Lansdowne 20 – 34 Wanderers
This game was an end of season chance for the lads to go out and show what they could do and, in spite of the apparently lopsided score, they did just that, playing an equal part in a 54-point feast of rugby.
Wanderers, technically playing at home (and losing three of their own balls over the fence, which made a nice change!), opened the scoring with a well finished move in the corner; a corner they would make their own with two further tries in the same spot in the first half. But Will McEvoy’s boot kept us close after their first try and Cathal McNamara’s courageous finish of a series of “Munster” moves also helped to keep us in the race as we went into the break 10 – 17.
Phil and Beanser’s talk at half time was clear: “keep doing what you’re doing and enjoy yourselves.” And so they did. Our play was full of enterprise and adventure, with Diarmuid Morrissey running some exciting loops and scrum-half/winger David “Stan” Staunton coming very close to finishing them off on more than one occasion. In fact, Stan had gone off with a recurrence of an old shoulder injury, but came on again when needed, disguising his discomfort and very nearly scoring twice. Class.
But all this attacking enterprise inevitably left some openings and the Wanderers (J2’s, remember) were wily enough to see them and take advantage. One of their three tries of the second half was a full length of the pitch counter attack and another was an intercept of a pass.
But our night wasn’t over and if anyone personified the passion and fighting spirit shown that night (and a lot, but it has to be said, not quite all of the season) by the whole team and squad, it was captain Conor Byrne. Taking the ball off the back of another well set “Munster” ruck on half-way, he dummied their scrum-half (yes kids, it can be done – a second row dummying one of the princes of the pitch, the scrum half!) and sprinted all the way under the post for a great try.
But was he panting? Did he even chuck up his lunch? (Which, it also has to be said, we used to see a lot of in the early days of this season!). Did he, heck!
No, he grabbed the ball, shunning the adulation of his team mates (and indeed the attempted hugs from a certain over-emotional touch judge), runs back out the pitch and drop kicks the ball over the post for the quickest conversion in history!
Alas, the ref blew for full time, denying him and all of us the possibility of a grandstand finish.
As the team, coaches Phil and Beanser, supporters from the extended squad and even the still recovering touch judge huddled together for the final talk of the season, to a man we agreed it was one of the best – and most enjoyable – performances of the season. It really didn’t feel like a defeat.
——————— Epilogue ———————
All year, this team was a bit like the French side. As one sage put it, “ they could thrill you with their talent and courage one week, but frustrate you the next. You just never know in advance which side is going to turn up!” The last few performances, notably the win against Clontarf in the cup, and even the cruel defeat to the Guards, but especially in this their final game, the best team turned up and did themselves and the club proud.
There’s a lot to build on for next season and many, many thanks especially to Phil “Dr Phil” Donnellan, coach and Ian “Beanser” Hopkins, director of rugby for their heroic work, week after week. Everyone agrees that they have rebuilt the confidence and love of the game back into the group, giving us a great platform to start with again next September.
Assuming they all come home from the USA tour in one piece, that is!
Brian (nickname pending) Whelan
(Editors Note: many thanks to Brian for stepping up and providing these comprehensive and entertaining match reports for the J2s & J3s this season, we’ve all enjoyed reading them and getting a greater insight into the Junior teams – thank you Brian!)