Pens: S Rochford (2)
Conv: S Rochford
Try: C O’Beirne
Pen: C O’Beirne
Conv: C O’Beirne
IN Junior Cup rugby, experience can be an invaluable asset. After 80 minutes at the Racecourse, the sides were level and seemingly poised for extra time. Then the Ballinrobe pack launched one more attack on the Galwegians scrum and secured a penalty, which Stephen Rochford converted from a tough angle in tense conditions.
Ballinrobe have been in situations like this so often down through the years that panicking wasn’t an option. They have lost as many tight games as any side but they’ve won their fair share as well, especially at this windswept venue. That proved crucial for a side that had led by ten at the break before being forced back to parity after a poor start to the second half.
The early stages of the match were always going to be a little cagey. Galwegians looked confident in possession but were trying to settle into the contest. Ballinrobe just didn’t get going for the first five minutes and gave away two early penalties, the second of which saw Cormac O’Beirne have an unsuccessfully shot at goal.
Even that didn’t settle Ballinrobe. Minutes later they put a clearance kick into the hands of winger Paddy Madden, who countered and almost created a try, only to be stopped by a brilliant last-ditch hit from full back Aidan Golden. A subsequent turnover led to a clearing of the lines and a long sigh of relief as the visitors early onslaught had failed.
Ballinrobe settled and used their lineout as a platform for a potent driving maul. Brendan O’Toole was on the money throughout with the key throws and jumpers Colm Sheridan and Mike Staunton worked well in the air to secure possession.
With 13 minutes on the clock, Stephen Rochford opened the scoring with an excellent penalty after some disruptive work in the lineout by Balllinrobe. That lead gave the home side an invaluable platform to build on in the second quarter.
Ballinrobe were beginning to retain possession well and probe for breaks. Patrick Flanagan was a constant threat out wide with half breaks and a couple of well placed kicks. Up front, Doran McHugh and John Flannery were outstanding with ball in hand. The home side held the initiative but solid defence and a couple of silly penalties let ’Wegians off.
Galwegians appeared to have weathered the storm well, and a breakout involving Colin Waters and Madden almost led to a try at the other end. However, deep in first half injury time, they found themselves back defending their line after Rochford’s gutsy kick and chase had forced the penalty and brought play within five metres.
The lineout was cleverly stopped at the initial take but from the resulting scrum Ballinrobe drove over and referee Roy Gibson awarded the penalty try even though Seamus O’Toole appeared to have touched down. That made the conversion a formality and gave Ballinrobe a 10-0 lead at the break.
The second half could not have started any worse as Galwegians chased well from the kick off and forced a lineout in the 22. A superb inside switch pass between O’Beirne and full back Peter Smith almost led to a try but for a vital tackle from Brendan O’Toole. However, a penalty allowed O’Beirne to narrow the gap.
Ballinrobe struggled in the opening stages of the second half, missing tackles and making a couple of key errors. This allowed Galwegians to get their levelling try five minutes later with O’Beirne chasing a Tom Ellard box kick, collecting and scoring under the posts, beating two defenders. The match was slipping away from the ’Robe.
But the home side’s reaction to that score was to launch another assault. While they shunned an opportunity for three points under the posts for a scrum that Galwegians repelled, Ballinrobe’s confidence was restored
When the second opportunity came in injury time, minutes after Galwegians winger Paddy Madden had been wrestled into the dead ball area with a try looking a certainly, Ballinrobe grasped it, with the calm and composed Rochford converting the kick. Experience wins tight games and Ballinrobe, who were clearly the better all-round team, are in the last four for the first time in four years as a result.
A Golden; D Costello, P Flanagan, S Rochford, S Kelly; A Flannery, J Fourie; D McHugh, B O’Toole, J Flannery; P Keane, C Sheridan; T Watson, M Staunton, S O’Toole. Replacements used: M Costello for McHugh; J O’Toole for C Sheridan.
P Smith; P Madden, M Cummins, H Murphy, B O’Donoughue; C O’Beirn, T Ellard; S Perkins, J Naughton, M Byrne; D Boyd, T Gray; J Mullin, S Mazuke, C Waters. Replacements used: I Cullinane for Mullin; N McCarthy for Burke.
Referee: R Gibson