October 26 2012
Our club adventure in the Amlin Challenge Cup continued at the Mad Stad on Saturday as we entertained our French visitors from Mont de Marsan. (Your match correspondent completed the report earlier in the week only for the computer to suffer major failure before it was delivered to the editors: hence this delayed and abbreviated version).
Rugby friends unkindly refer to this 2nd tier European competition as the “Ambling” cup but there was nothing remotely ambling about the Irish performance. The visitors came out wearing a strip which resembled Dayglo’s crowd from Adams Park (ie bright yellow and black)
On a fine and dry afternoon ate arrivals would have missed the first score within 32 seconds of kick off, the ball passing through 3 Irish hands before Jamie Gibson touched down. Within 4 mins the 2nd try had been scored by Bryn Evans taking the score to 12-0. Counter attacking from MdM then led to a penalty from 30m out which was duly scored after LI had come in from the side bringing the score to 12-3. A period of scrappy play followed, yet when awarded a penalty near half way LI wasted the chance with the ball kicked dead rather than finding touch. Shortly the Irish scrum was penalised despite looking to be on top and another long .range penalty kept the French in contention at 12-6 after 15min. Indeed for the next 5 minutes MdM were far more dominant and came close to scoring themselves.
Great handling skills in front of the East stand saw the Irish break out from defence with Ian H eventually going over for try number 3. The conversion attempt narrowly missed so the score stood at 17-6 with the crowd keenly anticipating the 4th (and bonus point) try. MdM scored next with yet another long range penalty after (yet another?!) “in at the side” offence by our boys. This setback was only temporary as further pressure resulted in LI attacking after a penalty and from a close range and well controlled maul scoring the 4th try. Caimh’s announcement that Halani was the “Try Scoring Machine that is Aulika” caused much amusement, and an excellent touchline conversion took LI further ahead to 24-9. The scrum seemed (through our green eyes) to be the dominant force but “Sir” had other ideas and MM landed their 4th penalty just before half time.
A most promising first half and our friends in the south stand must have been keenly awaiting the start of the second half for LI to be attacking the tryline in front of them. Yet again Caimh failed miserably to identify our row as winners of the seat competition (it’s Y21 and Row CC next time please) Southstanders did not have to wait long for the next try and what a score it was too. Brilliant handling in attack with some superb off-loading sent JJ away and he scampered in to score try 5, holding off a defender on the way. Successfully converted the score was now up to 31-12 after 45min. To their credit MdM did not lie down and indeed registered the next points from a maul of their own taking the score to 31-19. A 6th try from Tagi heralded the wholesale replacement of the home team front row, leaving the field to loud acclaim. Anthony Watson was next on the score sheet with the 7th try after a good break down the right side of the field. Not wishing to be outdone Chris H kept the points ticking over with try number 8. Patient play and attacking through the phases saw Ojo touch down too. More replacements took place with Irish well in charge (here my notes became indecipherable…..!) 67 min saw the MdM No 9 yellow carded with the score standing at 55-19. A breakaway from MM then resulted in a French score which was duly converted to make it 55-24, but Irish took full advantage of the 14 man opposition, and after a series of drives Topsy was put away on the left to score again. (62-24)
Caimh then informed us all that this was a record breaking score – all time highest for the club, and passing the previous record set jointly by Conor O’Shea and Justin Bishop. A lengthy and well-deserved standing ovation followed
The last few minutes saw a further yellow card for MdM and another try for young Anthony Watson. In the East stand we were treated to a rare “white wine shower” as the excitement proved too much for one female supporter – what a waste of good wine!
After the final whistle time to reflect on a job well done, a pleasing display from Irish and a commendable effort from our visitors who never gave up during the 80 minutes. Guy Armitage was named man of the match but the whole team deserved credit for this performance. The 9/10 axis looks really classy now and it is a good preparation for the tougher challenges which lie ahead in the AP. Ten out of ten points from 2 games is an excellent start to the European campaign, and we are ahead of our westcountry “friends”!!