1st XV win 38-6 against Newcastle West in AIL semi-final

1st XV win ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE QUALIFYING SEMI-FINALS beating Newcastle West 38-6

Navan RFC was the venue last Saturday 2 April 2022 for the AIL play off semi-finals and what a perfect venue it was. The day was brilliantly hosted by Gerry Williamson and Scott Ennis and their team of helpers from Navan RFC and for most of the day the sun shone for the large crowd of supporters from all 4 teams.

Instonians were the 2nd semi-final at 3 p.m. so by then they knew they would be facing a formidable Bective side in next week’s final who had seen off a spirited Connemara side 40-17 in the 1st semi-final earlier in the day.

The focus now however was 100% on the task at hand and the difficult challenge of Newcastle West and they did not disappoint.

Ruari O’Farrell kicked off against the breeze and both sides immediately showed their intent to attack in the opening exchanges.

Newcastle West were the first to threaten the try line just 5 minutes into the game following a penalty on half way which they kicked to the Instonians 22. From the line out they used their maul and then moved the ball to their impressive 10 who showed great awareness to kick crossfield for his right winger who gathered the ball just 15 metres out. The crowd sensed the opening score to come from the Munster side but Mark Keane had not read the script and a great cover tackle form the full back saved the day and the Instonians defence were quick to support him and recover possession.

15:05 Instonians 0 – Newcastle West 0

Newcastle West continued to exert early pressure on Instonians and from another line out on half way they moved the ball slickly along the backline to the right and then back again left when their centre broke into space through the centre of the pitch and again the Instonians try line was under threat with Bevan Prinsloo this time making the key tackle and then a brilliant follow up jackal from Paul Pritchard resulted in a penalty for Instonians just 10 metres from their line.

15:09 Instonians 0 – Newcastle West 0

Having survived the initial onslaught from Newcastle West Instonians now began to get a foothold in the game and good control of possession and territory gave them a line out on the clubhouse side outside the Newcastle West 22. Out of nowhere a great opportunist break from Matthew Keane and a super support line from winger Zak Davidson saw him scorch through under the posts giving Matthew Keane a simple conversion.

15:14 Instonians 7 – Newcastle West 0

This was tough on Newcastle West who had started the game with a bang and were only stopped by great Instonians defence. The character of this side showed why they were the Munster champions and had such an impressive domestic campaign going into this match as they dusted themselves down and took the attack straight back to Instonians backed by a good travelling support.

They continued to move the ball well expertly marshalled by their 10 who had great hands and played the game with his head up aware of what was on out wide all the time. When the ball had been moved right and back left again the pressure was ramped up again on the Instonians defence. A penalty to Newcastle West and booming kick gave them a line out on the Instonians 5 metre line. Again Instonians defence came to the fore and the whole pack came together with the ref’s whistle giving Instonians the scrum. Instonians showed great control and togetherness to keep hold of the ball and keep moving forward until they were out of their 22. Newcastle West now showed that their defensive qualities to earn and penalty about 10 metres outside the Instonians 22. This time they did not kick to the corner again but took the opportunity to try to get points on the board. Their full back made a good connection but needed help from the left hand post to see them on the scoreboard.

15:21 Instonians 7 – Newcastle West 3

This was no more than they deserved but they would also have known that with a quarter of the match gone they needed more as they had the benefit of the breeze in the first half.

It was Instonains turn however to show good control of possession and territory to advance up the pitch and then a lovely grubber kick to touch from Matthew Keane took play to the Newcastle West 22. This was not the area of the pitch they wanted to be in but a great wind assisted defensive kick took play back to just outside the Instonians 22. The Instonians set piece has been such a strong feature of this season and so it was a surprise to see first a not straight at the line out (Neil Saulters usually throws darts all day) and then a scrum penalty to Newcastle West for Instonians not pushing straight.

From a similar position to the last penalty this time the Newcastle West full back did not need help from the posts and it was now a 1 point game.

15:28 Instonians 7 – Newcastle West 6

Newcastle West continued to exert pressure on Instonians seeking a half time lead and encamped themselves deep in the Instonians 22 but this time it was Mark Mairs’s turn for a great jackal and the danger was relieved with the resulting penalty clearance to touch.

Another promising position from Newcastle West with a line out on the Instonians 10 metre line was thwarted by brilliant anticipation from Matthew Keane who intercepted and sprinted clear to within 10 metres of the Newcastle West try line.

Instonians now had the pressure on Newcastle West but great defence allowed the Munster men to hold out.

Instonians were now intent on exerting pressure of their own and a trademark great dominant scrum gave them a penalty and s great kick to the corner from Matthew Keane and the normal effective line out gave the platform for a great driving maul. This felt like a pivotal time in the game as Instonians controlled possession and then moved the ball quickly left in the Newcastle West 22 to Bevan Prinsloo who looked to have been tackled but showed his strength to wrestle back possession and shake off his would be score to the left of the post. Matthew Keane missed the conversion but this still felt a crucial score just before half time and into the breeze.

15:39 Instonians 12 – Newcastle West 6

Newcastle West knew that time was running out in the 1st half but a great response to this latest setback showed then controlling possession and moving deep inti the Instonians 22 but again resilient Instonians defence caused a knock on and a good Instonians scrum allowed them to clear up to their 10 metre line.

Right on half time Ryan Hanson (who was alternating with Connor Gallagher at loosehead) made a big tackle but was penalised for either offside or the tackle being a bit high. With time up the Newcastle West fullback kicked for goal on the Instonians 10 metre line to the left of the posts but the sailed just wide. The 5 minutes of injury time were up as the ref whistled for half time.

 

HALF TIME (15:52) Instonians 12 – Newcastle West 6.

The crowd had witnessed a very good 1st half between 2 good sides with Instonains showing great resilience under huge pressure from Newcastle West on several occasions but responding well with attacking intent themselves including two clinical pieces of play resulting in tries. Newcastle West for their part had played some great attacking rugby but just could not get the scores they will feel their play deserved. Having played with the breeze they will have known that they had a huge 2nd half to play if they wanted to go on to next week and a final against Bective. Instonians supporters will have known from the nerve tingling encounter with Clogher Valley that this game was far from over but also that Instonians had the breeze in the 2nd half and had shown great fitness all season to keep going right to the end.

In now glorious sunshine and the pitch still looking immaculate the bar had now largely emptied as Newcastle West kicked off.

A great kick out of defence by Matthew Keane took play to the Newcastle West 10 meter line and a penalty infringement at the line out gave Instonians the opportunity to kick to touch on the Newcastle West 22. From the line out the Instonians maul drove forward forcing another penalty and this time the resulting line out was on the 5 metre line. With the Instonians pack on top a try looked inevitable as they kept recycling the ball and advancing right to the try line. Newcastle West were hanging on but somehow managed to not only stop a try but under the new laws to get the drop out for held up over the line.

This set the pattern for the 2nd half with Instonians continuing to attack and Newcastle West having to make a lot of tackles and do a lot of defending.

Then 10 minutes into the 2nd half a simply sensational try from Instonians had the travelling Instonians support purring with appreciation. It started with a long searching kick by Newcastle West deep into the Instonians 22. Instead of clearing to touch and giving Newcastle West a net territorial gain Mark Keane decided to run back out if defence at pace. Mark immediately found support from Ruari O’Farrell who intelligently fed Bevan Prinsloo and made himself available for a return pass. The play was how on the Newcastle West 10 metre line and Ruari put in a clever kick deep into the 22 which Bevan gathered to score under the posts. A magnificent score covering the length of the pitch and leaving a simple conversion for Matthew Keane.

16:02 Instonians 19 – Newcastle West 6

Instonians were now in full flow and just minutes later they moved the ball swiftly left just in their own half and Mark Mairs showed great hands and awareness to draw the last man and put Zak Davidson away down the left wing. Zak showed good pace and a lovely side step off his left foot to leave the last covering defender for dead and run in under the posts. Another easy conversion for Matthew and you sensed that the writing was on the wall for Newcastle West unless Instonians took their foot off the gas.

16:05 Instonians 26 – Newcastle West 6

Instonians did not let up but not for the 1st time Newcastle West dug deep and showed great character to get back on the attack and after a scrum penalty (which again looked to be for Instonians not pushing straight) they kicked to the corner on the Instonians 5 metre line. Instonians pack to a man showed great defence and held the maul up and stopped it moving forward resulting in a scrum to Instonians. Impressive no 8 Ally Burke picked up from the base and made really good ground against the Newcastle midfield before offloading to the supporting Bevan Prinsloo. The ball was then quickly recycled and Matthew Keane’s clever kick took play just outside the Newcastle West 22.

As the game entered the final quarter Instonians were showing no sign of letting up but Newcastle West did manage to break out of defence and slick hands took them up to the Instonians 22 and they applied pressure towards the Instonians line knowing that they had to score now to have any chance of getting back into this game. A great jackal by Mark Mairs must have deflated the Munster men and it got worse as they watched Matthew Keane’s wind assisted kick from his own line reach touch just outside the Newcastle West 22. They say things come in 3’s and the sight of their influential 10 going off was not something they wanted to see. By this point of the game Instonians own 10 Ruari O’Farrell seemed to be really enjoying the game as he orchestrated a lot of excellent back plays in the sunshine.

Matthew Keane continued to kick intelligently and keep his pack in good positions on the field and one such ranging kick took play to the Newcastle West 10 metre line and minutes later another big scrum gave Instonians a scrum penalty. The same routine of a kick to touch and line out and driving maul had a penalty advantage for Instonians when Matthew put up a high kick to the far right wing on the clubhouse side. Matthew Kilpatrick attempted to gather the ball which looked unlikely given the defensive cover but he expertly juggled the ball and a couple of pirouettes later he was touching the ball down in the corner.

16:20 Instonians 31 – Newcastle West 6

With the game now won and a final next week Instonians emptied the bench and made full use of the 8 players available having been used to having just 2 all season up to now.

To a man every one of the 23 players showed up for Instonians today and the fresh legs coming on meant the pace and intensity could be kept for the whole of the 2nd half. The continuity between forwards and backs was great to watch with everyone wanted hands on the ball with Bevan Prinsloo, Mark Mairs and Mark Keane to the fore. Ruari had now moved to 9 and Rick McCarthy had come on at 10.

In injury time and following another Instonians penalty and kick to the corner and line out it was now Rick’s turn to kick high towards the right touch line deep in the Newcastle West 22. Initially the ball was not caught but Bevan did well to gather and Ally Burke pounced to score. Rick then nailed the conversion from the far right hand touchline with the last action of the game.

FULL TIME -   Instonians 38 – Newcastle 6

What a 2nd half performance from Instonians. They had withstood great pressure from a motivated, energetic and determined Munster team and came out in the 2nd half firing and did not let up.

Feels unfair to pick an MOM given the performance of all 23 players. The pack were very good with the front 5 putting in a big shift and the backrow were everywhere in attack and defence with great link up play with the backline. The half backs were a very good unit with Matthew Keane having another very good game and Ruari enjoying running the backline today with confidence. Zak Davidson and Matthew Kilpatrick add more attacking threat and good to see Davy Scott back out on the pitch after pulling up in the warm up last week. On reflection though Bevan Prinsloo has to be the MOM with not only his crucial tries but his incredible work rate all over the pitch and superb defence.

As one of our recent excellent Past Presidents noted after the game ……. OMG. Not what you think, ONE MORE GAME. This is a final for AIL qualification against our great friends from Bective who are a serious side this year. Bective were the 1st side from Dublin that we ever played and we used to play them annually for the Dan O’Connor cup when we were both senior clubs. It is not in our club house so it must be in theirs and we need to win it back. It will be a huge challenge but the prize is huge too, a long awaited to return to the AIL.

Clear your diaries for the biggest game the club has had in years.

Next Saturday 9 April v Bective.

2.30pm Kick

Being played at Dundalk RFC