Header2014 IRFC

1st XV win 47-19 at Skerries 1st XV



On Saturday 7 October 2023 Instonians travelled to Skerries to kick off their campaign in AIL 2B. There was the usual warm welcome from Skerries and their President Maurice Cregan and a superb pre match lunch.

It was great to see several ex Instonians 1st XV captains at the match including Gary Bell and John Whitten and for John what a proud moment as all 4 of his sons were in the match day squad. It was fitting that President Keith O’Donnell was there to see Ian Whitten in the team sheet as Keith’s father Des O’Donnell had taught Ian mini rugby 25 years ago at Shane Park (running with the ball in 2 hands the dead giveaway).

This Instonians squad has seen several additions over the summer but with some being returning INST boys there were still 9 ex RBAI pupils in the starting 15 that took the field where there was an impeccably observed minute’s silence in memory of Lillian McCleery the wife of former Skerries player Gerry McCleery.

It was dry overhead with no breeze so perfect for the running rugby both these sides like to play. Expectation was high on the packed balcony and on the touchlines.

14:30 – Skerries kicked off deep and Matthew Keane immediately responded with a great clearance kick to the Skerries 10 metre line on Instonians left.

14:33 – Skerries 0 – Instonians 7

Skerries won their line out and went through the phases, but Instonians defended well so the Skerries 9 put up an excellent box kick. What happened next was pure class as young Instonian full back Bradley McNamarra who was making his AIL debut soared into the air and took the ball cleanly and as he landed, he took off at pace on a mesmerising run. He found willing support runners in the pack and Mark Mairs then quickly recycled the ball for the backs to put it through the hands so right wing Simon McMaster could score in the far-right hand corner. Richie McMaster then landed a superb conversion from the touchline.

Shortly after the restart Skerries were given the put-in to the scrum but Instonians put down a marker with a huge scrum forcing the scrum penalty.

Even at this very early stage in the game it was clear that both sides were intent on running the ball and Skerries were certainly testing the Instonian defence which was very well organised and held firm.

14:56 – Skerries 0 – Instonians 7

Instonians for their part were wanting to keep the ball alive at very opportunity and from a quick tap penalty a great break from David Whitten saw him carve open the Skerries defence and it took a great cover tackle to stop Simon McMaster adding another try in the far right-hand corner.

A solid scrum then gave Instonians the opportunity to launch an attack off the base in the Skerries 22 and good control of possession through the phases took play right up under the Skerries posts but they were held up over the line and Skerries got a relieving drop out.

14:58 – Skerries 0 – Instonians 14

The drop out was hit long but Instonians immediately ran it back and good continuity between forwards and backs and fast feet from full back Bradley McNamarra took play deep into Skerries 22 and good hands this time gave outside centre Bevan Prinsloo the chance to get over in the right-hand corner. Another great conversion from Richie McMaster from the touchline added the extras.

Instonians were now in the ascendancy and clearly looking for more tries. This was typified by no 8 Gary Dillon breaking from his own 22 and giving a superb offload to David Whitten who took off up the pitch in another superb run and for all money it looked like Simon McMaster would get another try in the far right-hand corner but it was called back for foot in touch.

15:05 – Skerries 0 – Instonians 21

The pressure was really on Skerries now and they were having to make a lot of tackles and conceding penalties. Instonians threatened the Skerries line on the far left-hand side of the pitch and another penalty resulted in a yellow card for a Skerries forward.

Shortly afterwards Instonians made the extra man count as another great break this time by captain Robert Whitten saw him give a perfect pass to the supporting Matthew Keane to score under the posts giving Richie McMaster an easy conversion this time.

Skerries then showed great character to come back at Instonians and following 2 penalties they kicked for the corner deep in the Instonian 22 and a great chance to get on the board . They won the line out and went to the maul to try to force their way over. Instonians defended well however and forced the maul into touch and then exited well from their own line out.

15:17 – Skerries 0 – Instonians 28

Then just before half-time Instonians kicked a penalty to touch on the Skerries 22 and used their driving maul to power towards the line. When Skerries collapsed the maul the referee was already running round under the posts for the penalty try and the bonus point.

HALF TIME – Skerries 0 – Instonians 28

Great to see mini rugby played at half-time. Des O’Donnell and Ian Whitten would have approved.

Instonians would have been well satisfied with getting the 4 try bonus point in the 1st half and their team talk would have been more of the same. Skerries would have been looking to get on the score sheet and get a foothold in the game.

15:26 – Skerries 0 – Instonians 33

Instonians started the 2nd half well and moved the ball well wide right and then back left where Paul Pritchard showed great footballing skills to control a wayward final pass and score in the far-left corner. A fine conversion attempt by Richie McMaster dropped just under the crossbar.

The match was now effectively over as a contest but to their credit Skerries did not take a backward step as they strived to get on the score sheet.

By now all 4 Whitten boys were on the pitch but unfortunately that did not last long as Alan Whitten was sent to the bin for a high tackle. Skerries used the man advantage to lay siege to the Instonians line using runners off the 9 and the penalty count was high in their favour.

15:26 – Skerries 7 – Instonians 33

Instonians seemed to have weathered the storm when Mark Mairs stole the Skerries line out on Instonians 22 but a loose pass as Instonians went to run from deep gave Skerries the put-in to the scrum and as they moved the ball right through the hands confusion in the Instonian defence left a big gap which the Skerries full back happily accepted to run in for their 1st try which was converted.

15:41 – Skerries 7 – Instonians 40

The game was now attack and counter attack providing a good spectacle for the sizeable crowd but it was Instonians who scored next as the tried and trusted driving maul off a line out saw young hooker Ollie Clarke touch down.

15:44 – Skerries 14 – Instonians 40

This young Skerries side did not throw in the towel however and a good break out of defence was followed up a fine kick and chase up the middle of the pitch. Instonians defended on their own line but from the next scrum Skerries moved right from the base and their talented 10 Mulcahy (grandson of the Skerries and British Lion legend Bill Mulcahy who was at the game) glided through under the post as again the Instonian defence was a bit at sea.

Skerries now sensed that a losing bonus point was a real possibility with a quarter of the game still to go.

15:47 – Skerries 19 – Instonians 40

This belief was further fuelled when young Mulchay showed great flair and composure to grubber the ball through the Instonian defence and win the race for the touchline. The conversion was missed but the equation was simple could Skerries get 1 more try for that bonus point ?

15:59 – Skerries 19 – Instonians 47

Instonians continued to use their impressive driving maul from the line out to establish territory in the Skerries half and then produced a flowing move with great continuity between forwards and backs with captain Robert Whitten breaking free to score near the posts on the left giving Richie McMaster a simple conversion.

The final 10 minutes of the game saw both sides trying to add to their try tally and crucially for Skerries a final pass on the left-hand side of the pitch just failed to reach its target and that elusive bonus point went missing.

FULL TIME – Skerries 19 – Instonians 47

Credit to both teams for producing such an exciting match in the 1st AIL match of the campaign. Instonians will have been very happy with their 1st half performance as they had only had 2 matches so far this season in the run up to this game but they will have things to work on for next week. Skerries showed great character to score 3 tries in the 2nd half and were unlucky not to get that 4th try and bonus point. They need to take that 2nd half performance into their next game away to Malahide under lights next Friday while Instonians will face a stern test at home to Galway Corinthians at Shaws Bridge on Saturday 14 October 2023 at 2.30 p.m.

MOM today could easily have gone to one of the Whiten brothers but it goes to young full back Bradley McNamarra on his AIL debut as he was safe under the high ball and was a constant threat in attack and of course he set the tone for the whole game with that great piece of skill at the start of the game.