They said they were in trouble, but Clonmel answered their doubters and critics last Friday evening in an epic contest against Clanwilliam in the Munster Junior League.
Clanwilliam, at the bottom of the table, wanted to get one win under their belt before the Christmas break. On the other hand, embarrassed by recent defeats, Clonmel wanted to exorcise their demons and finish on a pre-Christmas high.
Both sides battled like two cats trapped in a corner for all of the low scoring first half, a contest that Clonmel marginally won, leading at halftime 6-3.
It did not look like either side was going to give up, and a low scoring game was on the cards. It was very much a case of “next try wins”. But the introduction of Ben Martin on the Clonmel side five minutes into the second half changed the fortunes for both sides.
It wasn’t just Martin’s skills as a ball player that made the difference, but it was his presence, his reading of the game, and most of all his commanding voice marshalling both backs and forwards into optimal positions of attack and defence.
Within six minutes of Martin’s introduction the Clonmel forwards put in a major surge. The ball was quickly released to the backline who, with swift passes, broke up the Clanwilliam defence. The last man in the sequences of passes was lock forward Tony Cantwell who showed a great burst of speed to shrug off the final tackles and score a wonderful try on the left wing. Danny Lyons converted to bring the score to Clonmel 13, Clanwilliam 3.
It was all Clonmel from this point on and only for Clanwilliam’s tremendous, solid defence, Clonmel would surely have gone over for four tries to secure a valuable winning bonus point.
But alas Clonmel had to settle for just one more try, a block down by Robbie Carroll who was then quickest on the follow up to score the try. Danny Lyons converted again. Clanwilliam did rustle up a flurry of activity in the dying minutes of the game and scored a try through their No.8, Tom Quinlan which was converted by Richard Childs. The final score was a win for Clonmel 20-10; and also relief to Clonmel.
Next on the list for the Clonmel 1st XV is a game against Richmond on January 6 in the Munster Junior League. Venue is Limerick – what a game to look forward to after the Christmas break.
On the weekend of December 30 the Clonmel 2nd XV play Kilfeacle at home in the Gleeson League. Time to be confirmed.