3rd XV win at home to Donegal Town 1st XV

Donegal Town made the long journey to Shawsbridge on Saturday to face the 3rdXV in the league. Donegal deserve a huge amount of credit as they travelled with 13 players and their coach, to ensure the fixture was fulfilled.

With the sun shining, the pitch in great condition, and with a numerical advantage, the Instonians faithful could be forgiven for believing this would be an easy day out in the sunshine. How wrong we were!

Playing with the wind behind and undeterred by the numerical disadvantage, it was Donegal who started the match brightly, running hard at the Instonians defence, who stood off and allowed the opposition to make territorial gains. Instonians just couldn’t get their hands on the ball, as Donegal continued to pressurise crossing the line out wide to score what appeared to be the opening try of the match, only for the referee to adjudge the ball to have been knocked forward before grounding. However the referee was playing advantage, and awarded Donegal a straightforward kickable penalty in front of the posts 0-3.

Worse was to come. From the kick-off, the visitors broke through the poor home defence, taking play back into the Instonians 22, where they continued to retain possession and drive around the fringes setting up several rucks on the Instonians line. Eventually the pressure told and Donegal crashed over for their first try of the match. With the conversion successful, Donegal stretched their lead 0-10.

Frustration and poor discipline were beginning to creep into the Instonians game and another penalty goal stretched the visitors lead to 0-13 with fifteen minutes played.

Having recovered from the early onslaught Instonians rallied and began to enjoy a period of sustained possession, and while playing into the wind, ran the ball at every opportunity. From a tapped penalty, Andy Rolston, making his first start of the season, made good yardage, before the ball was moved wide by Ben Chalmers to Ruairi Forester to score Instonians first unconverted try 5-13.

With Instonians now back in the game, it was Donegal who were feeling the pressure as they continued to concede further penalties. From one such penalty, Instonians opted to play sensible rugby into the stiff breeze, driving at the opposition defence, which eventually succumbed to the pressure as the influential Peadair Meenan burst through to score Instonians second try of the match. With the conversion successful the score move to 10-13, which is how the first half finished.

With the wind behind in the second half Instonians were aware that territorial dominance would be key to success. However; it was Donegal who once again took the initiative and started brighter. Again aware of the numerical disadvantage in their backs, Donegal played to their strengths and continued to attack Instonians around the fringes, where they continued to have their fair share of success, due mainly to the poor Instonians defence.

Eventually Instonians managed to get their hands on the ball and forced Donegal into conceding further penalties. This pressure told and once again Peadair Meenan breached the defence, finding Jordane Emmanuel on hand to take the pass and run in to score close to the posts, making the conversion attempt a little easier, 17-13.

As the second half wore on it was expected that Donegal’s 13 men would start to tire. This was not the case as they came storming back, to once again to brush the weak Instonians defence aside, scoring another converted try, and to retake the lead 17-20.

Instonians were struggling to make use of the extra men in the backs, and it wasn’t until midway through the half that the advantage was taken, as Ashley Black scored an unconverted try out wide, to move Instonians back into the lead once more, 22-20.

The game was becoming increasingly scrappy and disjointed by this stage with both teams conceding penalties, yellow cards and injuries.

Into the final quarter now and the game which Instonians should have dominated was now up for grabs. Using the wind to their advantage, Instonians kicked deep and pressurised the back pedalling cover defence. John Carser won a turnover ball in midfield, which was moved wide to Josh Morrow who scored another unconverted try 27-20.

Donegal just wouldn’t give up and despite being two men down, and carrying a number of injured players, they came straight back down the field and continued to run hard and straight at the Instonians defence, who seemed to have no answer to this tactic.

Once again Instonians conceded several more penalties which allowed Donegal to press for a final score as the clock approached eighty minutes. Their efforts were rewarded when they burst through to score close to the posts. The conversion hit the post and the crossbar, and eventually fell over the bar to leave the score 27-27, with only time for Instonians to kick off.

Instonians kicked off for the last play of the game, and the last chance to salvage something from a below par performance.

Donegal fielded the kick-off and the Instonians defence pressurised the receiver. Ben Chalmers was on hand to force the turnover and win possession back for the home side. This was the last chance of the match and the Instonians team showed great composure to retain possession going through several phases of possession to eventually create an opening for Reuben Clarke to scorch in from twenty yards out to score close to the posts and steal the victory at the very last moment. The successful conversion left the final score 34-27.

This was not a great performance by the 3’s on Saturday, and one which the squad recognised was below par. It also shows that there is plenty of work to do if the squad are to be more competitive as the season progresses. However; a win is a win, and the result means another five points, which was an important outcome.

Huge credit to Donegal Town, who as previously mentioned, travelled with thirteen players in order to fulfil the fixture. They had no option but to implement one game plan, and they did so very effectively, and were unlucky not to leave Shawsbridge with more than two points. Donegal picked up several injuries during the game and still managed to finish with thirteen players on the field. We wish these players a speedy recovery, and we look forward to the return fixture in March.

To the referee, as has been the case in previous matches, this was not an easy match to manage, given the numerical advantage / disadvantage, and the injuries which occurred during the match, however; our referee on Saturday managed to control the game and allow both teams to play-out what was an exciting game of rugby.

Team 1 to 18: John Carser. Andy Davis, Richard Fannin, Matthew Bradley, Ryan Hickland, Nathanial Johnston, Reuben Clarke, Peter Bradley, Scott Croft, Ashley Black, Josh Morrow, Ben Chalmers, Andrew Rolston, Lewis Bodel, Ruairi Forester, Jordane Emmanuel, Johan Markarian, Peadair Meenan.