Header2014 IRFC

1st XV win 33-19 away to Bruff 1st XV



On Saturday 18 February 2023 Instonians returned to league action looking to maintain their unbeaten record away to Bruff at Kilballyowen Park. The Limerick side had given Instonians their hardest game of the season back on 12 November 2022 when they got a bonus point for scoring 4 tries in a 36-28 defeat and this time they would have their vociferous home support.

Instonians president Owen Lambert set the tone by taking his travelling party along with Daragh Frawley (Frawls from the Club Scene Podcast) for an early morning swim at Worlds End in the River Shannon.

After a warm welcome from Bruff president Michael Hehir attention turned to the game itself. Could Bruff cause an upset and close the gap with Clonmel in their pursuit of a playoff berth at the end of the season or would Instonians head home to Belfast with their unbeaten record intact.

14:32 – Bruff kicked off in windy conditions and the 1st rain shower of the day. The wind was swirling but mainly across the pitch with no real advantage for either side.

14.36 –Bruff 0 - Instonians 7

If there was any doubt about the preparedness of Instonians for this tricky away fixture then it was dispelled in the first few minutes of the game. Also it was clear that Instonians were intent on continuing their entertaining and enterprising style of play. The handling of the ball by both forwards and backs was 1st class as they tested the Bruff defence with great passages of continuity. Once Instonians had taken play into the Bruff 22 scrum half Rhys O’Donnell’s trademark show and go put him into open space and the supporting wing Matthew Kilpatrick took the scoring pass to touch down just to the right of the posts. Jonathan Milliken added the extras and Instonians had laid down the gauntlet.

14.40 –Bruff 0 - Instonians 7

Driven on by their home support Bruff came straight back at Instonians and once Instonians had strayed offside Bruff kicked for a line out just inside the Instonians half and used their effective driving maul. When Instonians were then penalised for coming in from the side Bruff had a great opportunity to set up the next line out deep in Instonians 22. They did not however control the swirling wind and ended up kicking the ball dead.

Play was brought back for the 1st scrum of the match on the Instonian 10 metre line and there was a sense of anticipation as Bruff had been the only side this season in this division that got very close to parity against the vaunted Instonian scrum. A solid scrum from both packs saw Instonians work a nice planned backline move into the Bruff half and win a penalty at the breakdown. Rhys O’Donnell took a quick tap penalty to himself and made great ground up into the Bruff 22 where Bruff’s scrambled defence managed to get a hand in to stop the attack. The ref had been playing advantage however and from the next penalty Matthew Keane put in a nice kick to the corner for a line out on the far right hand side of the pitch deep in the Bruff 22. This was a perfect platform for Instonians to use their own very effective driving maul and hooker Neil Saulters will have been licking his lips in anticipation of adding to his tally as top try scorer in the AIL. This time however it was Instonians turn to not control the wind and the line out was lost.

Instonians continued to attack however and the penalty count was in their favour as they forced a Bruff drop out from under their posts and then wing Matthew Kilpatrick almost got in for his 2nd try after more great hands from the Instonian backline.

14.57 – Bruff 0 - Instonians 12

Bruff had defended manfully up to this point but they were having to make a lot of tackles and Instonians slick handling and ball retention meant there was no let up. You felt that another try for the league leaders was not far away and so it proved as following another penalty at the breakdown Matthew Keane kicked for a line out on the far left hand side of the pitch 15 metres out and in front of the vocal Bruff support which was imploring their team to hang on and defend the driving maul. It did not come however as Instonians chose to move the ball inside using willing runners before snapping the ball back left through the slick backline for Matthew Keane to race in in the far corner. Jonathan Milliken missed the difficult conversion.

15.02 – Bruff 0 - Instonians 19

Instonians were still intent on running the ball from everywhere and after another quick tap penalty and great break from Rhys O’Donnell, Bruff conceded another penalty and Matthew Keane had a great kick to the right hand corner 15 metres out from the Bruff line. Instonians took the ball off the top of the line out and a superb sweeping backline move sent Mark Keane racing up the touchline to score an even better try than his cousin’s fine effort just 5 minutes previously. A fantastic touchline conversion from Jonathan Milliken given the windy conditions topped off this great try.

Instonians continued to attack looking for the bonus point try before half time but a penalty to Bruff for a high tackle on the half way line resulted in a kick to touch on the Instonian 22 on Bruff’s left hand side of the pitch and a chance to get some points. They won the line out and moved the ball towards the posts by using strong runners off the 9 but from under the posts just 10 metres from the line a superb jackal from player coach Paul Pritchard brought great applause from the travelling Instonian support. Matthew Keane then tapped and kicked the ball into touch to signal the end of the half.

HALF TIME – Bruff 0 - Instonians 19

It was great to see 2 mini rugby games at half time for the spectators of this community Limerick club. Instonians will have been well pleased with the healthy lead but given their 1st half display may have felt they left a try or two out there. Bruff for their part will have been pleased with their defence but frustrated that they had not created many clear cut scoring opportunities.

15.20 – Bruff 0 - Instonians 19

Spurred on by their vocal home support Bruff took the game to Instonians but were repelled by some resolute Instonians defence including some big tackles from Harry Gallagher and Schalk Van Der Merve in particular.

From a penalty to Bruff at the breakdown a great kick gave them a line out on the Inst 22 on Bruff’s right hand side of the pitch. They took it off the top of the line and used willing runners to move under the Instonians posts. Good defence from Instonians held firm and forced Bruff to lose the ball forward in the tackle. This gave Instonians a scrum under their own post just 10 metres from their line. The scrums had been fairly solid up to now with neither side getting dominance but this was a huge scrum from Instonians and no surprise that a scrum penalty followed allowing Matthew Keane to clear the lines.

To their credit Bruff came again but a crunching Harry Gallagher tackle was followed by a relieving penalty to Instonians. Matthew Keane found touch on Instonians 10 metre line on their left and a from the line out a great driving maul from Instonians and then a quick release to the backs saw a slick transfer right and back left where full back Jonathan Milliken send a probing kick to bounce into touch on the Bruff 22. Paul Pritchard then pinched the Bruff line out at the tail and Bruff were penalised at the next breakdown and Matthew Keane kicked to touch 10 metres out and a great opportunity for the crucial 4th try and bonus point. Not for the 1st time today the wind played its part as the line out was lost at the tail.

15.33 – Bruff 0 - Instonians 26

Instonians continued to play the game deep in Bruff’s half and the penalty count was rising with Instonians consistently kicking for touch inside the Bruff 22. Eventually the referee lost patience and a yellow card was brandished for persistent infringements.

The penalty was kicked to the corner and the ball was moved in towards the posts and Rhys O’Donnell saw the opportunity to dummy and snipe in under the posts for the 4th try and the bonus point. Jonathan Milliken provided the extras from under the posts.

15.40 – Bruff 0 - Instonians 33

Instonians continued to run the ball at Bruff at every opportunity and they were on top at the breakdown. Bruff were defending well and not missing any 1 on 1 tackles but then another fantastic break from Rhys O’Donnell from his own half right up the middle of the pitch saw him weave and side stepped his way past a few defenders before finding support as the ball was moved right , back left and right again for hooker Neil Saulters to take the final pass just short of the try line to run in for his 1st try from open play in the AIL this season but more significantly his 16th AIL try of the season. Jonathan Milliken added the extras from just to the right of the posts.

As Instonians emptied the bench for the final quarter of the game the coaching staff would have been delighted with the 1st hour of this game as they had met Bruff head on and delighted the travelling support with a great display of running rugby.

Bruff for their part had defended well despite the scoreline but would have been disappointed that they had not threatened to score on many occasions.

15.53 – Bruff 7 - Instonians 33

Instonians continued to run the ball at every opportunity but Bruff defended well and with 7 minutes left on the clock got the try that their efforts deserved when they showed good control to keep possession and gradually move towards the Instonian line where their centre managed to barge over to score under the posts giving an easy conversion.

15.56 – Bruff 12 - Instonians 33

This try seemed to spur Bruff on and with the home crowd encouraging them they went through the phases before throwing a long pass for the right wing to score an unconverted try in the corner.

16.05 – Bruff 19 - Instonians 33

The game now got very fractious with the ref having to stop and speak to players at regular intervals with the play going on at one side of the pitch but jostling and scuffles at the other side. The ref had to speak to both captains.

Then with the last play of the game and deep into stoppage time Bruff took a quick tap penalty deep in the Instonian 22 and got over for their 3rd try which was converted from under the posts.

FULL TIME –Bruff 19 - Instonians 33

Bruff for their part will be pleased with how they finished the game and will continue to challenge for a playoff spot. Instonians for their part will have been delighted with the 1st hour of this game in a near faultless display away to a physical Limerick side on their own patch.

The MOM this week is an even easier decision than the last outing with scrum half Rhys O’Donnell the unanimous choice in the Instonian camp and more importantly perhaps amongst the Bruff alikadoos too.

Well done to referee Grainne Crabtree for trying to let the game flow and having to cope with a fractious final 10 minutes of the game.

So 13 wins from 13 league games, all with bonus points. One more win remains the mantra and the next one up is Sundays Well next Saturday 25 February 2023 at Shaws Bridge. This Instonian side has only 5 games to go so if you have not witnessed their brand of attacking rugby this season then I suggest you give it a go. See you next week.