NEWBRIDGE College senior firsts completed the group stages of the League this week with a home game against Wesley College.
Previous results suggested this was not going to be an easy end to the group stages for the College and so it proved. A nerve jangler for the coaches but an exciting game for the neutral was in store. It didn’t disappoint!
Poor securing of the kickoff saw the College put themselves under pressure and as they moved towards their own try line they gave up an early penalty which Wesley duly converted to go three points up with just two minutes on the clock.
A nervy College side slowly started to use their possession to their own benefit and but for some tight Wesley defence could have wiped out the Dublin-side’s lead on a number of occasion. But the College would have to wait until 18 minutes in when Joe Darcy, following a slick move involving both forwards and backs, crossed for a try. Unfortunately, he could not add the extras.
The home side were growing into this game but they could not pull away. Some sloppy play gave Wesley position in the College half and a needless penalty gave Wesley another three points.
This focussed the College and they used the forwards wisely to gain good field position.
Strong breaks from Jonathan Phelan, Hugh O’Donnell and Jack Briody, all members of the front row union, punched holes in the Wesley defence and tied them in.
A quick ball to the backs from one such occasion and some very clever running saw Darcy arc the defence again and cross for his second on 30 minutes. The conversion was missed.
There would be no more scoring in the half but only thanks to a clever tackle from Richard Dromgoole Maguire.
With time running out in the first half, Wesley broke the College defensive line and had crossed the try line but Dromgoole Maguire managed to wrap up the attacker and keep him from grounding the ball. The College went into the break 10-6 up.
The second half saw the College set the tone and really work the Wesley defence. And when they didn’t have the ball the College were working hard to repel Wesley attacks and recapture the ball.
In particular, Matt O’Connor and Oisin McKnight were a continual thorn in Wesley’s side at the breakdown.
Some good work by these two and a well placed penalty saw the College into the Wesley 22. Here Phelan collected the ball and ran. Despite having a number of defenders in close attention he stayed on his feet and drove on.
Wesley were powerless to stop him and he powered over the line for a well deserved try on 42 minutes. Darcy slotted over the conversion.
But once again the College failed to pull away and Wesley came knocking again. First their out-half and then their first centre ran hard to make valuable yards and put them deep into the College 22.
Following a couple of ‘pick and go’s’ they popped the ball from the bottom of the ruck to an attacker who hit the line at pace and broke through to score a try which was easily converted from under the posts on 50 minutes.
Back came the College and again, with another quality display of forward and back phase play, the found space out wide.
With the day that was in it, who else but Darcy was there to exploit it and complete his hat-trick on 53 minutes. Wesley came out fighting and just three minutes later forced the College to concede another needless penalty to cut the deficit to six.
As the game moved into the latter stages the College seemed to have more in the tank and a more controlled game saw them take charge.
Suddenly it was Wesley giving up the needless penalties. Luckily for them they were outside kicking distance. But the College used them wisely to keep the visitors inside their own half.
With five to go Mark Sutton stepped up to have a shot at goal with one of these penalties. An admirable effort drifted just to the right of the posts but the College were still deep in the Wesley half. They controlled both defence and attack well for the final minutes and saw out the remainder of the game to secure a 22-16 bonus point win.
A pretty solid performance from all but special mention must also go to Mark Sutton and Andrew Shanahan.