised target was to see if they could get 2 more tries and a precious bonus point on the road. Mark Keane who had a fine game then blotted his copy book somewhat and a poor attempt to kick for the wing back fired and Skerries accepted the present to run in to score in the corner and a great touchline conversion followed.

15:53 – Instonians 38 – Skerries 26

Skerries were just one score away from that bonus point and they showed great character to lift themselves for one last counter attack from deep and after a great passage of play throwing caution to the wind they went over in the corner after a quick tap penalty on the Instonian 22. The conversion was missed but that was academic as Skerries had achieved their revised target and it was no more than they deserved for the contribution they had made to this pulsating high quality encounter.

15:56 – Instonians 45 – Skerries 26

This Instonian side play to the final whistle however and there was still time for one more try. It was a carbon copy of so many of their tries this season with the dominant scrum getting another scrum penalty and the kick to the corner and resulting driving maul from the line out gave the hooker another score. The beauty of this score was that it was teenager Oli Clarke in his first season at the club. He will remember this try and so will his family and so they all should. A fine conversion from Jonathon Milliken completed the scoring for the day and from the restart Rhys O’Donnell put the ball out of play to finish off a great day’s rugby and prepare for the trophy presentation.

FULL TIME – Instonians 45 – Skerries 26

Credit to both teams for producing such an exciting match, it lived up to its billing. Skerries were very much in the contest for long periods and were great value for the bonus point they earned. No team will want to face them in the play offs and having fallen at the final hurdle last season perhaps this is their year. We wish them well with that.

MOM today is an interesting one as at half time Max Preston had his name all over this but by full time his back row partner Mark Mairs did enough to share it with him. This may seem odd to the backs amongst you who witnessed some sparkling tries and the backline is great to watch and has been for months now but as this reporter was reminded in the bar you cannot win without the ball so for the 2nd week in a row the MOM award is shared between 2 forwards.

This Instonian team have so far dealt with every challenge put in their way and have now 17 wins from 17 and all with bonus points and just 1 match to play. As they celebrated on the pitch after the game when they were presented the trophy by IRFU official Paul Hart ( a lovely task for Paul to do as a Past President of Instonians) they will already have their eyes on the next game and it is the last one. Again it will be 1st v 2nd as Tullamore took advantage of Skerries loss to move 1 point ahead of them in the table. The date is Saturday 15 April 2023 as Instonians try to create a piece of AIL history by taking maximum points form all 18 league games. Tullamore will have other ideas so what a finale it is set up to be. For any supporters wanting to avail of the supporters bus that day please check the club website and get booked on. It could be the best £10 you have spent in a while. The mantra remains the same and that is 1 more game , the difference being this time it carries the big prize of a bit of history. See you all at Tullamore in a fortnight.