Winters Cup – Wesley bounce back against Stillorgan

Wesley bounce back against Stillorgan

Winters Cup – Old Wesley 19 Stillorgan 15, by Chris Coghlan

(Friday 19th Feb) Friday night lights in the Dragon’s Lair was the venue for the 4s 2nd round Winters Cup tie against Stillorgan RFC.  A blustery night in Donnybrook didn’t dampen the spirits one bit as the opportunity to impress on the main pitch and put an end to the curse of Friday night rugby proved too lucrative. A packed out crowd quickly dispersed from Fortress Donnybrook when rumours surfaced that MTL would not be gracing us with chiseled muscles and perfect hair.  We all knew the threat that Stillorgan RFC posed having been beaten by them at this level in previous years. A couple of unavoidable late changes further disrupted the side but the man mountain himself Dave Taylor was unwavering in the delivery of his pre-match speech. “TEAR THEM ASUNDER” and send them packing to that Leisureplex from whence they came.

Wesley won the coin toss and Dave Taylor tactically decided to play into what can only be described as a gale force wind. This has been a common strategy for the Wesley 4s in past years as we know most teams won’t be able to handle our expansive rugby in the later stages of the game……..also we tend to get bloody knackered!!!

From the kick-off Wesley were under constant pressure soaking up tackle after tackle. Any territory we did make was quickly undone with a well placed kick from the Stillorgan 10. Opportunities to put pressure on the opposing team seemed few and far between as Wesley were ultimately let down by their indiscipline at the breakdown. That coupled with some passive tackling saw the visitors win a lineout deep in the Wesley 22. Miscommunication then led to an uncontested maul off the attacking lineout and Stillorgan gratefully powered over the Wesley line only to be held up short. The resulting scrum saw Wesley under pressure again and the Stillorgan No 8 saw his chance and squeaked through a hole after picking from the base. 5-0 Stillorgan. The try would have surely come sooner if it wasn’t for Joe Wheatley and Dave Taylor putting their bodies on the line as they have done so many times before.

It wasn’t long before Stillorgan were knocking on the Wesley door again with strong carries from their decisively bigger front row. The cumulative pressure eventually leading to a Stillorgan scrum in front of the posts and a penalty ultimately awarded. 8-0 Stillorgan.  A slightly rattled Wesley team then sought to get a foothold on the game and succeeded through a simplified game plan and strong ball carrying from the likes of Al O’Connor.  Wesley soon realised that if they could keep the ball for more than three phases they would be able to breach the Stillorgan defence with relative ease. With that we grew in confidence and broke down the defence by attacking in wider channels. After strong subsequent carries from the likes of Tommy Noonan and Declan Coughlan, Mike “The Spike” Glynn cut a line cleaner than Dave Priestman’s shaved chest and was able to create just enough space to put Chris Coghlan through, 8-5 Stillorgan.

Unfortunately for Wesley our purple patch was short lived.  Stillorgan won the arm wrestle for the remaining 10 minutes before half time. Dec Coughlan was our first casualty from the ensuing physicality after putting in another good shift in defence after last week’s man of the match performance. It was at this point that a shiver ran down the spine of his fellow centre partner Chris Coghlan as he realised he may actually have to make a tackle in this match. Organisation coupled with an incisive kicking game and a strong wind at their back saw Stillorgan once again win a scrum on Wesley’s 5 metre line. Their No 8 sought to replicate his try from the first quarter and squeaked through again from the back of a dominant Stillorgan scrum. 15 -5 Stillorgan.

The message was clear at half time. Line speed and aggression in defence would have to be better and discipline would need to improve.  Wesley started stringing a few phases together with Glynn snapping up every gap on offer. Slick hands from David Flower and Andrew Hancock saw Wesley stopped just short of the Stillorgan Line. Andrew Boyle then powered over the whitewash, 15 – 10 Stillorgan. With the momentum shifting Wesley grew in confidence and managed to secure a penalty from 40 metres out.  Hancock slotted it over.

Further pressure saw Wesley rewarded with two more penalties in the next 20 minutes which Hancock gladly slotted over for a 19 – 15 win.  With a bit of breathing room between us Wesley fell into old habits and we found ourselves pinned in our own half for the final 10 minutes of the game. The Wesley pack fought hard to keep them out and thanks to Trojan efforts from the likes of Noonan and his fellow pack the game was finally won.