Shannon v Belfast Harlequins
Bonus point in the bag!
Our firsts got back into winning ways in Thomond Park with a fantastic team performance against Belfast Harlequins. The match took place on the first day of spring but the winter weather was still hanging around and the teams took to the pitch in freezing conditions. At this stage of the year everyone knows the importance of every point gained so the firsts were well aware of the task in hand. Captain Lee Nicholas found himself under the kick off, and Shannon began the match in possession. A penalty off the scrum in the second minute of the match saw Ronan McKenna kick us to touch, we mauled from the lineout and got the ball out to the backs who were looking for an early cut off their opponents. After 5 minutes we were awarded another penalty well within Shane Airey’s range, he stepped up, put it over and we were ahead 3-0.
Belfast Harlequins found themselves in possession in a line-out after this, which didn’t quite go to hand in the air and the ball spilled down on their scrumhalf. Shannon took advantage of this and forced the turnover. Again, this was spread to the backs who took on short ball and crashed up the field. Minutes after this we were awarded another penalty for Quinn’s hands in the ruck. Shane Airey kicked this down the pitch and gained good touch from it. Simon Malone threw the ball to an airborne Sean McCarthy who set up the maul; Quins couldn’t resist temptation to join this from the side and Shannon were awarded another penalty, leaving the score 6-0 after 11 minutes.
One minute later we were making good ground in a maul, when the ball was spread out to the backs and we gained another penalty for Quins not rolling away. Shane Airey kicked this to touch and we set up a lineout; the ball was spread wide but unfortunately a lapse of concentration saw the ball passed straight into touch. Quins took a quick one here, putting up a high ball and finding Stephen Fitzgerald ready and waiting. There was good link up play between forwards and backs with good support play on display. Shannon were unfortunately caught for crossing after 15 minutes and Quins were back in possession; they elected to kick to touch and got the ball out to their backs off the top of the resulting lineout. Robbie Deegan put in a great hit here, Quins retained the ball but knocked it forward in the next phase. Richard Mullane came off his wing to meet David O’Donovan at the back of the following scrum, he found Sean McCarthy who made a great break and offload to Will Leonard who shipped it to Frank Bradshaw-Ryan and on to Robbie Deegan who chipped through to touch.
One minute later Quins put up a high ball, caught by Richard Mullane who took the ball into contact. The ball came back and again Quins were off their feet at the breakdown. Shane Airey kicked this to touch and less than two minutes later Shannon were awarded another penalty. Having had enough the ref showed a Quins player a yellow card as punishment for repeated infringements. This penalty was on the half way line and Shane Airey to his credit, kicked the ball with fantastic accuracy, slotting it over leaving the score 9-0 after 21 minutes. Two minutes later Shannon were in possession in a scrum, they drove hard and were rewarded with a penalty that Shane was again successful with. The score read 12-0 at 25 minutes. Quins were in possession in the next scrum and there was a penalty against Shannon here for a wheel; Quins didn’t make much of touch and the resulting lineout was deemed crooked. We went for a scrum which Lee picked and went from, he linked up with Dunny and Richie who shipped the ball back inside to Shane Airey who kicked us up the pitch. Quins recovered this and then put the ball in on the full for a Shannon lineout.
Simon Malone, solid in his throwing all day, found Sean McCarthy who got quick ball out to the backs from the top. Will Leonard was strong in contact and carried the ball in, Ronan McKenna was the next to carry, passing to Richie and onto Frank Bradshaw-Ryan who found himself isolated. Quins gained possession and kicked the ball to touch holding possession in the resulting lineout. Sean McCarthy stole this ball and Shannon were back in attack. Lee got a great break here, supported by Tony Cusack who displayed good hands in an offload to send Will Leonard barreling over the try line for the match’s first try on the thirty-one minute mark. Shane Airey converted this leaving the score 19-0. Two minutes later Quins kicked a ball and retained possession, Brian Downey put in a solid hit and James Vaughen got into the position where he is most dangerous and stole this; the ball was passed out to the backs but unfortunately didn’t go to hand. Quins took the lineout here and mauled the ball from deep in their own half, they gained a penalty from Shannon off-side but again didn’t make much of their kick to touch.
Frank stole the resulting lineout and we kicked ahead, Quins recovered the kick but he ball was dropped from this. What followed here was a fantastic work rate from our forwards and backs who were a constant in support of one another and confident in their passing to each other. Will Leonard sailed over the line again for the second time in 5 minutes and Shane Airey did the necessary in converting. The score read 26-0 at 35 minutes. Not much else happened before half time and the ref blew it up on the forty minute mark.
We kicked off the second half and areal tennis followed resulting in Quins getting touch on the Shannon ten meter line. They were in possession and attacking for the next 3 minutes until the ball was knocked on. Shannon had a scrum on our own five meter and we were still in possession in the following ruck. Dunny took a chip here and when the Quins player recovered he was bundled into touch. We won our lineout and were mauling forward when the ref spotted an infringement and we gave away a penalty. They took a quick one and spread it wide but were penalised moments later for holding the ball in the ruck. Shane Airey kicked us to touch on the half way. The ball made its way to Lee at the back of the lineout and Richie did well to recover a wayward pass holding onto possession. Tony Cusack took on a great ball and Quins were again penalized for hands in the ruck. Shane stepped up and kicked us to Quins 22. We took the next lineout and the backs were fed the ball from the maul. Stephen Fitzgerald took a good cut at the Quins defense but found himself isolated and was unfortunate to be penalized for holding the ball in the ruck.
They kicked to their own 22 and our forwards were alert in sacking their lineout. The Quins scrumhalf kicked a Garryowen which was caught by Shane Airey who got off a great kick to touch, to bring us to Quins 5 meter line. We took the lineout quickly and got the ball out to the backs but the ref called back for a Quins knock on in the lineout. We were crashing up the center of the pitch when Quins got a turnover and kicked the ball to half way, this went out on the full. We won out lineout and spent a few minutes hard grafting up the pitch. Richie got his hands on the ball and kicked it, bringing us to the Quins 10 meter. Shannon kept the pressure on Quins here and a good pass saw Ronan McKenna over the line for a try converted by Tadhg Bennett after 56 minutes leaving the score 33-0.
The next few minutes followed the same fashion; we were still dominating in the lineouts and our backs and forwards were linking up really well together. A Quins lineout spread out wide, saw Ollie Lyons produce a great turnover which was followed by a penalty Shannon’s way for Quins in from the side of the resulting ruck. Shane Airey kicked us to touch on the Quins 22. We took a quick lineout and Quins were fortunate to get a turnover. What followed was Quins longest stint in possession. They were moving across the pitch and didn’t gain much momentum going forward, they were attacking from deep and were unfortunate to knock on. Tadhg put up a good kick but Quins had a penalty coming from advantage.
Quins were on the attack after this, but Shannon turned over and were then on the receiving end of a high tackle seeing Shane Airey kick us to touch on the Quins 5. We won the resulting lineout but Quins held us in the maul and began to push us back. We got the ball out to the backs but were unfortunate to knock this on. A Quins kick saw our backs take a cut at attacking from our own half. Quins were awarded a penalty here and took a quick one, they were again attacking from deep and setting up solid rucks. Shannon stole this but were unfortunate to knock it on. Another penalty saw Shannon in possession in a lineout and Tadhg Bennett displayed solid kicking from the middle of the pitch, Quins returned this and Shannon dropped the ball. Quins got quick ball out from the back of the scrum and were attacking but Shannon held tough. We got a penalty and took a quick one, Quins weren’t ten and we were awarded another penalty, we missed touch from this but James Vaughan again got a crucial turnover. Play went on with Shannon in attack and Quins turned the ball over kicking to touch on the Shannon 5 meter. As we entered the final minute of the match with Quins in possession and attacking our line we began to give up all hope of the elusive try bonus point, until Richard Mullane got a hand to the ball and intercepted a Quins pass. Richie ran the hard yards with Ronan McKenna in support, passed a perfectly timed pass and Ronan ran the gauntlet scoring the bonus point forth try under the posts leaving Shane Airey to convert. The match ended with a final score of 40-0.
The match was a testament to our first’s team. They dominated in every aspect of play and never got complacent once throughout the match. They kept the pressure on and the focus remained on the bonus point. We now sit in sixth position on the board with only 2 points separating us and Old Wesley who are in fourth place. This weekend will be an interesting fixture with us travelling to Dublin to take on Old Wesley at a later kick off time of 5.30pm. One things for sure, it will be a fiercely fought match with the victor looking to come away with as many points as possible.
Photo from Dermot Lynch