Header2014 IRFC

1st XV return to AIL with 39-21 win at home to Tullamore



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On Saturday 1 October 2022 Instonians returned to All Ireland League action after an absence of 8 years when they welcomed Tullamore to Shaws Bridge. The pre match lunch included the 1990 Instonian side along with coach Brian Gallagher which played the 1st ever game in the AIL when Instonians were in the top division. The guests including Tullamore Past President Ciaran Lynch were royally entertained by the Ulster prop from that side and ex Instonian captain Gary Bell. There was huge excitement and expectation before kick off and a big challenge was expected from a side that went so close to promotion last season in the play-offs.

14:30 – Tullamore kicked off in brilliant sunshine with the breeze behind them. Frazer Laughlin caught the ball in his own 22 on the far right hand touchline and took the ball into contact, Harry Gallagher was the next runner and then a quick transfer left across the backline reached Bevan Prinsloo who broke through 2 attempted tackles and raced up the touchline into the Tullamore half before passing back inside to the supporting Matthew Keane and continuing in support to take the return pass and race in to score in the left hand corner.

14:31 –Instonians 5 – Tullamore 0

What a start for Instonians, playing into the breeze and scoring within 36 seconds. Jonathan Milliken hit the post with the conversion.

14:34 –Instonians 5 – Tullamore 7

Instonians went on the attack again but when Tullamore regathered a grubber kick through on the half way line they immediately showed the attacking intent and powerful running that was witnessed in their division 2C campaign last season. They moved the ball left and recycled across the pitch running good straight direct lines before a slick transfer saw the left wing race clear to score in the corner. A great touchline conversion put Tullamore in the lead.

Frazer Laughlin had to leave the field then with what looked like a hamstring injury. This forced a reshuffle in the backline with Matthew Keane moving from 9 to 15 and an earlier than expected entry to the field of play for summer signing from Ballynahinch Rhys O’Donnell who was returning from a pre season injury. The surname will be well known to all Instonians with his late grandfather Des O’Donnell getting a fine tribute at the RBAI 150 year dinner the previous evening for his service to mini rugby.

14:38 – Instonians 10 – Tullamore 7

It was evident at this early stage in the match that both sides were intent on using the good conditions to run the ball which made it a great spectacle for the large crowd.

From a scrum on the far right hand side of the pitch inside the Tullamore 10 metre line, Instonians moved the ball left and made ground through the middle before shifting left again forcing Tullamore to concede a penalty. A kick to the corner set up an Instonian line out on the Tullamore 5 metre line. Not for the 1st time this season or last season for that matter did that result in a driving maul and try with this time hooker Neil Saulters touching down. Jonathan Milliken missed the conversion with the breeze against him but Instonians were back in front playing into the breeze.

14:42 – Instonians 17 – Tullamore 7

Tullamore went back on the attack but a great jackal in midfield by Mark Mairs gave Instonians a penalty on the half way line. A kick to the Tullamore 10 metre line and then strong carries from Aly Burke and captain Eoghan Murphy followed by quick release of the ball left found Ruari in space in the Tullamore 22 but he still had a lot to do and he showed good awareness and determination to wind his way past the cover for a fine score just to the left of the posts. Jonathan Milliken obliged with the extras.

14:42 – Instonians 17 – Tullamore 14

From the kick off Tullamore used the breeze to kick long into Instonians 22 but Matthew Keane returned to half way with a great clearance kick.

From the Tullamore line out they moved the ball left and then kicked ahead down the left touchline. The kick looked too far ahead of the chasing left wing but as Jack Elliott came across to gather the ball in his 22 he unfortunately lost his footing and as he fell to the ground the Tullamore wing sprinted through to gather the bouncing ball and race through under the posts. The easy conversion made it a 3 point game in this now absorbing game.

While both sides continued to move the ball Tullamore also varied the attack by kicking deep on occasions to use the breeze. Matthew Keane intelligently was trapping the ball with his foot at 15 before picking up and clearing his lines or looking to counter.

14:56 – Instonians 22 – Tullamore 14

Instonians set piece was very good with driving mauls off the line out and a dominant scrum and the penalty count was rising against Tullamore. From a scrum penalty on Instonians 10 metre line on the right hand side of the pitch a kick for a line out on Tullamore’s 10 metre line. This time Instonians moved the ball off the top of the lineout out left , back right and left again. With Tullamore defence stretched their 9 was given a yellow card for a deliberate knock on. A kick to the Tullamore 22 gave Instonians another platform for a driving maul off the line out which went deep into the Tullamore 22 and then the ball was spread right along the backline for Jonathan Milliken to step inside his man and score in the corner. Jonathan Milliken missed the difficult conversion.

15:00 – Instonians 22 – Tullamore 21

Tullamore then showed great character and what a threat this young side can be by coming straight back at Instonians despite being a man down. They continued to keep ball in hand using strong runners to make ground and then transfer the ball well to score in the right hand corner. A great conversion from the touchline made it a point game and the Tullamore 9 returned to the field after his yellow card.

Tullamore were now mixing the attack up well and kicking deep for position but Matthew Keane was recovering the ball at 15 and either finding touch or starting a counter attack. Tullamore would have felt that they probably needed a lead going into the 2nd half when they would be playing into the breeze. Instonians however were defended well and were clearly on top in the set piece with driving mauls off line outs and the upper hand in the scrums. This pressure was increasing the penalty count.

A great line out steal from captain Eoghan Murphy set Instonians off in attack again with slick transfer right and quickly back left again. With the Tullamore defence stretched another penalty followed and the same pattern , line out and driving maul and release the backs when going forward. Bevan Prinsloo was breaking tackles and Davy Scott had a great break through the middle of the Tullamore defence.

It was a fantastic spectacle for the crowd with the desire to offload and keep the ball alive making it look more like Sevens on occasions. The tempo was maintained right through to half time with no let up from either side.

HALF TIME – Instonians 22 – Tullamore 21

Instonians would have been relatively happy at half time with their set piece functioning well and turning round with the breeze at their back but they would have been wary of this plucky young Tullamore side.

15:25 – Instonians 27 – Tullamore 21

A good start to the half was important and that is exactly what they got. Jonathan Milliken kicked off deep into the Tullamore 22 and from the resulting line out on the 22 metre line Instonians had a great driving maul which was brought down. Penalty to the corner followed by another line out and this time Instonians drove Tullamore over the line for hooker Neil Saulters to get his 2nd try of the match. The touch line conversion was missed by Jonathan Milliken.

15:41 – Instonians 34 – Tullamore 21

Instonians went right back on the attack and showed great continuity moving the ball sweetly left and right and then a searing break by Bevan Prinsloo through the middle of the Tullamore defence saw him agonisingly short of the line. When Tullamore tried to pick and go and ease up the pitch from under their own posts a great jackal from Paul Pritchard gave Instonians a penalty and the option of 3 easy points, They took the scrum option however and No 8 Aly Burke fed Rhys O’Donnell who almost scored. A linesman’s flag resulted in the Tullamore 10 being sent to the bin and a penalty to Instonians. Instonians took the scrum option and they were awarded 3 scrum penalties in a row and a yellow card. Tullamore went to uncontested scrums but had to take another man off and with 8 men in the pack they only had 5 backs. With 1 of the backs covering the blindside break it left Instonians a huge overlap on the left hand side of the pitch. From the uncontested scrum Instonians simply passed the ball along the backline for left wing Jack Elliott to score close to the posts . Jonathan Milliken converted and it now felt an impossible task for Tullamore.

15:47 – Instonians 39 – Tullamore 21

Instonians took full advantage of the extra men by running at Tullamore and eventually creating space on the outside for Matthew Keane to step inside his man and score. Jonathan Milliken missed the conversion from the touchline but that did not matter as there was no way back for Tullamore.

Tullamore were now back to 15 players but Instonians were still on top up front with driving mauls off line outs , pressure in the scrum and the penalty count high against Tullamore.

15:56 – Instonians 39 – Tullamore 21

The only real dampener on the day for Instonians was the injury to Davy Scott which caused a long injury break. It transpires that it is a chipped bone in his ankle and partial rupture of the achilles. We wish him well in his recovery.

The last 10 minutes of the match became quite scrappy with Instonians putting pressure on the Tullamore line but Tullamore manfully held on.

FULL TIME – Instonians 39 – Tullamore 21

This was a great advert for All Ireland League rugby with the first half in particular great to watch. Instonians will be pleased with the bonus point win and travel to Skerries next week for a huge challenge knowing that there are still areas to improve on. Tullamore will be disappointed with the result but showed enough today to earn the respect of every team in this league. We wish them well and look forward to the return fixture in the last match of the league campaign.

As for MOM today it is almost an impossible task but it would be wrong not to recognise the Instonian pack and the cornerstone of that was Alan Whitten so it goes to him. Thanks to the referee for letting the game flow so that we could produce such a spectacle. To all Instonians we hope to see you all out in force next Saturday 8 October away to Skerries where a huge challenge awaits against a team that almost got promoted last season.