Header2014 IRFC

1st XV win 56-7 at home to Ballina 1st XV and gain promotion to Division 2B


On Saturday 4 March Instonians welcomed their great friends from Ballina to Shaws Bridge needing just 1 point to win the league and automatic promotion to Division 2B of the AIL. It was great to welcome the superb Vice President Adrian Bourke and the legend that is Gerry O’Donnell to the club. The theme of the packed pre match lunch was folklore and it was great to see 2 “Instonians Old Boys” in Ireland’s favourite left wing Keith Crossan and Frank Shane whose father Bertie was a founder member of the club in 1919 at the top table. With RBAI school being in the Medallion Shield Final and the Schools Cup Final this month the strong link with the school was evident with 13 ex pupils in the 20 man squad.

Ballina had given Instonians a really tough match in the away fixture earlier in the season with Instonians prevailing 33-19 and with both sides liking to run the ball and the weather set fair the sizeable crowd were ready to be entertained.

14:30 – Ballina kicked offand Instonians immediately started off just as they had in the previous run of matches with controlled and well executed passages of play from side to side across the pitch testing the Ballina defence which held firm.

14:36 – Instonians 7 – Ballina 0

Ballina however showed that they were not just there to make up the numbers and showed the same willingness to run the ball at Instonians whose early defence was water tight. It was tit for tat but Instonians drew first when after a sustained period of controlled pressure the ball was transferred through the hands left for Matthew Kilpatrick , playing today in the outside channel at 13 instead of his usual position on the wing used his pace to good effect to finish off a sweeping move near the corner which was well converted by Jonathon Milliken.

14:43 – Instonians 7 – Ballina 7

Ballina came straight back taking play to the Instonians 22 with the home defence holding firm. Just when Instonians thought they had cleared the danger scrum half Rhys O’Donnell saw his kick charged down and Ballina ran it back to score close to the posts and the easy conversion made it all square.

14:48 – Instonians 14 – Ballina 7

With both teams looking to run the ball it was a very even contest at this early stage but when Instonians won a penalty at the breakdown in the Ballina 22 and kicked for a line out in the visitors 22 it was that man Neil Saulters again with his 17th try of this AIL campaign with all bar one of them coming in this fashion as the impressive Instonians driving maul from 10 metres out will have been liked by Instonians forwards coach Jamie Kirk. Jonathon Milliken added the extras.

14:58 – Instonians 21 – Ballina 7

Instonians were now starting to get on top and from a driving maul off a line out on the opposition 22 there followed several phases of good continuity between forwards and backs as they applied great pressure on the Ballina line and following a series of runners off the 9 eventually the ever willing Andrew McGrath was on hand to dive over and bring Instonians within 1 more try off the bonus point that would secure their goal of the league title and more importantly promotion up to AIL Division 2B. Jonathon Milliken added the conversion.

15:05 – Instonians 28 – Ballina 7

They did not have that long to wait and after more phases of quality handling between forwards and backs it was Robert Whitten who was on hand to take the final pass and dive over for the crucial bonus point try and all that that would bring. That news soon filtered right along the packed balcony at Shaws Bridge where only 12 months previously Instonians were celebrating a crucial hard fought win against a quality Clogher Valley side to win Junior 1 and enter the play offs to try to reach AIL Division 2C. They had just shown that this was just a passing visit and done so in such impressive style. Jonathon Milliken added the extras.

15:12 – Instonians 35 – Ballina 7

There was still time for 1 more try right on the whistle for half time and it was fitting that player coach Paul Pritchard finished off another sustained period of good continuity which started by Instonians winning the Ballina line out on the visitors 22. Paul will have been delighted with the quality of rugby his charges were producing and in fairness have been for several weeks now.


HALF TIME – Instonians 35 – Ballina 7

Ballina will have been sorely disappointed with the scoreline but not that unhappy with their performance as they had shown good intent with ball in hand, had actually held up quite well in the set piece and been fairly good in defence. It was just the relentless pressure they were being put under as every Instonian seemed to want to have his hands on the ball.

Instonians for their part will have known that they had achieved their aim of promotion and that this particular contest was won but you suspected that they would like to enjoy the 2nd half and score some more tries.


15:30 – Instonians 42 – Ballina 7

Ballina to their credit never gave up and showed great character to both defend well and hold Instonians out while still looking at every opportunity to strike back themselves with their very capable backline. Instonians had to make a few important tackles in the middle of the pitch with Mark Keane in particular making some big hits.

When Instonians won another penalty when scrum-half Rhys O’Donnell was impeded at the breakdown. The kick for a line out 5 metres out and driving maul that followed gave Neil Saulters his brace and his 18th AIL try of the league campaign. Jonathon Milliken kept his 100% record with 6 from 6.

15:40 – Instonians 49 – Ballina 7

Despite the scoreline this was not one way traffic with Ballina almost getting over the Instonians line on a couple of occasions. Instonians tackling was excellent and their back row was also very good at the breakdown making several key jackals.

As happens in such occasions once Ballina could not score then they ended up conceding instead when they were pushed off their own ball at a scrum in their own 22 and after a couple of carries prop Schalke Van Der Merwe went over from close range. Jonathon Milliken had a simple conversion under the posts and made no mistake.

15:50 – Instonians 56 – Ballina 7

The best was certainly saved to the last and it was pure class from Mark Keane as from an Instonian line out on the halfway line scrum Half Rhys O’Donnell threw a long flat pass to Mark in the centre channel in midfield and he seared up the middle of the pitch leaving defenders in his wake and then had the presence, composure and finesse to feed his supporting centre partner Matthew Kilpatrick who ran in unopposed under the sticks. That is how you create and execute a 2 on 1 to perfection. Jonathon Milliken maintained his 100% record with an easy as you like conversion from under the posts.


FULL TIME – Instonians 56 – Ballina 7


Ballina will now focus on their final 3 games and with the commitment they showed today and the enterprise and flair they have in their backline they have every chance of avoiding any relegation places and moving up the table where they clearly are capable of reaching.

As regards Instonians, their Director of Rugby Clem Boyd and Chairman of the Rugby Committee Pete Bradley will be delighted with the attitude and dedication of the coaching staff, players, management and support staff this season and the goal of promotion to AIL 2B has been achieved. With 15 wins from 15 games and all with bonus points the squad could be forgiven for resting on their laurels but after enjoying the celebrations they will be focused on the next game and seeing if they can chalk off another win and with a bonus point. One game at a time and just 3 to go. Next up is traditional rivals Bangor at Upritchard Park on Saturday 25 March.

After another excellent performance from the team there were plenty of candidates for MOM including the whole back row and Jonathon Milliken was a perfect 8 from 8 off the tee including touchline conversions and Neil Saulters reaching 18 AIL tries this season but the award goes to someone who has been knocking on the door for a while and it is Mark Keane for a tremendous defensive shift when required and a superb assist for the try of the match.

What a great day for all Instonians wherever they are and Bertie Shane would certainly have approved.