Early in the 1980’s I lived in Chicago for a while and during the sweltering summer a group of us decided to head north into Wisconsin to an archetypical US summer resort. On the journey we stopped in a small place called Baraboo, Wisconsin, one of whose famous sons is a man called Brad Robinson. Brad is famous for being the first player to throw, in 1906, a legal forward pass in US College Football. In 1905 the rules of American Football were changed, under pressure from the then President Theodore Roosevelt, to make the game more open and consequently safer. Part of these rule changes was the legal forward pass. Previously the game was dominated by dangerous group impact plays like the “wedge” which were resulting in serious injury or worse.

In 1905 alone 19 players were killed playing College ball in the US.

Way to go America!!

Baraboo’s main St is called Ringling Street, named after the famous Ringling brothers of Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus fame.

On Saturday the circus came to town in Castle Avenue. Thrills and spills for everyone. And just like the circus its good to get the entertainment off to an early start. So thanks to Mick McGrath who scored after 29 seconds well before the pre match lunchers had left the loo. He went on to score a hat trick in a man of the match performance.

These quick starts always make me nervous. They’re like a slap in the face for the opposition who invariably up their tempo. The Young Munster response was an immediate drop goal to Willie Staunton after ‘Tarf faffed around with the restart. They then followed up with a penalty to effectively wipe out the early McGrath cameo. The game then settled into a first half pattern which saw Clontarf attacking well but being denied regular ball through the defensive work of the Young Munster line-out who made inroads into the Clontarf possession helped by the home side’s loss of second row Simon Crawford to a nasty ankle injury. Young Munster also found ground with good use of the line-out maul which, while it didn’t lead to a try, was a regular source of penalties and a yellow for Brendan Cutriss just before half time.

The first half ended 13 9 to the home side after David Joyce and Willie Staunton added two penalties each to the goal and drop goal of the first two minutes.

The second half saw the ‘Tarf 14 hit the ‘A’ game button and in an early eight minute spell score two wonderful tries. Both were perfect examples of phase play at pace with some powerful running from both backs and forwards made more incisive by outstanding ball presentation. At one stage Sam Cronin looked like he was running a drill , firing passes untouched from the base. Played at that pace, and with that accuracy, the Clontarf game is unstoppable and in that spell the game changed from a contest around two teams in a grinding match to one where the visitors had to chase a big score and consequently were vulnerable to counter attacks on mistakes. Young Munster chased well and scored three tries of their own but had no answer to Clontarf’s pace out wide and growing set piece dominance in the scrum. It certainly makes for excitement though, with passes flying long all over the pitch and missed tackles causing ructions on the sideline. The circus ended with Prop Ian Hirst doing the worm over the line for his first try for Clontarf and sub scrum half Ronan Dillon spotting a lost blind-side pillar for a break and the final and sixth home try.