Clontarf 32 – UCD 28

Firstly, apologies for the missing match reports for the Mary’s and Lansdowne games. I was away the week after the Mary’s game and didn’t make the Lansdowne game due to sickness. Suffice to say that If I did this for a living . . . I’d be dead of starvation . . .

The results from the two preceding games do give a clear illustration of the fine lines that define victory and defeat at this level; the word is that our performance against Lansdowne deserved more than the score line suggests and if not for the loss of key players at the start of the game and some untimely errors we could have run Lansdowne a lot closer. But, what do I know. I wasn’t there.

I was at Donnybrook on Saturday with that old knot of tension that grips the old and infirm when their team has come off a bit of a tonking and is now facing a stiff challenge for a trophy that has lost some of its lustre in recent years but still represents all that was great in Leinster Club Rugby. Clontarf were again stretched in terms of selection after recent injuries and were relying on experienced second liners to plug gaps and some youngsters to make up the support on the bench. Up against them was a UCD outfit liberally sprinkled with the future of Irish running rugby, and with the game to be played on the super dooper, ultra-deluxe, not a rut in sight, Donnybrook axminster surface, you could understand if the Clontarf faithful were not rubbing their hands together at the prospect.

The Donnybrook pitch is magnificent. It is a surface that shifts the balance of performance away from mud encrusted brawn towards craft and timing. It contributed to a terrific game.

Clontarf were outstanding to a man on Saturday and gave a display of skill and application for 80 minutes plus that banished all worries of malaise or hangover from recent setbacks. Where we expected to be under pressure, we dominated, with the front row outplaying their opposite numbers in tight and loose and scoring two tries in the process. One went to hooker Turlough Considine who touched down with dignity after a brilliant intercept. The other went to loose head Ivan Soroka who touched down with the grace of a hippo jumping into a bath leaving a large indentation on the axminster. Backing them up was tight head Dave Hegarty who gave a superb display of handling to go with a solid day at 3 in the scrum.

Behind them Tom Byrne was a revelation, or actually, a bloody nightmare for the opposition. His kick off pursuits were responsible for blitzing the UCD morale. Joycer would drop in the bomb, UCD would gather with aplomb and Tom would arrive like the hound of hell and devastate the ball carrier and anyone else in the district. At no stage in the game did UCD receive possession on their own terms. Wherever the ball was, Tom Byrne was close behind like he was chained to the bloody thing. He was outstanding and the well-deserved man of the match. Outside the backs hunted their opposite numbers, closed down space, and forced error after error. Moved into a kicking game , UCD were stunned to see their kicks returned with interest by Rob Keogh at 15 who has a boot like a proverbial siege gun.

The half time score was 15 all which was little reflection on Clontarf’s dominance of possession and territory. We did, however, make two mistakes which led to two ‘College’ breakout scores and helped to keep everyone warm huffing and puffing on the side-line.

The second half saw the introduction of Peter Du Toit at 9 who promptly gave a demonstration of why every club should play on a carpet with a display of passing and control at pace which completely befuddled the opposition. In a twenty minute spell Peter scored two tries and created one with a pass to Matt Darcy that saw the 12 in, untouched, beside the posts.

In the end that was the difference and the tale of the game. On a day and on a surface that most rugby pundits would have expected to be dominated by the skill and pace of the students of the Leinster academy it was the Northside clunkers Clontarf who revelled in the environment and gave notice that beneath the image of savage drum bangers beats a symphony orchestra of talent just waiting for the right mood and stimulation to burst forth with a sunburst fantasia of rugby brilliance!

Yea right . . . and Tom Byrne got man of the match . . . bang the drum!