Header2014 IRFC

1st XV win 50-0 at home to Omagh 1st XV


Photos courteosy of The Front Row Union

All Ireland League 2C: Instonians 50 Omagh Academicals 0 – The Front Row Union Sport

On Saturday 14 January 2023 Instonians returned after a month’s break to begin the 2nd half of the AIL campaign at home to Omagh Accies. The pre match lunch was sold out again and it gave Instonians the opportunity to reciprocate the great hospitality received from the affable Omagh President Kevin Murnaghan both before Xmas and earlier in the season. A great tribute was given by Instonian President Owen Lambert to Ronnie Lamont MBE one of Instonians British Lions who we lost over Xmas. Ronnie played in all the tests against the All Blacks in 1966 and was included in their team of the year. His legacy was bringing mini rugby to the province (which he witnessed in New Zealand on that tour) with the 1st ever game on 31 October 1972 on Inchmarlo’s football pitch between Ronnie’s Springhill Primary School and Willie Gribben’s Edenderry Primary School.

The challenge for Instonians was to forget about the perfect league record of 9 wins from 9 and all with bonus points and a maximum points tally of 45. It was a case of starting again after the break. One game at a time remaining the mantra. The overhead conditions were dry but there was a strong wind blowing towards the back car park.

14:30 – Omagh kicked off with the strong wind at their backs knowing that they would need to have a half time lead before turning to face that wind in the 2nd half. Instonians received the kick off and immediately showed their intent with impressive passages of play with very good continuity between forwards and packs and excellent retention of the ball. Omagh defended well but Instonians showed patience with willing runners keeping the ball alive.

When Instonians eventually lost the ball forward in a tackle Omagh showed the threat they possessed by moving the ball wide to the left wing on his own 10 metre line and he sped down the touchline and it took a superb cover tackle by Daniel Keane to prevent the opening try.

14:42 - Instonians 5 – Omagh 0

Instonians tactics were clear from the outset which was to keep the ball in hand playing into the wind. The execution was first class as they continued to run through the phases moving the ball from left to right and back again and forcing Omagh to make a lot of tackles. Then from a penalty at the breakdown Instonians kicked to the corner on the left hand side of the pitch. The resultant line out was 10 metres out and once the line out was won there was an inevitability about the driving maul that followed and hooker Neil Saulters notched his 15th AIL try this season and all of them are from driving mauls. Jonathan Milliken missed the difficult conversion into the wind.

14:49 - Instonians 12 – Omagh 0

Instonians stuck to their game plan rigidly and ran the ball back at Omagh into the elements but when Omagh were given a penalty on the Instonians 10 metre line in the centre of the pitch Omagh chose to kick at goal and gets points on the board. The attempt hit the post and Jonathan Millien immediately made a great break out of defence and found Mark and Daniel Keane in support. Omagh were penalised for killing the ball and Instonians kicked to the corner on the right hand side of the pitch on the Omagh 22 metre line. Good line out ball off the top was moved swiftly to Matthew Kilpatrick on the left wing who looked to maybe have space to get over in the corner but he cut back in and retained possession when tackled with the ball then transferred through the phases before eventually the overlap was created for Paul Pritchard to run round to make the conversion easier for Jonathan Milliken who duly obliged.

Instonians now had 2 tries playing into a strong wind which put them in a very strong position with a quarter of the game gone.

It was clear from early on that Omagh were keeping a close eye on Instonians Ulster A scrum half Rhys O’Donnell who had pierced the Omagh defence in the reverse fixture before Xmas but that just gave his talented half back partner Ruari O’Farrell the space to attack the line and use the supremely talented centre partnership of Mark Keane and Bevan Prinsloo outside him.

14:57 - Instonians 19 – Omagh 0

The pattern of the game continued with another sustained quality period of play from Instonians into the wind with great continuity between forwards and backs with no 8 Andrew McGrath in particular to the fore.

Following another phase of very good hands and support lines Bevan Prinsloo made a great break and lovely pass to Matthew Kilpatrick who this time did not cut back in and instead handed off his man to score in the left hand corner. Jonathan Milliken kept the conversion low into the wind and the applause from the packed balcony told you that he had got it just right.

This young Omagh side to their credit kept going and went on the attack themselves. Instonians good defence was typified by a crunching tackle from prop Anton Lupari who was putting in a great shift in attack and defence.

15:05 - Instonians 24 – Omagh 0

Instonians continued to run through the phases and found themselves in a great position with a scrum in the Omagh 22 in centre-field. A great scrum gave no 8 Andrew McGrath to pick up from the base and make great ground before the ball was then passed right to Paul Pritchard who went over for his 2nd try of the day and the all important bonus point one. The fact that this was achieved before half time and into a strong wind was remarkable. Jonathan Milliken missed the difficult conversion from the far right hand side of the pitch.

Omagh to their credit came back at Instonians and forced 2 attacking line outs in the Instonian 22 in the last 5 minutes of the half. They will have been deflated to see Harry Gallagher leap into the air to take both of their throw ins.

In a season where Instonians have reached maximum points at the halfway point in their AIL league campaign there have been a lot of highs obviously but this 40 minutes was the best of the season and is a credit to the players and coaches of the work put in over the Xmas break. The bonus point was secure and Instonians were about to turn round with the strong wind at their backs. This had been a near faultless display of how to play into a strong wind.

HALF TIME – Instonians 24 - Omagh 0

The strength of the Instonian bench was shown in the half time interval with Max Preston (the MOM in the reverse fixture) replacing Paul Pritchard in the back row and Connor Gallagher and Schalk Van Der Merwe replacing Neil Saulters and Alan Whitten in the front row and Matthew Keane coming on to the wing for Matthew Kilpatrick to join his 2 cousins in the backline.

For Omagh you suspect that the plan was one of damage limitation for this young side who did not lack in courage and commitment as they turned round to play into the elements.

15:24 - Instonians 31 – Omagh 0

Instonians immediately put Omagh under pressure with a strong scrum giving the platform for an attack with Ruari O’Farrell pulling the strings at out-half with his probing runs and deft passes.

Then from a quick tap penalty the ball was moved quickly and Bevan Prinsloo set off on a great break up the touchline and a perfectly timed pass inside to Daniel Keane to score in the right hand corner. Jonathan Milliken nailed the conversion from the touchline.

Instonians then attacked again and from a great scrum they won a scrum penalty which they licked for a line out just outside the Omagh a 22 metre line . A great driving maul took Instonians to the line but Omagh did brilliantly to hold it up and won a relieving penalty.

Omagh then attacked with ball in hand into the wind but Instonians defended well including a big tackle from no 8 Andrew McGrath.

15:30 - Instonians 38 – Omagh 0

From a penalty Instonians used the strong wind to kick for a line out on the left hand side of the pitch and only 10 metres from the line. With Neil Saulters off the pitch it was now Connor Gallagher’s turn to get on the end of the anticipated driving maul to touch down in the corner. Jonathan Milliken added the extras from the touchline.

15:36 - Instonians 43 – Omagh 0

Instonians were mixing up the play well with some great attacking open rugby interspersed with intelligent kicking including a great kick from out half Ruari O’Farrell who bounced the ball into touch just 10 metres from the Omagh line for a 50-22.

To their credit Omagh continued to play rugby themselves and tried to run the ball whenever they could but Instonians were in the mood for more and now produced the try of the match. It started with a great break up the left touchline by Matthew Keane and a great passage of play which involved a good break up the middle by Max Preston and then superb hands and support running with Mark Keane finishing it off in the far right hand corner.

Omagh showed great character to desire to take play right up into the Instonian 22 and try to get some points on the board. Equally however Instonians were determined to keep their clean sheet. Omagh looked to be getting their way when they took play right up to the Instonians line but great home defence saw the ball held up over the line for a goal line drop out.

16:00 - Instonians 50 – Omagh 0

With both sides now running the ball at every opportunity but defences working very well it looked as if that might be the end of scoring for the day but captain Eoin Murphy had other ideas and broke away from an Omagh line out on their 10 metre line and sped up the touchline. Eoin had run away from his own support so he simply pinned his ears back and ate up the ground towards the corner flag and just managed to make it to the line for a great individual score. Jonathan Milliken slotted over the conversion from the touchline and Instonians had reached 50 points.

Omagh to their credit finished the game on the attack but once Instonians won a penalty Matthew Keane tapped the ball to himself and then kicked it out of play to finish off a comprehensive and hugely impressive performance from the home side.

FULL TIME – Instonians 50 – Omagh 0

Thanks must go to the referee for letting the game flow and producing a fine spectacle for the good crowd. Credit to the young Omagh side for continuing to compete to the end. They will learn from this and now immediately turn their attentions to their crucial home fixture with Ballina next week.

As for Instonians they have started the 2nd half of the season with a bang and are now 10 wins from 10 with a maximum points haul of 50 due to bonus points in every game. They had a very strong squad available today and the news that Robert Whitten completed a full game for the 2nd XV today is more good news for the club.

On a day when RBAI had their Open Day it is worthy of note that 9 ex pupils were in the starting 15 for Instonians 1st XV against Omagh but just as significantly Instonians U14’s made up entirely of players from non rugby playing schools from Instonians Outreach Programme played against Regent Grammar School.

The Dunville Whiskey MOM for today was not an easy choice given the excellent team performance but Bevan Prinsloo just shaded his centre partner Mark Keane and no 8 Andrew McGrath to the award.

Next up for Instonians is a trip to Cork to play Midleton who are in need of points at the other end of the table. 10 down and 8 to go but the focus remains solely on our trip to east Cork. One game at a time remains the mantra.