Header2014 IRFC

1st XV win 52-19 at home to Sligo 1st XV


On Saturday 4 November 2023 Instonians welcomed Sligo to Shaws Bridge for a highly anticipated top of the table clash.

Sligo President Rory Raftery and his party were warmly welcomed to the pre match lunch and it was great to see a large party of Sligo supporters take a table as part of their enjoyable away day bus trip. The special guest of the day was John Birch who recently was awarded 2 Ireland caps for the tour of Argentina in 1973. John was playing for Ballymena at the time with such legends as Willie John McBride and Sid Millar and his playing career there was recognised as well as his playing and coaching career at Instonians and with Ulster.

Instonian Chairman of Executive Neil Gillies then gave a polished speech thanking all Instonian volunteers which was the theme of the lunch as without them clubs simply would not exist.

Expectations were high on the balcony and along the touchlines as the clock reached 2.30 p.m.

14:30 – Instonians 0 – Sligo 0

In bright sunshine and playing with a slight breeze Ruari O’Farrell kicked off for Instonians playing towards the far car park.

14:35 – Instonians 7 – Sligo 0

Instonians immediately set a fast tempo going through the phases and were awarded with a penalty at the breakdown in front of the posts on the visitors 22. They turned down the kick at goal to kick for the corner for a line out 5 metres out. Off the driving maul Sligo were penalised and Instonians kicked to the corner again and hooker Ollie Clarke again found captain Robert Whitten and then joined the good driving maul to claim the first try with Matthew Keane adding the conversion 15 metres in from the touchline.

Instonians were clearly intent on keeping the ball alive as they worked through the phases including a lovely behind the back off load by Mark Mairs. Sligo’s defence was very good however, as they put in some heavy tackles. When Sligo did get their opportunity to advance up the pitch Instonians disrupted their line out putting then back on D again.

14:47 – Instonians 14 – Sligo 0

Following another impressive set of phases from Instonians they won another penalty at the breakdown in front of the posts and again declined the easy 3 points on offer to kick for the corner 5 metres out on the left. Ollie Clarke again found captain Robert Whitten and it was “deja vue all over again” as Ollie got another touchdown with Matthew Keane adding a great touchline conversion on the wrong side of the pitch for a left foot kicker.

14:55 – Instonians 14 – Sligo 7

Sligo will have known that they really needed to score next, so the game did not run away from them and they showed great character and resolve to do just that. They put together their own phases of play and it was Instonians turn to defend.

Sligo won a penalty at the breakdown deep in the Instonian 22 and it was great to see a referee letting a 9 take a quick tap penalty and the Sligo 9 took full advantage as the Instonian defence did not react quick enough and he sailed over unopposed. The successful conversion brought it back to a 1 score game.

15:03 – Instonians 21 – Sligo 7

At this stage young hooker Ollie Clarke in just his 2nd year leaving RBAI went off with a dead leg to be replaced by an even younger hooker Jack Parkinson who wore the no 7 shirt for RBAI last year and had only started to play his trade at No 2!

Jack slotted straight away into a team that continued to keep ball in hand and run at the opposition and following several phases centre Bevan Prinsloo broke free to find space up the middle of the pitch making at least 50 metres before good scrambled defence from Sligo stopped the attack but at the expense of a scrum as the ball was lost forward in the tackle.

From a solid scrum Instonians moved the ball left and back right and then left again towards the posts 5 metres out where scrum-half Rhys O’Donnell sniped and reached out to score under the posts giving Matthew Keane a simple conversion.

15:09 – Instonians 21 – Sligo 14

Sligo again showed their mettle to come straight back at Instonians and when Ian Whitten was penalised for a high tackle, Sligo kicked for a line out 10 metres out from the line. Not for the first time though Sligo lost the line out and Liam Kaprigiannis made good ground before trying to offload and lost the ball forward.

Sligo had a very good scrum on their own put in and won a scrum penalty which they again kicked to the corner 10 metres out and this time they won the line out and as their driving maul advanced the Sligo 9 called for the ball as he saw a gap on the blind side and he dived over for his 2nd try. A good conversion meant that we were once again a 1 score game.

With not long left until half time Instonians changed both props with Alan Whitten and Shalk Van Der Merwe coming on. They did not have long to wait as from the restart Instonians lost the ball forward and Sligo had the put in. Great pressure from Instonians had the Sligo scrum moving backwards and after 2 resets they got the ball quickly away from the base but then kicked it straight into touch to give Instonians the line out back at halfway.

15:19 – Instonians 21 – Sligo 14

Instonians moved the ball right off the line-out and then back left and then an excellent period of ball retention with strong runners off the 9 set the platform to move the ball swiftly left where Matthew Keane could not quite hold the final scoring pass in the corner.

The ref blew the half time whistle and the relief from the Sligo players was palpable as what would have been Instonians try bonus point try went abegging but more importantly it was still a 1 score game at the break.

HALF TIME – Instonians 21 – Sligo 14

It had been a very physical first half and with just 7 points between the sides it was certainly game on. Sligo’s defence was very good and they had also posed a threat when they got the opportunity to attack. Their focus would have been on how to get more of the ball as Instonians had the lion’s share of possession.

For Instonians it was simple, they had to make the possession translate into points. Another enforced change at the break saw full back Bradley McNamarra unable to run off what looked like a bang to the knee with another member of last year’s RBAI cup winning side Josh Eagleson coming on to slot in at 15. Josh, like a lot of this Instonian squad, showing his flexibility as his usual position is 10.

15:26 – Instonians 21 – Sligo 14

Sligo kicked off for the start of the 2nd half but promptly put the ball straight into touch and Instonians had the put-in to the scrum on the half way line. A very good Instonian scrum pushed Sligo backwards and with no scrum penalty coming Instonians moved the ball right but it was lost forward in the tackle.

15:32 – Instonians 26 – Sligo 14

Sligo moved the ball quickly from the base of the scrum and went through their own phases to take play into Instonians half but when they lost possession Instonian scrum-half Rhys O’Donnell put in a searching long kick which got even better when it came off a Sligo defender for an Instonians line out 10 metres out from the visitors try line. It was no surprise to see Robert Whitten taking the catch and the driving maul that followed resulted in the key bonus point try with the new hooker Jack Parkinson touching down. Matthew Keane missed the conversion from out wide but Instonians were back to more than 1 score ahead.

The sun was now back out and the conditions were perfect for the running rugby this Instonian team likes to play and the re-laid pitch was in very good condition given the amount of rain from storm Ciaron during the week.

Rhys O’Donnell then made a great break up the blind side from inside his own half on the left-hand side of the pitch by the clubhouse and grubber kicked inside but the bounce of the rugby ball was not kind to the supporting Bevan Prinsloo who had a clear run in to the posts otherwise.

15:44 – Instonians 33 – Sligo 14

Instonians continued to attack however, and the Sligo defence was very robust in keeping them at bay. The penalty count was rising however, and from one such penalty Instonians kicked to the corner and hooker Jack Parkinson peeled off from the back of the line out and the rest of the pack joined the drive over the line but it was well held up by Sligo to earn themselves a relieving drop out.

There was no let up from Instonians as they attacked again and when they won a scrum penalty they kicked to the corner 15 metres out and put the driving maul to work again. When it slowed down they moved the ball across the backline to right wing Zak Davidson who was held up in the tackle just short of the line but the supporting Bevan Prinsloo was on hand to crash over with Matthew Keane expertly landing the conversion from the touchline.

15:50 – Instonians 40 – Sligo 14

Instonians were in the mood for more and following more sustained pressure they finished it off with the try of the day. It started with a nice transfer across the backline on halfway and a great break by Bevan Prinsloo up the left touchline. When the ball was recycled Ruari O’Farrell showed great awareness to the situation in front of him and put in a great kick with a lot of height on the ball to the far touchline where no 8 Mark Mairs soared into the air to take the catch and as he was tackled once he had landed he found the supporting Ian Whitten to dive over for his 1st score of the season. Matthew Keane added the extras for good measure and Instonians were out of sight.

15:56 – Instonians 40 – Sligo 19

Like Rainey the previous week the equation was simple for Sligo, could they at least get 2 late tries to leave with a bonus point which their 1st half efforts alone had merited ?

That scenario immediately became more likely as they mustered a great response to encamp themselves in the Instonians 22 as they hammered away at the line and eventually through their pack got over near to the posts. The conversion was missed but that mattered not as they just needed 1 more try now.

16:00 – Instonians 45 – Sligo 19

Instonians for their part had not finished their own scoring for the day however and after multiple phases it was that man Bevan Prinsloo again who showed his strength to muscle over the line. The conversion was missed.

 16:07 – Instonians 52 – Sligo 19

Sligo then put everything into their next attack in search of that elusive 4th try bonus point but a great searching kick by Rhys O’Donnell into space saw both Bevan and Rhys himself chasing the kick deep in Sligo’s 22. Sligo scrambled across in defence but gave away a penalty in the process and quick thinking from captain Robert Whitten saw him taking a quick tap penalty to score under the posts. Credit to the referee again for letting Robert do this as he had to Sligo in the 1st half. Matthew Keane added the extras to his team’s 8th try of the afternoon.

Sligo had one last chance and they got themselves in the right area of the pitch to get a scrum on the Instonian 22 but when Instonian won possession on the 10 metre line another very good kick from Rhys O’Donnell had Sligo deep in their 22 and following the next passage of play the referee blew the full time whistle.

FULL TIME – Instonians 52– Sligo 19

This was another very good game to watch for the sizeable crowd at Shaws Bridge and both teams deserve credit. Sligo were a very physical side and put up a very good first half performance and will be disappointed not to take anything from the game. Instonians will be very happy with their 2nd half performance and will look at trying to replicate that over the full 80 minutes.

Next up for Instonians is another top of the table clash away to Wanderers next Saturday 11 November at Merrion Road with only 4 points separating the 2 teams in the league table.

MOM today was not easy after a very good team performance. In old money the middle 5 of the team was very good with a backrow of Max Preston, Mark Mairs and Paul Pritchard who complemented each other well and the half back pairing of Rhys O’Donnell and Ruari O’Farrell controlled the game well, kicking intelligently and well, setting their back line in motion, and providing a threat. The award, however, goes to Bevan Prinsloo and not just for his 2 tries but for his line breaks and his physicality in both defence and attack.