1st XV have thrilling win v Bective to gain promotion to All Ireland League!!

Saturday 9 April was a huge day for Instonians with 3 rugby finals (the 1sts, 3rds and U18’s) and effectively a hockey final too. It started off at Shawsbridge with the huge mini rugby festival for clubs from all over the province superbly organized by Michael Fairbanks along with our co-hosts Cooke. Then at 10.30 a.m. Instonians hockey had their semi-final play-off in Dublin against Railway Union with a win meaning they would get promotion. By the time the Instonians rugby 1st XV bus and the supporters bus and a convoy of cars set off for Dundalk for the AIL play-off final against a strong Bective side the great news came through that the hockey had won 4-2 and now it was over to the rugby boys.

Instonians President Robin McKelvey and his team were warmly greeted by the affable Dundalk RFC President John McKevitt for a pre match lunch. Robin had been a guest at the Bective dinner the night before where he was royally entertained by the Bective President Michael Flood so it was great to see them meet up again the day after the night before.

Dundalk’s hospitality to both Instonians and Bective was superb all day and to have the players accompanied on to the field by the Carlingford Pipe Band in glorious sunshine was a sight to see for the large crowd.

The whole season for both sides came down to this as although both sides really deserved to get promotion, this season it was just 1 and the legendary Bill Shankly’s famous words “1st is 1st , 2nd is nowhere” rang true. Both sides had heard the inspirational words from their coaches and management and now it was time for action……Game On!

Bective kicked off deep and good catch and clearance kick by Matthew Keane took play to the Instonians 10 metre line. Bective won their line and moved the ball well through a few phases across the pitch and back again getting some good forward carries. Instonians showed good defence and great jackal from Matthew Keane earned them a relieving penalty in their 22. The subsequent line out allowed Instonians the opportunity to use their effective driving maul and then a box kick from Matthew Keane. Bective recovered it well and again showed their attacking intent but a great jackal this time my Mark Mairs got Instonians another penalty but this time Matthew Keane missed touch and there ensued some kick tennis.

14:35 Instonians 0 – Bective 0

Bective continued to attack and a good pass from their 10 to the left wing spelt danger for Instonians but a good tackle by Matthew Kilpatrick stopped the attack. Bective clearly had the upper hand in the early exchanges and their desire to run the ball paid dividends 10 minutes into the game with the 1st score. After good ball retention and support play they moved left again deep in the Instonian 22 and this time the centre stepped inside the covering defence to open the scoring and this was no more than Bective deserved. A great conversion from the touchline followed. First blood Bective.

14:10 Instonians 0 – Bective 7

Ruari O’Farrell kicked off and Bective gathered and returned well to the Instonian 22 where Instonians trademark driving maul from the line out was followed by a nice half break by Ruari and pop pass to Bevan Prinsloo who forced a penalty on half way. Matthew Keane found touch on the Bective 22

Good line out ball and now it was Instonians turn to attack moving left and back right and then Ruari made a great break and was not held in the tackle so could pass right to Ally Burke who found Matthew Kilpatrick in space in the Bective 22 to run in to score in the corner. It was a bitter sweet moment for the right winger as he pulled up in the act of scoring and that was him for the day. Zak Davidson switched to the right wing with Andrew Keane coming on to the left wing. His brother Matthew missed the difficult kick from the touchline but Instonians were now on the scoreboard.

14:43 Instonians 5 – Bective 7

When Ally Burke ran back the kickoff he was high tackled the familiar routine of penalty kick to touch and line out followed on the half way line but from the next attack the ball was knocked on and so we had the 1st scrum of the day and the first chance for Instonians to use their powerful scrum. The 1st scrum penalty went to Bective however, possibly for Instonians not pushing straight.

It was not long however until the 2nd scrum and normal service for the season was resumed for the powerful Instonian scrum with a dominant scrum a platform for Instonians to run through phases and Bevan breaking through a few midfield attempted tackles.

Another scrum penalty to Instonians followed and already Instonians inspirational captain Alan Whitten was doing what he has done all season to opposing looseheads. It would be a long afternoon for whoever Bective put up against Alan.

Penalty kick to inside the Bective 22 and this time it was the opportunity to show the power of the driving maul as Instonians marched a big Bective pack at a rate of knots towards their try line. Bective hung on by their finger nails but after some pick and goes Instonians moved it left and Bevan used a feature of his game that becomes more prevalent by the week with a great pass deep as he was tackled in midfield in the Bective 22 and Ruari threw a lovely long pass to a Mark Keane at pace with his cousin Andrew outside him and only 1 defender. Mark has pace to burn but was tackled on the line and only then passed to Andrew who scored in the corner. Mark raised his hand in apology as he knew he should have passed the ball earlier. Some things have changed in the modern game a lot but a 2 on 1 has not. Difficult touchline conversion missed by older brother Matthew Keane.

14:54 Instonians 10 – Bective 7

Instonians were now dominant in the set piece but Bective had not reached this play off final by chance and they showed great resilience in defence and continued to attack at every opportunity. Both defences held firm as the match approached half time with a great tackle from Instonians captain Alan Whitten a highlight.

Bective got a rare scrum penalty themselves with 10 minutes of the half remaining and a kick to the Instonian 10 metre line resulting in a powerful drive in midfield following the line out. A knock on from Instonians in the tackle gave Bective a scrum on the Instonian 22 in front of the posts. Ryan Hanson replaced Connor Gallagher at loosehead for Instonians.

This was a great opportunity for Bective to get points before half time and following pressure in the Instonian 22 Bective decided to kick at goal near the left touchline to draw the teams’ level. The kick was missed however.

15:01 Instonians 10 – Bective 7

When Bective ran the ball back from Instonians 22 drop out Ryan Hanson saw yellow for knocking the ball out of the Bective 9’s hands. He had been on the pitch just 1 minute and Bective sensed that their chance to get back in front was now. A kick to the corner gave them a line out just 10 metres from the Instonian line. The crowd sensed that this was Bective’s chance to go into the break ahead but in a carbon copy of his fantastic leap in the tense league decider against Clogher Valley a fortnight ago Eoghan Murphy repeated the act to the relief of the travelling Instonian support.

With just 5 minutes to half time and Bective again making good ground off a line out trying again to take advantage of the extra man, Matthew Keane got a great jackal and kicked to touch outside the Instonian 22. Then following a Davy Scott break Matthew Keane put in a great searching kick into the Bective 22 with the added bonus of the ball touching a Bective player before it went into touch.

Instonians spilled the lineout from a great position and as Bective cleared to the 10 metre line you felt that the chance was gone but Ruari and Mark Keane had other ideas and from a ruck on the Bective 10 metre line Ruari took the ball going right and gave a deft inside pass to Mark Keane who sprinted into open space and raced for the corner. Frantic defence from Bective saved the try but the ball broke loose off feet and Zak Davidson was alert enough to pounce on it for his 18th try of the season.

Another moment of class from Mark Keane but also Ruari who had ex Irish international Peter Russell watching on in admiration from the touchline at a talented player who is normally a 9 but is now running the backline with confidence at 10 and using his outside backline threats intelligently.

Despite the missed conversion from the far touchline Instonians had now not just not conceded during the yellow card but had increased their lead. This would be a test of Bective’s character but they were to show that they would pass that test.

15:12 Instonians 15 – Bective 7

When Matthew Keane taped a penalty and kicked the ball out to end the half Instonians would have been pleased that they had nudged further ahead with 14 men but concerned at the treatment being given to Mark Mairs’s knee as he was having a big influence on the game in defence and when the opportunity arose in attack.

HALF TIME Instonians 15 – Bective 7

The next score was always likely to be crucial and Bective immediately ran back Ruairi’s kick off with attacking intent and an early penalty resulted in their line out outside the Instonian 22 and a grubber kick into the 22. Ryan Hanson came back on after his yellow card so Instonians were back to 15 and had increased their lead while a man down. They would have been very happy with that but not moments later when they were penalised at the line out for what appeared to be interference. Sensing their moment Bective took a quick tap penalty and drove hard at the Instonian line. Two big carries from their ball carriers resulted in a converted try under the posts and the gap was now 1 point and anyone’s game.

15:26 Instonians 15 – Bective 14

Ruari kicked off and when the huge Bective 6 went to run the ball back he was met by a shuddering tackle from Ryan Hanson. A very kickable penalty followed but Instonians turned it down and kicked to the corner 10 metres out and trusted their driving maul which took them close to the line but a great jackal from Bective close to their line meant Instonians came away with nothing.

Undeterred Instonians started to ramp up the pressure on Bective again and ran through phases with Mark Keane and Bevan threatening to find gaps in the Bective defence. Following a big carry from Ryan Hanson the ref came back for a simple penalty under the posts but again the decision was to kick for the corner 5 metres out from the Bective line. Again the normally trusted Instonian line out was lost in the air and a drop out from Bective meant another 3 points had gone a begging.

Shortly afterwards a great break out of defence by the Bective centre and a good pass to the right winger was thwarted by a great cover tackle by Mark Keane.

Instonians then started to apply more pressure including their driving maul from line out and a huge scrum which Bective collapsed. The penalty count was now heavily in Instonians favor and a great tackle by Ryan Hanson in midfield when Bective tried to counter resulted in another penalty for not releasing and another attacking line out 15 metres out from Bective’s line.

It was now half way through the 2nd half and Instonians were in the ascendency but that was still not reflected on the scoreboard and memories of the tight league decider with Clogher would have been evident in the Instonian support.

A scrum in midfield half about 15 metres from the Bective line gave Instonians a great opportunity to attack. Instonians had a great scrum pushing Bective back and forcing a penalty right under the posts with Alan Whitten at tight head giving the Bective loosehead a torrid time. Would they take the easy 3 points this time? The answer was no and it was a case of Deja Vu all over again as Alan again had his opposite number on the ropes. Another penalty and what appeared a warning for Bective presumably that a yellow card was coming next.

At this stage Bernard Jackman and his coaching team brought on another prop and a 2nd row and switched the pack with what looked like the no 8 coming in to the front row who presumably had played front row before. Again the 3 points were declined and off the next scrum Instonians attacked and impressive no 8 Ally Burke went through to score as the ref had got in the way of the defence.

Back for another scrum and another scrum penalty to Instonians but still no yellow card. 3 points declined again as Instonians remained encamped in the Bective 22. Instonians attacked of the scrum and looked certain to score in the left hand corner but the Bective winger was given a yellow card for preventing the score for a deliberate knock on. The Bective crowd would judge it harsh while the Instonian crowd wanted a penalty try. The safer option was a yellow card but no penalty try.

Again Instonians declined the kick at goal from the penalty and backed their dominant scrum. A good carry from the base of the scrum from no 8 Ally Burke and Bective gave away another penalty for in from the side. Instonians then brought on Matthew Nelson for Ryan Hanson and having opted for the scrum option just over 5 metres out at last took advantage of this long period of time in the Bective 22 when Matthew Keane looked up from the base of the scrum and broke blind looking as if to move it left to his cousin Mark in the corner but instead gliding inside his opposite number to score in the corner for his 21st try of the season from scrum-half. He missed the difficult conversion to keep it to a 1 score game.

15:51 Instonians 20 – Bective 14

Bective now tried to move the ball from deep following the kick off but good Instonian defence with Bevan to the fore kept them in their own half and a clever attacking kick from Matthew Keane forced them to clear to their own 22. From the line out Instonians pack took the ball up and then released it to the backs who score a textbook try right along the backline with each man straightening his man and one miss pass to the impressive Paul Pritchard and this time Mark Keane perfectly timed his pass to put his cousin Andrew in for his 2nd try and the crowd could have been forgiven for thinking that was that.

The difficult touchline conversion was missed but Instonians were 11 points ahead and 5 minutes plus injury time was left on the clock.

15:56 Instonians 25 – Bective 14

A great take from Mark Keane from the kick off under pressure from a very good Bective chase gave cousin Matthew to clear to halfway. It was now all or nothing for Bective and they showed great character to run the ball back with good carries winning them a penalty on the Instonian 22. Matthew Nelson then saw yellow for getting in the way of a quick tap penalty. Bective then tapped again and threw everything they had at an Instonian defence (which now included Richard McCarthy on for the injured Davy Scott) and after 5 powerful drives near to the Instonian line and having a penalty advantage moved it right to score in the corner. A great kick from the far touchline meant the lead was now down to a slender 4 points with 1 minute plus injury time to go. There were now many anxious expressions from the travelling Instonian support.

15:59 Instonians 25 – Bective 21

Ruari kicked off deep but a high tackle against Instonians gave Bective the chance to kick to half way. We were now in injury time which we thought was to be 4 or 5 minutes. Instonians again took a great line out steal but then knocked on to give Bective a scrum. Instonians had to bring on Ryan Hanson for front row cover and take off 2nd row Josh Hartley. Bective moved the ball left and back right and got a penalty on the Instonians 10 metre line near the right touchline deep into injury time. Bective gave the ball to their left footer kicker who aimed to make touch as close to the Instonian line as he could but he overcooked it and put it dead.

This time is was Instonians scrum and they cleverly brought Bevan into no 8 for the scrum. Bective may or may not have been aware that Bevan had also played backrow as well as centre but his break from the back of the scrum and magnificent drive breaking numerous attempts at tackles resulted in hands in the ruck by Bective and when the ref blew for a penalty to Instonians the massive cheer from the Instonian bench and support was quickly to turn to elation as the ref indicated that the time was up. Matthew Keane made sure he taped the ball to himself before thumping the ball off the park. Within seconds the celebrations began as the bench and coaching staff and supporters on that side of the pitch climbed over the pitch side hoardings and engulfed the players. Sheer elation for Instonians and dejection for a spirited never say die Bective side.

FULL TIME -   Instonians 25 – Bective 21

Shortly after the final whistle news came through that the U18’s had won their final against Omagh and the 3rds ran Ballynahinch 4ths all the way in their final. What a great day for the club with hockey and rugby winning promotion and it was great to see the hockey club in Dundalk supporting the rugby boys after their win in Dublin in the morning. What a Carlsberg day for the club.

Bective had been great finalists and left nothing out there, no doubt they will be back. They are a proud club and our great friends and we hope to play them again soon when we are both senior clubs again and play again for the Dan O’Connor trophy.

For Instonians huge praise must go to the management, coaches and players for a superb season under Director of Rugby Clem Boyd when they literally had to win nearly every game and with a bonus point to beat Clogher Valley to the league and then to win through in the play offs.

After such a great effort from the whole squad today a MOM was difficult but let’s cover it this way by giving it to Mark Mairs today but then giving a back and forward of the season. The back has to be Bevan, our top try scorer with 27 and a colossus in defence. The forward must be our inspirational captain Alan Whitten following in the footsteps of his dad John (he comes from good stock you see). Alan lead the team by example and was the cornerstone of a tremendous pack of forwards that set the platform for the team all season and should be proud of his massive contribution to Instonians.

As Alan mentioned in his interview after the game the squad was boosted by 3 new players this season in Ruari O’Farrell, Bevan Prinsloo and Eoghan Murphy who slotted in seamlessly to the Instonians ethos with big contributions on and off the pitch. From the moment the club went open in 1990 when the AIL began and Gary Bell became our first non RBAI boy (and what an Instonian he turned out to be) the club is open to anyone and everyone but it is still great to see the RBAI connection.

After losing in the play offs in 2015, 2018 and 2019 we are back in the AIL as a senior club. We look forward to new challenges in 2C next year and while respecting the new opponents we will come up against as we travel across Ireland we will aim high. We are a long way from where we started in the AIL in the top division in 1990 with a draw at home to Ballymena followed by a win away to Malone. A small step towards where we would eventually like to return to. “Back where we belong” is our ultimate aim.


Highlights of the final



Celebrations and interviews



Whole game



Even more stuff on the Instonians Rugby Facebook Page




 This great season is not over yet:


This week:

1st XV, 2nd XV & 3rd XV take a break from training

U21s training on Tuesday in preparation for Easter Monday Tournament


Sat 16th April

No adult matches


Mon 18th April

U21s Instonians Easter Monday Tournament


Next Week

1st XV & 2nd XV training returns


Wed 20th April

3rd XV home to Ards 2nd XV in the league


Sat 23rd April

2nd XV away to Enniskillen 2nd XV in the league


Fri 29th April

3rd XV home to PSNI 2nd XV in the league


Sat 30th April

1st XV away to Armagh 2nd XV in Junior Cup Qtr. Final