Header2014 IRFC

1st XV win nailbitter 13-8 at home to Wanderers 1st XV


On Saturday 17 February 2024 Instonians welcomed Wanderers Club Secretary Eoghan Nihill and his party to a packed pre match lunch at Shaws Bridge where Instonians stalwart and founder of the Perennials Geoff Goldsborough was recognized by the club for his British Empire Medal for his great charity work with his Perennials rugby club having raised over £500,000 since its inception in 1989.

The focus then turned to this top of the table clash with Wanderers looking to avenge the heartbreaking 39-38 loss to the league leaders back on 11 November 2023 at Merrion Road when Instonians won the game with a penalty 2 minutes from time. An equally close contest was anticipated but given the very heavy rain before the match it was unlikely to be such a high scoring affair this time round. The result was all that mattered today.

14:30 Instonians 0 – Wanderers 0

The rain had ceased just before Wanderers kicked off deep with the slight wind advantage playing towards the far car park. Instonians made a good exit with scrum half Rhys O’Donnell clearing to the Instonian 10 metre line on their right.

14:32 Instonians 0 – Wanderers 3

Wanderers won their line out and immediately put together a good opening salvo with forwards and backs interlinking and won a penalty at the breakdown on the Instonian 22 in front of the posts. In what was likely to be a low scoring encounter they had no hesitation in kicking at goal and an early lead.

14:36 Instonians 7 – Wanderers 3

Instonians tried to move the ball wide but with a greasy ball their handling was a bit loose. When Wanderers strayed offside on halfway, however, out half Richie McMaster put in a great touch find to within 10 metres of the Wanderers line on the clubhouse side of the pitch. No surprise that Instonians went to their driving maul and seconds later Neil Saulters was touching down at the back of it. Richie then nailed a great conversion from 10 metres in from touch on the wrong side of the pitch for a left foot kicker. Early days but those extra 2 points could be important in a tight contest.

14:50 Instonians 7 – Wanderers 3

Wanderers came straight back at Instonians and following a great period of sustained and controlled possession using strong runners off the 9, they worked their way up the field and hammered away at the Instonians line. To their credit the Instonian defence was excellent and they held the ball up over their own goal line for a relieving drop out.

14:57 Instonians 7 – Wanderers 3

Wanderers were mixing up their play well, switching from using strong runners off the 9 to kicking long for territory. Young Instonian full back Bradley McNamara put in a great kick into the slight wind which resulted in a 50-22 and a line out for Instonians on their right. Instonians moved the ball inside, but the ball was lost forward and Wanderers regathered.

Wanderers then kicked long again and this time young Bradley put in an even better 50-22 off the outside of his left boot which somehow he managed to find touch on the left side of the pitch by the clubhouse. This gave Instonians another good platform to attack. They went to their driving maul initially and then moved it inside but lost the ball in contact again.

Wanderers came straight back again and went to their big strong runners off the 9 and really tested the Instonian defence which held firm again.

15:03 Instonians 7 – Wanderers 3

Schalk Van Der Merwe replaced Alan Whitten at prop after half an hour and his immediate priority was to join the band of impressive Instonian tacklers as Wanderers continued to apply pressure looking for that 1 score that would give them a half time lead.

Wanderers were in the ascendancy at this stage and were on top in terms of possession and territory but Instonians had the better of the set piece pinching Wanderers line out and on top in the scrums but not as dominant in that area as they usually are.

Wanderers won a penalty at the breakdown on their own 10 metre line and put in a good kick for touch on the Instonian 22 by the clubhouse. Again great defence from Instonians held them out and when Instonians won a penalty at the next breakdown Wanderers were marched back 10 metres for back chat.

15:13 Instonians 7 – Wanderers 3

When Instonians lost another ball in contact on the Wanderers 10 metre line the visitors kicked through into open space in the Instonian 22 and it spelt danger for the home side. Great recovery work from Rhys O’Donnell, however, saw him sprint back to recover the ball and manage to avoid giving away the penalty before clearing the ball to the Instonian 10 metre line on their right.

When David Whitten then soared into the air to win the line out Instonians moved the ball along the back line to their left but Richie McMaster had his pass intercepted and it took great work from Mark Mairs and Paul Pritchard to scramble back and win the penalty at the breakdown deep in their own 22.

Instonians happily kicked to touch and turned round with a half time lead purely due to their superb defence against a very committed and physical Wanderers attack.

HALF TIME –Instonians 7 – Wanderers 3

Wanderers will have been very pleased with their 1st half performance but by the same token disappointed to be behind on the scoreboard. Instonians, for their part, will have been disappointed with their handling errors and the resulting turnovers that were costing them but very pleased with their defensive work and more importantly to be in the lead in a low scoring game. The next score was crucial to both sides.

15:20 Instonians 7 – Wanderers 3

Instonians kicked off playing towards the far car park and with the slight wind advantage. The kick was returned to touch and when Instonians ran the ball back off the line out Wanderers were penalised for a high tackle and Richie McMaster found touch 10 metres from the Wanderers line on Instonians left. What a great opportunity for Instonians to get that crucial score but Wanderers did very well to hold up the driving maul on their goal line and get the 5 metre scrum to clear their lines.

15:30 Instonians 7 – Wanderers 3

Instonians were now getting more of a hold on territory and possession and when David Whitten won another Wanderers line out, the visitors were caught offside in the backs and Richie McMaster found touch just inside the Wanderers 22 on Instonians left. A crooked throw, however gave Wanderers the opportunity to clear their lines again.

15:34 Instonians 7 – Wanderers 8

Instonians were now in the ascendancy and with a good bench and their fitness levels a score now would put them in a great position but, out of the blue, Wanderers intercepted a pass on their own 22 and broke out of defence. A kick ahead and a regather saw them take the lead with a score in the corner. The conversion was missed leaving it a 1-point game.

Instonians had their whole bench on now and fresh legs for the last half hour of the game.

15:40 Instonians 7 – Wanderers 8

Instonians again lost the ball forward when moving it wide and a Wanderers 50-22 saw them in a great position inside the Instonian 22. They moved it infield with runners off the 9 but good defence again from Instonians held them out.

15:47 Instonians 7 – Wanderers 8

Then a great charge down and regather from David Whitten saw the ball quickly recycled but the handling errors of the 1st half were repeated and when Instonians were penalised at the next breakdown it was their turn to lose discipline and back chat and they were marched back 10 metres.

15:55 Instonians 10 – Wanderers 8

This time it was Mark Mairs who won the Wanderers lineout, but Wanderers counter rucked and got the ball back. The game was on a knife edge with the large crowd on the balcony and up the touchline engrossed.

A fantastic tackle from Schalk Van Der Merwe resulted in a penalty to Instonians on their 10 metre line and a great touch find by Richie McMaster for a line out 5 metres inside the Wanderers 22 on Instonians left. The driving maul put pressure on Wanderers and they strayed offside in midfield. This time Instonians had the line out just 10 metres out from the line.

Wanderers defended well but Instonians got a scrum 15 metres out to the left of the posts. They needed a big scrum and that is exactly what they delivered. A big cheer from the home support signified the scrum penalty and there was no hesitation in pointing to the posts and Richie McMaster put Instonians ahead with 5 minutes of normal time left.

16:03 Instonians 13 – Wanderers 8

Instonians ran the kick off back and got another penalty on the Wanderers 10 metre line in midfield. They chose not to go for the points this time and instead a kick for a line out 15 metres out on the clubhouse side of the pitch. From the driving maul the ball was moved infield towards the posts but again the ball was lost forward and the chance had gone.

With Wanderers only 2 points behind they knew that a penalty or drop goal could win it for them and they had a line out between their 10 metre line and halfway on the clubhouse side. Yet another line out steal, this time by Schalk Van Der Merwe saw Instonians kick deep into Wanderers 22 forcing them to run from deep but in doing so they gave away a penalty at the breakdown in front of their posts and Richie McMaster made it a 5-point game with time nearly up.

16:05 Instonians 13 – Wanderers 8

There was time for 1 last play and Wanderers tried the short kick off to try to get the ball back, but it was too short and did not go 10 so Instonians had a scrum on halfway. What a scrum it was too and the roar from the Instonians team and the home crowd followed the award of the scrum penalty. Richie McMaster tapped to himself and kicked the ball out and Instonians had won.

FULL TIME – Instonians 13– Wanderers 8

This was another great advert for AIL rugby. It was never going to be a high scoring spectacle like the last game between these 2 very good sides. This was a very physical encounter with defences coming out on top.

Wanderers will be very disappointed to lose both narrow encounters with Instonians but will take great heart from their performances in both games. It will take a very good side to beat them in the last 4 games.

It would be churlish to be critical of this very good Instonian side and instead the handling errors of the last 2 weeks simply gives them something to work on during the week. As for their defence, however, it was simply magnificent on that front as it was so difficult to pick a MOM this week it goes to the whole team and coaching team for that D as it is known these days.

A well-earned week off to recover and then the trip to Sligo on 2 March 2024 for another physical encounter. The mantra remains the same “one game at a time”.