RUGBY: All Ireland League Div 2A Round 11
Late Healy try gets Ormond a Bonus Point
Highfield 40 Nenagh Ormond 22
Nenagh Ormond made the journey south to Cork on Saturday last to take on Highfield in Round 11 of the All Ireland League. Highfield are leading the way in Division 2A, regularly posting big scores on opponents in the division, and barring any major slip-up, look to be heading for promotion at the end of the competition. Their line-up features, among others, former Munster tight-head prop Timmy Ryan who is player-coach of the side and flanker Miah Cronin who is a brother of current Munster prop James Cronin. Nenagh, on the other-hand, have had mixed fortunes but showed some signs last week against Galwegians that they might be back on track in their bid to maintain their Division 2A status. In such circumstances, any league points gained by Nenagh would be a positive outcome as Highfield are a very well-organised, competitive side who are clearly intent on gaining promotion to Division 1B.
Nenagh’s pack was unchanged from the Galwegians game but there was a rejigging of the back line due to Stephen Carey’s injury sustained against Galwegians. Darragh Flannery got his first start on the left-wing and Pete Coman moved to midfield to partner Paddy Scully with Killian Gleeson starting at full-back.
In the first quarter there was very little threat from either side with most of the action taking place in the middle third of the pitch and both sides shadow-boxing to a certain extent. On 13 mins, Nenagh out-half Alex Ropeti made a good line break through the Highfield defence but was hauled down just short of the line. The pressure yielded a 5-metre scrum for Nenagh and they looked to be in a great position to register the first score of the game, but the final pass was missed, and the chance was lost. Highfield made their way upfield and after a period of pressure on the left touchline they were rewarded with a try when Gavin O’ Leary scored in the corner for the first of his two tries on 21 minutes. Shane O’Riordan, who was excellent throughout, landed the touchline conversion.
Highfield’s dander was up now and Nenagh found themselves scrambling in defence to limit further damage. Another patient build-up by Highfield where they went through multiple phases, resulted in their second try on 31 minutes when centre Ben Murphy crashed over under the posts with Shane O’Riordan again adding the extras.
It got worse for Nenagh before the break, when on 35 minutes Gavin O Leary scored his second try in the left corner, which was a carbon-copy of his earlier effort, and out-half O’Riordan landed another monster kick from the touchline. Nenagh went to the break scoreless and looked to have a mountain to climb to salvage anything from the game.
Nenagh’s response in the second half was immediate. A piece of individual brilliance by Nicky Irwin kick-started the revival. 2 minutes in to the second-half, following a Nenagh scrum inside their own half, the scrum-half picked from the base of the scum and accelerated through a gap in the Highfield defence. As the Highfield full-back approached, he feigned to kick and then zig-zagged to the left corner and just got there as the Highfield defenders got back. Alex Ropeti’s conversion attempt was pulled wide. The score lifted Nenagh and from the Highfield restart it got better for Nenagh. Highfield gained possession from the restart and went to run the ball. Quick thinking by Alex Ropeti spotted that Highfield were lying a bit flat and he intercepted a pass and made a dash for the corner, just getting there before the cover arrived. His difficult conversion was pulled wide. 21-10 to Highfield and Nenagh were very much back in the game. The hosts responded with another try, gaining a bonus point in the process, the try credited to hooker Dan Healy after a period of sustained pressure on the Nenagh line to leave the score at 28 – 10, Shane O’Riordan landing the conversion.
From that restart, Nenagh gained a scrum inside the Highfield half. Nenagh’s No 8 John Hayes picked from the base and made a good break but was caught 10 m from the line. Nenagh moved the ball left from the ensuing ruck but a skirmish broke out among the players getting up from that ruck. The referee had a long discussion with his assistant, spoke to both captains, and then issued a yellow card to Ger O’Gorman. It was a harsh call as it seemed a Highfield forward was the offending player who should have been carded. With Nenagh reduced to 14, Highfield piled on the pressure, scoring two more tries on 58 mins & 63 mins respectively. Shane O’Riordan missed one of the conversions – his solitary miss of the afternoon coming off the outside of the upright. With 15 minutes left Nenagh were 40-10 down and the contest was over, but to their credit they refocused and in a pulsating finale, they worked hard and were rewarded for their efforts with two further tries.
Injuries to both Nenagh half-backs within ten minutes of each other resulted in both leaving the field. Andrew Hodgins came in on the wing with Darragh Flannery moving to scrum-half, and Colm Moylan came in to the backs with Peter Coman moving to out-half. Jake O’Kelly & Niall O’Gorman & Colm Moylan had also been introduced and it was the young players who took the fight to Highfield in the end-game. Darragh Flannery impressed at scrum-half and his crisp service kept Nenagh going forward with Nenagh owning the ball for the last ten minutes of the game
Ger O’Gorman scored Nenagh’s third try on 71 minutes and with the scoreboard clock reading 84 minutes, Nenagh captain John Healy danced over for the bonus-point try, Peter Coman adding the conversion to leave the final score at 40 -22.
While the result was never in doubt from early on, Nenagh can take many positives from the game. The bonus point may yet have an important bearing on their league position come April. However, the most pleasing aspect of the performance was the contribution of the younger players who came on in the second half. The experience gained against a quality side such as Highfield will stand to them in the future.
The All Ireland League takes another mini-break for the next couple of week-ends with 6 Nations action taking centre-stage. Nenagh’s next match is on Friday 15th February when they host Old Crescent in Lisatunny under lights.
Man of the Match: Shane O’Riordan (Highfield RFC)
SCORERS - Nenagh Ormond : Tries: Irwin, Ropeti, G. O’Gorman, J. Healy .
Cons: P. Coman
Highfield : Tries; O’ Leary (2) Murphy, D. Healy, Gallaher, Banon
Cons: O’Riordan (5)
TEAMS - Nenagh Ormond : Killian Gleeson, Ger O’Gorman, Peter Coman, Patrick Scully, Darragh Flannery Alex Ropeti , Nicky Irwin; Fergal Brislane, John Healy , John Coffey, Kevin O’Flaherty, Kevin O’Gorman, Evan Murphy, John O’Flaherty, John Hayes.
Reps: A. Hodgins for N. Irwin (58 inj) A. Doyle for A. Ropeti (67 inj) J.O’Kelly for K O’ Flaherty (62) N.O’Gorman for J. Coffey(58) C.Moylan for P. Scully (65)
Highfield RFC : Luke Kingston Paul Stack, Ben Murphy, Dave O’Sullivan, Gavin O’Leary, Shane O’Riordan, Chris Banon, Michael Dillane, Dan Healy, Timmy Ryan, Dave O’Connell, Colm Gallagher, Miah Cronin, Jack Duffy, Kevin O’Leary.
Reps: M. Shinkwin for D. Healy(52) D.O’Callaghan for T.Ryan (65)
Referee : Jason Cairns (IRFU)