3rds complete historic League and Cup Double
Metro League Division 2 Final – Old Wesley (3rds) 17 Blackrock (2nds) 13
Fresh off their victory against Terenure in the Albert O’Connell Cup Final the previous week, the Old Wesley 3XV faced an old foe in Blackrock in the Metro Division 2 Final. Wesley had successfully navigated the league campaign to top the group providing them with a home Final; however, a bitter taste remained, with Blackrock beating Wesley in both meetings during the League.
There was a departure from the usual pregame atmosphere in the dressing room before the game with the introduction of speakers by second-row Scott McDonnell. This provided a welcome distraction for the players and added an unusual layer of calmness and eased the tension amongst the group. Once the warm up began, focus was quickly turned to the task ahead – with the prizes on offer being revenge and completing the much coveted double.
Blackrock opted to play with the strong breeze and the game began at a blistering pace, with Wesley’s hard and powerful running causing Blackrock issues from the start. Early on, Wesley came close to scoring on a number of occasions but despite this barrage of incessant pressure an opening score eluded them. Some sloppy play from a kick resulted in a couple of successive soft penalties – allowing Blackrock to gain field position in the Wesley half. Wesley were then deemed to be offside at a ruck near its own 22 and the Blackrock outhalf comfortably slotted the easy kick – putting the visitors up 3-0.
Undeterred by going behind, Wesley attacked the kickoff – with blindside Jack Byrne imperiously fielding the ball from the restart. Wesley launched from this platform with strong carrying around the fringes – a hallmark of this team – from Gav Telford, Ivan Campbell and Thomas Emo putting Wesley on the cusp of scoring. This was the opportune moment to spring the 3rd XV ruck play that forwards coach Warbie had instructed Wesley not to use in the previous encounter. The move resulted in loosehead Sam Moore being sprung through a gap by Thomas Emo and the prop managed to get over the line with assistance from his front row colleague Jeff Dand to get Wesley off the mark. Fullback Tim Hawe missed the resulting conversion.
Wesley continued to dominate territory and possession but failed to build on their opening score; squandering numerous other chances close to the line with a litany of errors. Blackrock also were twice held Wesley up over the line. Wesley would rue these costly missed chances, with the Blackrock outhalf taking advantage of an offside penalty just inside Wesley’s 10m line with a long range penalty. From the restart, Wesley continued to build consistent pressure – pinning Blackrock deep in their half. However, Wesley repeatedly failed to deliver a meaningful blow and, as the half came to a close, a Wesley knock on near midfield gave Blackrock the chance to attack. Their first centre got his hands free in a tackle to offload to his centre partner who broke through the Wesley line. An excellent covering tackle by fullback Tim Hawe stopped his progress, but Blackrock built on their first foray into the Wesley half and were inches from the line. With Wesley scrambling on D, up stepped Captain Paddy Davis who delivered a critical turnover penalty just under the Wesley posts. The ref blew for halftime shortly after with the score at 6-5 to Blackrock.
While the half time score did not accurately reflect Wesley’s first half dominance, the coaching and management ticket of Hastings, Warburton, McConnell and Kinlan were displeased with Wesley’s ill discipline and inability to capitalize on their chances.
The stirring half time words seemed to have little effect, with Blackrock starting the sprightlier of the two despite playing into a strong wind. A combination of their tight game and continued Old Wesley ill discipline had the home side pinned back into their own 22. Wesley remained resolute in defense and a critical turnover from number 8 Ivan Campbell shifted momentum back in the favour of the Wyverns. Wesley sniffed an opportunity to capitalize as Blackrock’s heads dropped. Quick hands down the right wing set centre Paddy Davis away and at the ensuing ruck the Blackrock second row was adjudged to have cynically played Wesley scrumhalf Phil O’Leary and he was given ten minutes to think it over. Wesley went to the corner with second-row Eric Parfrey calling his own number and setting up a maul – opting to take on the outnumbered Blackrock pack. As Blackrock funneled players to stop the advancing maul outhalf Jamie Boyd, spotting the thin numbers, squeezed between two defenders to put Wesley ahead. The extras were comfortably slotted over by Tim Hawe.
Wesley could feel one hand on the trophy and they knew that another try would seal the win; however, they failed to capitalize on the momentum and Blackrock started to dominate possession. Resolute defending from the team, particularly from Tom Emo, Dan Hall and David Priestman, repelled Blackrock’s efforts. Despite this, Blackrock continued to press looking for their break through and then up stepped Jamie Boyd who came up with the play of the game, which went a long way in deciding the outcome of the match. Boydy made an expert defensive read to annihilate their outhalf in a ball and all tackle forcing a knock-on. Wesley looked to counter straight away turning defense into attack. The ball made its way to the recently introduced winger Luke Correll, who gathered his own chip and chase to pin Blackrock back into their own 22. Blackrock gave away another cynical penalty and Wesley went to the scrum. From the scrum they worked the ball down the short side where full back Tim Hawe crossed for the crucial score. He missed the conversion to leave the score at 17-6 with only a few minutes remaining. Blackrock scored a late consolation with the last play of the game, and the final score of 17-13 doesn’t accurately reflect Wesley’s territorial dominance and defensive ferocity and intensity; the latter of which has been the backbone of this team over the last year.
The men from Donnybrook, who began the year as a collection of underachievers, castoffs, cripples, ageing journeymen and reluctant rugby players, banded together and, under the tutelage and guidance of Hastings, Warburton, McConnell and Kinlan, grew into a team that achieved something that nobody thought was possible. The 3XV overcame adversity, never wavered in its convictions, commitment to each other, fought for each other week in and week out and continually punched above its weight until only they remained alone at the top of the mountain as Double winners.