1st XV have tough win 36-28 at home to Bruff

INSTONIANS BEAT BRUFF 36 – 28 WITH A BONUS POINT IN ALL IRELAND LEAGUE DIV 2C

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On Saturday 12 November 2022 Instonians welcomed Limerick side Bruff to Shaws Bridge looking to continue their winning form and maintain their position at the top of AIL 2C. The theme of the pre match lunch was “The Golden Oldies” and they were out in force as Geoff Goldsborough recounted stories of this side from its inception in 1970 and then when they formed the Perennials once “The Oldies” had run their race. Bruff president Michael Hehir recognised the contribution Instonians had made to Irish Rugby over the years and looked forward to the challenge of taking on the current side on the back of a big home win against Ballina the previous week. Dry overhead conditions with just a slight wind was the order of the day as both teams took to the field.

14:30 – Bruff kicked off long and Instonians immediately showed their intent to run the ball back with a succession of phases and good continuity between forwards and backs. Bruff however were clearly up for this one and defended aggressively.

14.35 – Instonians 0 – Bruff 7

Having withstood the early pressure Bruff then scored with their first attack 5 minutes into the game. Having won a penalty at the breakdown they kicked to the corner for a line out on the Instonian 22 and then used their driving maul to release go forward ball for strong runners towards the Instonian posts. On a penalty advantage the 10 showed the benefit of playing with the head up with good spatial awareness to kick into the hands of the right wing to score in the corner. A great touch line conversion followed.

Instonians came straight back at Bruff keeping ball in hand and forcing a penalty inside the Bruff 10 metre line on the left side of the pitch and a great opportunity to get an attacking line out and use the tried and trusted driving maul. The groans on the balcony told you that Instonians had missed touch and the chance had gone.

14:43 –Instonians 0 – Bruff 14

Bruff then made Instonians pay when from a penalty at the breakdown they again kicked to the Instonian 22 metre line and used their driving maul to slowly but steadily make ground and use strong runners to bear down on the Instonian line where their 9 reached over to dot the ball down and give a simple conversion.

The visitors from Limerick had laid down the gauntlet and league leading and unbeaten Instonians would need to show their mettle now.

14:46 –Instonians 7 – Bruff 14

The first scrum of the match was to Instonians on the right hand side of the pitch on the Bruff 10 metre line and there was great anticipation in the crowd as this is an area where Instonians have been dominant in the first 5 league games of the season. It was a good scrum by Instonians but Bruff held up reasonably well. The ball was moved well left and Bevan Prinsloo made good ground initially before the ball was transferred back right and then left again when the stretched Bruff defence was forced to concede a penalty. This time touch was found and Instonians had a line out 5 metres out on the left hand side. Once the clean catch was taken there was an inevitability about the driving maul to give hooker Neil Saulters his 11th try of the league campaign. Jonathan Milliken slotted the conversion from 15 metres in from the touchline and Instonians were up and running.

Instonians then ran the ball back again and made decent ground before they lost the ball forward in the tackle not for the first time this season.

Bruff then had the 1st scrum on their own put in and it remained solid. They moved the ball left and caught Instonians offside. They again kicked to the Instonians 22 metre line. A crooked throw gave the scrum to Instonians and a good scrum resulted in a scrum penalty and a great kick by Matthew Keane to the Bruff 10 metre line on the right. A nice move off the lineout was spoilt by a forward pass to no 8 Ali Burke.

14:59 –Instonians 12 – Bruff 14

Bruff’s scrum remained solid at this stage and gave their no 8 the platform to break forward towards the Instonian 22 but failure to release gave Matthew Keane the chance to clear to the half way line. From the line out Instonians driving maul made in roads and then from the next ruck Rhys O’Donnell’s show and go saw him sprint clear up the middle of the pitch and then veer right and chip the ball over the last defender. A decent bounce was all that was needed but rugby balls have a mind of their own and the chance was gone.

Instonians continued to attack however and following a flowing passage of play Ruari O’Farrell made a great break deep into the Bruff 22 and passed to Bevan Prinsloo who almost got over the line . After consulting with the touch judge the ref gave Instonians a penalty and it was a case of deja vue all over again with Neil Saulters getting his 12th try of the league campaign from another impressive Instonian driving maul. Jonathan Milliken missed the conversion but Instonians were back within 2 points.

At this stage Anton Lupari went off to be replaced by the returning Alan Whitten in the front row.

From the kick off Mark Mairs was taken out in the air and Bruff saw the first of their 3 yellow cards for the day.

Matthew Keane kicked to just inside the Bruff half and when they were caught offside Matthew had a great kick to 10 metres from the Bruff line on the right. Instonians then battered away at the Bruff line and on a penalty advantage Bevan Prinsloo looked sure to score but did not ground the ball over the line. There followed the 2nd yellow card for Bruff however and Instonians turned down the easy penalty to take the lead in favour of a scrum under the posts. A big scrum from Instonians followed but they were deemed not to have pushed straight and the relief from the Bruff players and supporters was palpable.

Instonians were not finished yet for this half and looking to take advantage of the numerical advantage. A great break from Mark Keane deep into the Bruff 22 resulted in a 3rd yellow card for Bruff but the first yellow was by now back on the pitch so they were still at 13 against the Instonian 15.

A kick to the corner from Ruari and it was all set up for Neil Saulters to add to his try count. Bruff however somehow managed to mess up the Instonian line out and were delighted to kick the ball out and reach half time with their noses still in front.

HALF TIME – Instonians 12 – Bruff 14

 

15:14 Instonians kicked off deep playing towards the score board end but a great return kick from Bruff resulted in an Instonian line out on their own 10 metre line on their left. A ball off the top saw Ali Burke make ground and the ball was moved swiftly right where Ruari O’Farrell made a fine break and found Mark Keane in support but the Bruff defence held firm.

Bruff then came back themselves and moved the ball right from inside their own 22 metre line only for Instonians to turn the ball over and put the ball through the hands to release Bevan Prinsloo to sprint up the right had touchline towards the corner flag and as the defence came across Bevan passed inside to Zak Davidson who was bunded into touch just short of the line.

Instonians contested well at the line out and got the put in to a scrum on the far right hand side of the pitch. They chose to move the ball quickly from the scrum towards the posts but lost the ball forward in the tackle right under the posts. A great opportunity to take the lead was lost as Bruff cleared their lines.

15:28 –Instonians 19 – Bruff 14

Quick thinking from full back Jonathan Milliken saw him take a quick line out to Matthew Keane who sprinted up the touchline and when Bruff were penalised at the breakdown the kick to touch gave Instonians a line out 15 metres from the Bruff line. The ball was moved to Mark Keane in the midfield who had a very strong carry right up to the line and the ever alert Paul Pritchard picked up the recycled ball to go in under the posts. Jonathan Milliken added the extras.

15:29 –Instonians 19 – Bruff 21

They say that you are at your most vulnerable when you have just scored and so it was when from the kick off their was a frantic scramble for possession when the Bruff 13 suddenly just wrestled free the ball and went through several would be tacklers to score under the posts and level up the game. The easy conversion put Bruff back ahead in this now see saw game.

15:32 –Instonians 24 – Bruff 21

The floodlights came on and the sizeable home crowd looked to see if this would spark a response from Instonians. The Bruff 10 was now putting up high balls to test the Instonian defence and to keep his team in the right part of the pitch. From one of these kicks Instonians took the ball into contact and then released it quickly to the backline out right. Bevan Prinsloo stormed down the touchline and had intelligent support runners on his outside and inside in Mark Keane and Rhys O’Donnell. With the covering defence targeting Mark on the outside Bevan passed inside to Rhys who then immediately sidestepped the last defender to dive over in the corner for the bonus point try. Jonathan Milliken missed the touchline conversion but Instonians were back in front.

15:35 –Instonians 31 – Bruff 21

From the kick off a good box kick from Rhys O’Donnell was knocked on by Bruff giving Instonians a scrum on the left hand side of the pitch. A planned back line move off the scrum ended up with right wing Zak Davidson being tackled on the Bruff 22 metre line but quick thinking from Paul Pritchard saw him take the ball on and feed the supporting Rhys O’Donnell on his inside. Rhys passed back inside to Ruari O’Farrell who was just stopped short of the line. The quick recycled ball was moved inside for Bevan Prinsloo to show good strength to force his way over near to the posts for Instonians 5th try. The simple conversion by Jonathan Milliken stretched the lead to 10 points.

From the kick off Rhys Davidson fell awkwardly as he came down from trying to catch the ball but thankfully there was no serious injury.

From the scrum Bruff attacked again and went through several phases but Instonians defence was strong with some very good tackles with Shalk Van Der Merwe and Paul Pritchard to the fore.

15:47 –Instonians 36 – Bruff 21

As the penalty count was now in Instonians favour Matthew Keane’s boot continued to keep Instonians in the right area of the pitch and following sustained pressure a high tackle on Bevan Prinsloo gave Instonians a penalty in front of the posts 10 metres out. They declined the 3 points on offer and took the scrum option. The ball was moved from the base left and back right and when Bruff were penalised again Mark Mairs took a quick tap and the ball was moved wide for Zak Davidson to score in the right hand corner. Jonathan Milliken missed the touchline conversion.

With Instonians now 15 points clear and just over 10 minutes to go you felt that Instonians would add to the lead. Their scrum was now dominant and the line out very effective and we know how fit the side are. To their credit however Bruff did not take a backward step as they looked to get the 4th try and the bonus point their performance deserved.

15:56 –Instonians 36 – Bruff 28

A great 50-22 turned defence into attack and from the line out a controlled and patient driving maul allowed them to release the ball going forward and following a series of strong runners off the 9 they moved it along the backline for the 15 to reach out and score in the far left hand touchline . A great conversion brought Bruff back to 8 points behind with the clock running down.

15:59 –Instonians 36 – Bruff 28

Both sides continued to attack as the clock ran down but when Instonians had again not found touch when kicking to the corner from a penalty in the Bruff 22 within a minute Bruff were counter attacking and a great attacking kick from the 2nd row saw their winger gather the ball and head for the corner but a great cover tackle by Matthew Keane gave Instonians the line out.

That should have been that but Instonians managed to lose their line out and the Bruff 12 looked to have scored but he had bumped into the ref and in the last minute there was a scrum to Bruff under the Instonian posts and a chance for them to get a 2nd bonus point by getting within 7 points. Instonians then decided to attack the Bruff scrum and destroyed it. The scrum penalty was cleared to the 10 metre line by Matthew Keane and following a great driving maul Instonians decided that enough was enough and kicked the ball out.

FULL TIME – Instonians 36 – Bruff 28

Instonians managed to achieve their objective of another win and with a bonus point and remain top of the league with a maximum haul of 30 points. Whereas Tullamore remain the best side they have played this season (and remain only 7 points behind) it is Bruff who have given Instonians their most difficult game. They are very committed , aggressive and disruptive and the return fixture in the new year will not be one for the faint hearted.

As for MOM today it is hard to pick as it was not one of Instonians better performances of the season. The back contender would have been Bevan Prinsloo and the forward Paul Pritchard but in the circumstances for his 12th try in only 6 league games it is the perfect opportunity to give it to Neil Saulters on behalf of the pack.

No game next weekend and then Instonians need to focus again on the next game which is away to Clonmel on Saturday 26 November. Clonmel picked up a big win on the road this weekend so Instonians will need to be improve on this performance against a spirited Bruff side to try to make it 7 from 7 and retain their position at the top of the table. One step at a time.