Header2014 IRFC

1st XV have tough 26-6 win at Midleton



On Saturday 21 January 2023 Instonians played the reverse fixture with Midleton at Towns Park, Cork with both sides looking for points for very different reasons. Midleton had come off the back of 2 frustrating narrow defeats to Bruff which saw them dropping down the table while Instonians were looking to maintain their unbeaten run at the top of the table.

The old saying “fail to prepare” and “prepare to fail” came to mind when you watched Instonians warm up on the main pitch which obviously had seen a lot of rain and a lot of use or both. What was fascinating however was to watch the players covered in mud in their training gear but more importantly hardly a ball was dropped in the drizzle. Instonians had done their homework it would seem.

The match day squad saw 2 changes to the previous week with Ryan Hanson replacing the injured Anton Lupari and also the welcome return of Robert Whitten after over a year out following a serious injury.

More photos: https://www.facebook.com/100063562154015/posts/625290992932967/?flite=scwspnss

14:30 – Instonians kicked off and despite both sides immediately showing intent to keep the ball in hand you felt that the very heavy and muddy pitch would be a telling factor in a low scoring arm wrestle. But that Instonians warm up gave the away support some hope that just maybe they could overcome the conditions to a degree.

14.35 – Midleton 3 – Instonians 0

It was no surprise that Midleton chose the posts from their 1st kickable penalty just outside the Instonians 22 and the home support were happy to see the ball sail between the posts. Midleton were up for this game big time and had the early lead.

14.45 – Midleton 3 – Instonians 7

Instonians had been expecting Midleton to come at them hard but they also knew they had done their own preparation and they were up for the battle. They immediately took control of the ball and went through the phases forcing Midleton to defend with willing runners available. From a penalty at the breakdown Instonians kicked to touch on the Midleton 22 metre line on the right hand side of the pitch. A good line out and driving maul saw them advance but the softness under foot meant that they did not make their usual yardage. They showed great patience and control to keep control of the ball as they used runners off the 9.

When Midleton knocked the ball forward in a tackle Instonians had a perfect position for a scrum under the posts about 15 metres out. It was certainly a day for long studs and rather than trying to march the scrum forward Instonians no 8 Andrew McGrath immediately picked up from the base of the scrum and surged past his opposite number in a flash to dive over on the blind side. Jonathan Milliken converted from out wide with a fine kick and Instonians had got what you felt was a crucial 7 points.

15.15 – Midleton 3 – Instonians 14

For the remainder of the first half both sides showed great composure and discipline in keeping hold of the ball and attempting to move the ball wide when they could or kick for territory when the opportunity arose . Instonians had more of the possession and half backs Rhys O’Donnell and Ruari O’Farrell were managing the game very well with Rhys using the willing runners in the pack with no 8 Andrew McGrath to the fore and Ruari looking to release the backline as often as he could with the centre partnership of Mark Keane and Bevan Prinsloo a constant threat.

Midelton however were giving as good as they got and moved it through the phases well themselves. With the ground so soft however and the defences of both sides on top there was no more scoring until the very last play of the game. By this stage Neil Saulters had replaced Conor Gallagher at hooker and Robert Whitten came on for Harry Gallagher in the sapping conditions.

Midleton had resisted a lot of pressure from Instonians and must have been relieved to get the put in to a scrum just outside their own 22. Instonians had other ideas though and despite the softness under foot managed to attack the scrum and win a scrum penalty. A kick to the corner would more often than not result in a driving maul and try but the conditions and the good defence of Midelton held up the drive. Just when they thought they survived Bevan Prinsloo took a pass and powered through the gap for a crucial score near to the posts with Jonathan Milliken adding the extras.

This was a cruel blow to Midleton who had put on a serious shift in the 1st half and even at this stage of the match that looked big lead in the conditions.

HALF TIME – Midleton 3 – Instonians 14

It was no surprise that Instonians emptied the rest of the bench at half time to give more energy in the sapping conditions. On came Max Preston, Ryan Hanson and Matthew Keane and they all were to make good impacts.

15.31 – Midleton 6 – Instonians 14

Midleton came out of the blocks firing for the 2nd half and an early penalty brought them right back in the game.

Instonians again did not panic and went back to their game plan. Their set piece was good. They were winning all their own line outs and also taking a couple of Midelton throw ins. Instonians were also now on top in the scrums and the fitness level of the side was showing up well yet again this season.

The conditions and good defences ensured that there was no more scoring for a while and at this stage the Instonians travelling support was just wanting any type of win while Midleton will have felt that if they got the next score then they could cause an upset.

15.40 – Midleton 6 – Instonians 19

Then came the deciding passage of play in the match. With Midleton having a line out on the Instonians 22 metre line they would have looked at this as the perfect opportunity to get the score to throw the game wide open but Instonians won the line out and there followed the exact pattern of play that we had seen in the warm with a brilliant passage of continuity between forwards and backs back and across the pitch with no 8 Andrew McGrath taking a pass in his stride and giving a prefect pass to full back Jonathan Milliken to score in the corner . A superb team score. Jonathan Milliken was just off target with the conversion.

Instonians had now put themselves in a great position to win the game but also knew that 1 more score would mean they could maintain their perfect record at the top of the league with a bonus point.

15.50 – Midleton 6 – Instonians 26

Midelton continued to take the game to Instonians and both sides were providing an excellent game of rugby on a difficult pitch. Both defences were still very good but another great passage of play from Instonians with a sweeping movement and great hands putting Matthew Keane in for the bonus point try in the corner with Jonathan Milliken adding a magnificent touchline conversion.

That was the bonus point win for Instonians secured and their perfect record maintained but to their credit Midleton came again and with a great break from their centre from his own half looked certain to score. Matthew Keane had other ideas though and showed the character of this whole squad by racing back from the opposite wing to make a magnificent cover tackle deep in his own 22 metre line to save a certain score . Minute later Matthew was kicking the ball into touch to end the game following another late Midleton attack.

FULL TIME – Midleton 6 – Instonians 26

This was a great effort from 40 players on both sides to produce a very good game of rugby. If Midleton reproduce that form you would expect a win is not far away. Such a good spectacle would not have been possible without the referee who let the game flow.

For Instonians the previous match saw the best 1st half performance of the season into the wind but this game was Instonians best 80 minutes of the season given the conditions. It was hard to distinguish between the players at times s they were all covered in mud.

It is tempting to give MOM to the whole squad in the circumstances but no 8 Andrew McGrath showed what a smart and versatile player he is in defence and attack and with a try and a try scoring pass he gets this week’s award.

Instonians remain top of the league with a perfect record but prepare to face another Munster challenge from Clonmel at Shaws Bridge next Saturday 28 January knowing that Clonmel are in very good form and currently are in 4th place which would get them in the play offs. The mantra has not changed, 1 more win.