Cashel 24 Connemara All Blacks 17
With another bonus point win, Cashel maintain their lead at the top of Division 2B as they remain five points clear. This was a very hard fought game as the men from the west came to win a match and almost did! In a day suited for staying indoors both teams took to the pitch with and an ice cold gale blowing straight down the pitch. This was always going to make things tough for both sides when playing against the wind.
Cashel won the toss and elected to play with the wind and try and gain an early advantage. They started very brightly and with-n three minutes had their first opportunity for points via a long range penalty from Pat O’Connor that went narrowly wide. The home side were dominating territory as Connemara struggled to get out off their own half due to the wind.
In the 10th minute the Cashel defence paid its first dividend as a huge tackle by Lloyd Foote on Connemara’s 22 saw the ball squirt loose. Quick as a flash out half Conor Quinlan pounced on the ball and jinked his way past several defenders to score unopposed under the posts. O’Connor converted to put Cashel 7-nil ahead. Within 5 minutes they had their second try again from a turn over ball on Connemara’s 22. Great work at the ruck saw them steal the ball and recycle it quickly to scrum half Ollie McGlinchey who spotted the winger out of position and floated a perfect ball via the boot into space for the onrushing winger Rory O’Connor to catch and touch down. O’Connor again converted to put Cashel 14-nil ahead.
At this stage it was all one way traffic as Cashel tore into Connemara. Several times Cashel were denied further tries by last gasp defending from the men from the west. On the 35 minute mark Cashel got their third try from a 5 meter scrum as number 8 and captain Brendan O’Connor powered over to put the score 21-nil.
Cashel were completely on top at this stage and could and should have been further ahead such was their dominance. If they were expecting to do the same in the second half they were to get a shock. Connemara came out in the second half and ran the ball from everywhere. Cashel’s defence was being stretched as Connemara dominated both possession and territory. Cashel could not seem to hold onto the ball and poor decision making and sloppy play gave the ball back to Connemara. Eventually this dominance was going to tell and on the 60th minute Connemara ran in their first try with a classy backs move that saw their full back cut Cashel’s defence in two. This put the score at 21-7.
From the kick-off Connemara worked their way back into Cashel’s 22. Again Cashel could not get out of their half as they lost possession. On the 70th minute the Cashel defence was again breached as another backs move by Connemara saw them score their second try. With ten minutes to go the score stood 21-14 with the only place Cashel winning was on the score board!
Cashel rallied and in one of their rarer excursion into Connemara’s half on the 75th minute O’Connor slotted a penalty to put them ten points clear at 24-14. This score seemed to calm them down as bar a complete collapse they should be able to see out the final five minutes and secure a very valuable home win.
However the game had one final twist. Connemara scored a long range penalty right on the 80th minute. With only 2 minutes to play Connemara were going to throw the kitchen sink at Cashel and go for the draw. However the Cashel players were able to dig deep and not only deny Connemara an opportunity to level the match but to march up the pitch and snatch a bonus point win.
Cashel in the last two minutes showed their heart and determination as the pack rumbled and fought its way to the line before McGlinchey sniped over for the try. As the referee blew the final whistle the look of relief on the Cashel players faces was evident as they knew their second half performance didn’t justify a bonus point win. From 1-22 they knew on another day this game could have got away from them and only their experience and determination saw them win 31 – 17.
It’s a good complaint to play poorly and still come away with a win but Connemara did expose Cashel at times as they came to play rugby. Cashel need to learn lessons from this game and work on them for the next match in two weeks’ time. Cashel in recent years have always learned and bounced back from underwhelming performances and last week’s game should be no different.
Cashel next face a very stiff challenge to Barnhall who currently lie third in the table and a win for the Kildare side could propel them right back in the mix for the league title.
O’Sullivan drop goal in extra time wins a thriller
Junior Cup – Bruff 6 Cashel 9
By far the game of the weekend - probably for the season too - as Cashel defended their first Junior Cup as champions. This was an absolute cracker as neither side deserved to lose after 100 minutes of rugby. It was a perfect day for rugby with not a puff of a breeze. Both teams looked edgy from the beginning as they probed at each other. Within 15 minutes they traded penalties to make it 3 all. It was obvious from this stage that there wasn’t a hair between either side as they looked perfectly matched.
While Bruff held the upper hand in terms of possession, Cashel’s defence stood strong. For the last ten minutes of the first half Bruff hammered at Cashel and only superb defence work kept them out. In the second half Bruff upped the tempo and should have had the opening try on the 50th minute. Bruff had a 4 on 2 over lap and only excellent covering by the Cashel backs and poor passing kept the Bruff men out. They again trade penalties to make it 6 all.
Cashel were relying on their defence as a means of attack and several times with turn over ball they broke down the pitch. The backs looked lively and when the back three of Pat, Mikey and Rory O’Connor had the ball they looked dangerous. Right on the stroke of full time Cashel broke from inside their own half. Excellent hands by Phily Ryan and Rory O’Connor saw winger Mikey O’Connor sprint for the line. Mikey believed he touched down for the winning try but the referee deemed a pass forward as he blew for full time and moved the game into extra time.
Cashel for the twenty minutes of extra time were the dominant side. It was Bruff’s defence that now had to take a battering as they held Cashel out. Several times Cashel brought the ball deep into Bruff’s 22 as they sought the winning try. As the clocked ticked towards the 100 minute mark the crowd were getting ready to discuss the replay as Cashel rallied for one last attack.
Again the attack was led by the forwards as they drove deep into Bruff’s 22. Out half Ger O’Sullivan saw the opportunity for the drop goal and screamed for the ball. Michal Hickey flashed the ball to him who struck the ball perfectly to split the posts and score the winning points. Cashel now face Crosshaven in the junior cup next Sunday in Cashel at 2.30p.m.