On a weekend that started with a Clontarf blowout in Templeville Road and ended with the rugby gods smiling benignly on the north side, Clontarf moved back up the league into joint first with a clear route to a home semi-final.
Who would have thought it? After a somewhat off colour display against a surging Young Munster last week saw ‘Tarf fall back into away semi territory we could be forgiven for feeling that this seasons lack of consistency deserved little better. However, after a strong weeks training with a lot of review and soul searching Clontarf regathered themselves for the final push for the top of the heap.
St Marys, unfortunately for them, were the unwitting victims of a fearsome backlash as the north side club shook off its recent wobbly displays and handed out as comprehensive a tonking as I’ve seen in years. It was clear from the start that the home side were bracing for a tight attack given the recent strength of the ‘Tarf ball carrying back row so when the pill went wide early with the kind of accuracy that threads a needle, Marys were flapping all over the place, and their narrow defence was badly caught on three occasions in the first 20 minutes. That set the home side a biblical hill to climb and despite a fortuitous penalty try to bring the ‘Tarf lead back to 12 17 at half time it was too much to manage.
They were not helped by Clontarf tactics either, as once the lead wad established the visitors eased back into the variation game that mixed wide ball with heavy carrying inside which wreaked a heavy physical toll on the young Marys side. The defence also was monstrous and the Marys pacey runners were smashed, literally, before they could reach open ground. As the second half progressed it became clear that attrition rather than tactical adjustment was emptying the Marys bench. In the circumstances their continued defensive effort was admirable with enormous displays of courage shown by the players in blue. Clontarf tacked on two more tries in the second half for a bonus point win and with Lansdowne losing to a resurgent Terenure, and Young Munster annihilating Cork Con 3 0 in Limerick the gods rewarded ‘Tarfs effort with a joint first place and a last league game against UCD in Castle Avenue on Easter Saturday.
As things stand in the League there are only two teams with nothing to play for next Saturday. One of them is Old B and the other is our final opponents UCD. One would be liable to think that this weekend’s game, therefore, is somewhat of a dead rubber.
Let me disabuse you of that notion.
We will never forget season 2013/14 when Clontarf, gliding towards its first AIL title travelled to Belfield to play a UCD side with nothing to play for. The trauma of that day is still etched on my mind as a stress free College side playing Fijian style rugby ran riot against the ultimate champions for a 39 33 victory.
Neither I nor any Clontarf supporters need to go through that again . . .