Header2014 IRFC

1st XV lose 27-29 at Corinthians but the 2 points wins the league & promotion.


On Saturday 30 March 2024 Instonians were in Galway knowing that just a single point would confirm them as league champions for the 3rd year in a row following their promotion back to the All Ireland League 2 seasons ago. The opposition was a formidable Galway Corinthians side who were looking for points to edge them towards a home tie in the upcoming play-offs.

Excellent Corinthians President Yvonne Comer, a former Irish International, gave a warm welcome to the travelling Instonian party at an excellent pre match with everyone anticipating a high scoring game between 2 sides who like to move the ball wide.

The sun had come out in time for kick off and Instonians were to play with a decent wind in their favour which was swirling right to left across the pitch.

14:30 Corinthians 0 – Instonians 0

Corinthians kicked off into the wind and immediately showed their intent to keep ball in hand with their backs looking to spread the ball wide.

14:36 Corinthians 7 – Instonians 0

Instonians, however, won a penalty at the breakdown and Ritchie McMaster found a great touch on the Corinthian 22 on the far side of the pitch on Instonians left. A superb, sustained period of controlled possession between forwards and backs had Corinthians defence severely tested and stretched but when full back Bradley McNamara attempted to kick in behind the Corinthian backline on the halfway line their right winger intercepted and ran the length of the pitch to score under the posts giving an easy conversion.

14:43 Corinthians 7 – Instonians 5

Undeterred, Instonians went straight back on the attack again and another great passage of play saw the ball transferred slickly through the hands before Bevan Prinsloo burst into open space but the final pass just did not go to hand with the try line beckoning.

From the next phase it was number 8 Gary Dillon who burst free into open space off the tail of a line out with Instonians winning a penalty at the breakdown under the posts. It came as no surprise to the large travelling support to see the 3 points declined to kick for the corner and moments later Oli Clarke was scoring his 1st try of the day from the driving maul that followed the line out. Ritchie McMaster missed the conversion from the touchline, but Instonians were up and running.

14:46 Corinthians 14 – Instonians 5

It was then Corinthians turn to attack and a high tackle from Instonians on the Corinthian 10 metre line saw the home side with an attacking line out on the Instonian 22. A great break from the Corinthians scrum half off the top of the line saw his centre up in support to take the final pass and score under the posts with another easy conversion increasing the lead.

14:58 Corinthians 14 – Instonians 10

Both sides continued to run the ball in a very exciting contest with both defences having to work hard. When Instonians got another penalty at the breakdown they were soon winning the line out on the 5 metres. With the driving maul only stopped by conceding a penalty. The referee spoke to the Corinthians captain about the number of penalties they were conceding.

From the next line out 5 metres out young hooker Oli Clarke saw the gap and broke off from the driving maul to score 10 metres in from the touchline on the left. Ritchie McMaster missed the conversion but Instonians were back in losing bonus point territory and also halfway towards a try bonus point.

At this stage Jonathan Milliken, who was playing on the right wing today, went off injured with Matthew Keane coming on.

It was still tit for tat with Mark Keane making a great tackle on his opposite winger and moments later a great break by David Whitten saw his older brother Ian up in support and this time it was a great tackle by Corinthians to avert the danger.

Mark Mairs was a thorn in the side of the Corinthian line out taking their next line out on the Instonian 22 with Ritchie McMaster clearing to his 10 metre line. It was then Gary Dillon’s turn to take the next Corinthians line out and make great ground.

15:13 Corinthians 14 – Instonians 10

Corinthians won another penalty at the breakdown but again Mark Mairs won the subsequent lineout and from Instonians next attack Bevan Prinsloo ran from deep and then David Whitten stepped and ran a great line up to the Corinthians 22.

Again the penalty at the breakdown went to Corinthians and this time they won the line out on the halfway line to move the ball infield where their centre made a great break to get passed Ian Whitten and feed his right winger with the try line in sight but Ian Whitten showed all his experience and will power to chase the winger down and save a certain try.

The scrum went to Instonians on their own line and a solid scrum saw them kick the ball out for half time.

HALF TIME –Corinthians 14 – Instonians 10

What a great half of rugby and at this scoreline both sides would have been happy with Instonians getting the 1 point needed to win the league and Corinthians picking up 4 to keep themselves in 2nd place.

15:19 Corinthians 14 – Instonians 10

Instonians now kicked off into the wind, which remained moderate but swirling, and immediately tested the Corinthians defence with Bevan Prinsloo in particular breaking free of would be tacklers.

Instonians were now dominating the scrums and their driving maul had Corinthians in all sorts of bother.

Another injury saw the influential Max Preston go off with what looked like a bad shoulder injury with Eoghan Murphy coming on and Mark Mairs moving seamlessly into the backrow.

15:31 Corinthians 19 – Instonians 10

Instonians were clearly on top at this stage and Gary Dillon made a great break from the base of the scrum up to the Corinthians 22 but the ball was lost forward and Corinthians cleared to the Instonian 10 metre line.

Instonians won the line out and a good driving maul set the platform for a box kick by Ruairi O’Farrell but it went out on the full and Corinthians took full advantage as a great break from 10 with support from the 12 saw a great try in the corner completely against the run of play at this phase in the game. The conversion was missed but Instonians were now back out of losing bonus point territory.

15:37 Corinthians 19 – Instonians 15

Instonians came straight back on the attack and were on top up front. Corinthians frustration spilled over and their 2nd row got a stern telling off for taking a man out of the ball and it was no surprise that moments later a great driving maul saw Oli Clarke complete his hat trick. Just 1 more try and the league title was won.

15:43 Corinthians 19 – Instonians 22

We did not have long to wait however, and after a great break out of defence by Gary Dillon the move continued with great support gaining a penalty in the Corinthians 22 and moments later a great driving maul from the line out had all the Instonians players punching the air. The league was won and the travelling support showed their approval to all the players as Oli Clarke picked up his 4th try of the day. For good measure Ritchie McMaster this time nailed his conversion to put Instonians into the lead.

15:48 Corinthians 19 – Instonians 27

With the objective secured and the league won Instonians were intent on playing some Barbarian style rugby in the sunshine with the wind now easing slightly. Everyone wanted their hands on the ball and Bevan Prinsloo to the fore in the midfield. The young Corinthian backline was having to defend heroically but they showed they were up for the challenge.

With Instonians dominating the set piece and also the breakdown at this stage it was no surprise that the away side scored next and even less a surprise that it was Oli Clarke at the back of yet another very impressive driving maul. 5 tries for Instonians now and all from young hooker Oli Clarke. I suspect the Clarke family who were in Galway for the weekend were chuffed to bits and so they should have been.

15:51 Corinthians 26 – Instonians 27

The problem for Corinthians was that despite being part of a fantastic game of rugby, they currently were not taking any points from this game and were in danger of slipping to 3rd in the table behind a very good Wanderers side who they had to visit next week in their final game of the league campaign.

This excellent young side showed their character and when Instonians spilled the ball when attacking from their own 22, Corinthians put together a great sustained phase of attack and remained patient as they constantly used string runners off the 9 to score under the posts. The easy conversion meant they were only 1 point behind now.

15:55 Corinthians 29 – Instonians 27

Both sides ran the ball in the sunshine with the match up for grabs but when Corinthians got a penalty at the breakdown just inside the Instonian half they pointed at the posts. You could have heard a pin drop as the kicker absolutely nailed the kick and Corinthian Park erupted.

15:59 Corinthians 29 – Instonians 27

A great catch from Instonian full back Bradley McNamara saw him set off on one of his mesmerizing runs but when the ball was lost forward from the next phase Corinthians had a scrum half way between their 22 and 10 metre line. With time running out this scrum was crucial and Instonians attacked the Corinthian scrum and demolished it.

Instonians had a decision to make. Kick for the corner and go to their driving maul or kick for goal to win the game. They chose the latter and again in hushed silence the bog crowd looked on as the ball drifted wide of the posts.

16:03 Corinthians 29 – Instonians 27

Corinthians cleverly looked to play the game out in Instonians half and played for territory but a great attack out of defence went through many sets of hands and 2 intelligent grubber kicks from 2nd row Ali Burke and left wing Simon McMaster saw Corinthians having to get the ball into touch only 10 metres from their own line.

This had to be the last play of the match and Instonians had scored from this position so many times over the last 3 seasons that there would have been short odds on Instonians snatching the game at the end.

Corinthians to their credit managed to slow down the driving maul and Instonians had to use it and they after a couple of pick and goes and good defence by Corinthians center Bevan Prinsloo was alert enough to see that there was no defender on the try line in the corner so he ran in to take the ball and dive over in the corner for what would have been the winning try but unfortunately he had collided with the ref in the process.

The ref gave the scrum to Instonians 5 metres out and the odds were now even shorter on an Instonian win with a push over try the most likely outcome. The tension was palpable in the crowd as surprising the 2 front rows seemed to go up as the scrum wheeled round and to the delight of the home support the penalty went to Corinthians and the impressive 10 tapped the ball to himself and kicked it out to the delight of the home crowd.

FULL TIME – Corinthians 29 – Instonians 27

What another superb game of AIL rugby and what a fantastic performance from this young Corinthian side. This was like a cup final and they now have 3 more if they want to join Instonians in Division 2A next season. It will not be easy but they are more than capable. We wish them luck.

To Instonians what can you say ? 3 successive promotions including our return to senior rugby. The trophy will be awarded after the home game with Skerries next week on Saturday 6 April. Come along and show your appreciation for this super bunch of players and their coaches and management.

As for MOM today, both centres Ian Whitten and Bevan Prinsloo were very good as was no 8 Gary Dillon but I am not sure anyone has scored 5 tries for Instonians 1st XV in a competitive league game so take a bow young Oli Clarke.