Match Report v Belfast Harlequins
We're on a roll!
This weekend took our firsts on the long trip to Belfast to take on Belfast Harlequins. It hasn’t been a great campaign for them so far as they were still chasing their first win. Shannon on the other hand, were high off the back of the last two wins and were travelling with only one option in mind. The weather was middling, with heavy rain fall the night before and gusty conditions. Thankfully the rain held off for the match. With Lee Nicholas still missing through injury, captaining the side again fell to Tadhg Bennett.
Belfast Harlequins were quick off the mark from kick off and their full-back took a well-placed kick into the cover of his forwards and with simple hands they scored in the corner within the first minute. This went unconverted but left the score 5-0 . Belfast Harlequins responded to Shannon’s kick off with a kick to touch and Shannon took the resulting lineout. There was a strong maul from this with Brian Downey breaking and making yards driven on by John Foley. James Vaughan again showed his versatility by going down on a loose ball that went back and securing it for David O’Donovan to spread out to the backs. We gained good ground from this and after a pick and go from the back of a ruck found us on Belfast Harlequins 5 meter line, it was a matter of passing the ball through the hands that saw Stephen Fitzgerald go over for a try converted by Tadhg Bennett with only 4 minutes gone on the clock.
One minute later saw more Shannon pressure on Belfast Harlequins, a great Ronan McKenna kick saw Stephen Fitzgerald unfortunate not to go over and resulted in a Belfast Harlequins 22 drop-out. This was gathered by Shannon and Tadhg Bennett’s kicking efforts again went dead and resulted in another 22 drop-out for Belfast Harlequins. Shannon continued to dominate for the next few minutes and were playing all of the rugby, a quick four-man lineout on the half way line saw a lovely chip through that Belfast Harlequins carried over the line and Shannon were awarded with a scrum-five. This was re-set and after Shannon gave away a penalty the Quin’s out-half took a great kick which brought them all the way to Shannon’s ten meter. Quin’s lost this line-out and for the next few minutes the play stayed the same, Shannon remained strong and kept the pressure on. After 20 minutes Shannon were rewarded with a penalty for holding on and staying true to form Tadhg Bennett slotted this over leaving the score 10-5. Again Shannon continued to dominate with great breaks from John Foley and Stephen Fitzgerald proving strong under the high ball. Another 22 drop out from Belfast Harlequins found Richard Mullane in possession, this was spread through the backs. Unfortunately this was turned over and a Quins kick found Stephen Fitzgerald’s hands, this was passed back in and a David O’Donovan break and great offload saw Richard Mullane go over for a converted try leaving the score 17-5 after 31 minutes.
After this both teams missed a penalty each and an unfortunate forward pass in a switch saw Quins in possession in the resulting scrum. They spread this wide and were unfortunate to lose possession when Richard Mullane pulled off a good turnover and broke down the line. We got a penalty after this and kicked to touch. The resulting lineout set up a strong maul which saw Conor Glynn break off the back and make good ground. A solid offload to David O’Donovan at the 39th minute saw him go over for an unconverted try. The score was 22-06 at half time.
The second half started like the first only this time it was Shannon’s turn to score within the first few minutes. A forward Quins pass saw a Shannon scrum, John Foley picked and went, offloaded to David O’Donovan who spread it wide. The backs crashed up and made the hard yards eventually finding David O’Donovan again who passed it to Tony Cusack who then offloaded to Stephen Fitzgerald sending him over for his second try and Shannon’s bonus point was secure. The conversion was missed but the score read 27-5 inside the 42nd minute. The Shannon scrum was solid and we won a penalty as we drove Quins off the ball and continued to drive. The resulting kick to touch and line-out saw a dynamic Shane Mullally break which nearly saw Stephen Fitzgerald over again except unfortunately the ball was dropped. A Quins kick that went out on the full saw a Shannon lineout, Kelvin Brown made a nice break off this and Shannon were awarded a penalty for Quins not rolling away.
After this Belfast Harlequins seemed to come into their own and for a spell spent time crashing the ball down the pitch. They were attacking from deep and were utilising their strong runners well. A player sent to the bin for Shannon offside saw them continue their pressure. Some areal football followed this resulting in a Shannon penalty from a high tackle which also saw a Quins player binned. Shannon then won the lineout and again applied the pressure to Belfast Harlequins. The next ten minutes stayed much the same with Shannon dominating in the lineouts and scrums and utilizing these to their advantage at every opportunity. The backs were patient in both attack and defence and each man made his hit as was needed. In the last few minutes of the match Shannon attacked strongly and put the ball straight through the hands to see David O’Donovan over for his second try of the match and Shannon’s fifth try. Not to be out done, one minute later, Belfast Harlequin’s second row gathered the ball and ran the bones of the length of the pitch to touch down for their try right on the 40th minute of play. Leaving the final score 32-5.
Belfast Harlequins have to be commended for their never say die attitude, they battled on until the last minute of this match and never laid down. As for Shannon, it’s great to see the lads with three wins under their belt. They have gelled as a team and now display the makings of a team that are going places. They kept the pressure on for the full eighty minutes and played intelligent rugby. It is great to see the younger players stepping up and finding their place in the squad. As a result of this match we currently find ourselves in sixth position of the League Table. Our firsts will now take a well-deserved break for two weeks from the League when we welcome Dolphin to Limerick on the 28th.