Or is it Tullamore Come Close Against Senior XV?
Tom Mul’s men seem to be on top in 75 minutes of every game they play and end up losing in 5 minutes of madness. The second draw of the season so far was different than the 29 all affair against Omagh in Thomas Melon Park back in September in that it was Midleton who let go of a commanding lead. Having been 14-3 up five minutes into the second half to be 17-20 down with three minutes to go, it was not quite a roller coaster affair as a tiresome slugging match peppered with occasional absence of concentration.
Tullamore gathered the kickoff and set to start working their way into Midleton’s half, coming up against some stiff defense from a powerful home side pack. The Tullamore strategy was to hit up one out from the ruck, with some big strong ball carriers, however, this as not to be enough to break the lines as Tom Keavney won an early turnover on the Midleton 10 meter line. Lee put the home side deep into enemy territory, armed with a lineout. Accurate dart to the middle gave the outside backs the space they needed and a powerful run from Ross O’Mahoney, who
managed to get on the outside shoulder and put in a hand off, followed by a tidy off load to centre partner Dan Murray ensured Midleton had plenty of momentum, barreling headfirst for the line. A quick ruck 10 metres out enabled Rob Smyth to feed the on rushing forwards, just after catching up from the lineout, to go over for a try, scored by Jon “Peachy” Gardiner. Lee added the extra 2 points, 7 – 0 home side.
From the kick off Tullamore started battering the Midleton defensive line around the A B channel, some strong carries from a big forward pack were not to prove enough and they turned over the ball. However, showing the scrappy stop start nature of the game, Midelton knocked on the ball twice in a row. With scrums that seemed evenly matched for the game, each winning two penalties a piece. The hard carrying from the TUllamore pack put them into a kickable position, and with a penalty for offside the travelling side took their opportunity to get points on the board, 7 -3.
One thing that seemed to set the sides apart at times was Midleton’s inability to keep a hold of the ball, however, any time that they did they looked menacingly capable of causing real damage. Tullamore on the other hand, were able to hold on to the ball for phase after phase without making much ground, a patience strategy which would pay in the end.
The second half opened with a Midleton try after 5 minutes. Hard work from Dan Murray to get from his own 22 to the Tullamore 5 metre line and to then block down the attempted box kick and land exhausted on the ball over the line. It made for an easy kick, and Stuart Lee stepped up again to add the extras, 14-3.
Tullamore must have received information from the management at half time to stop running at the strong A B channel and move the point of contact wider, towards the ten channel. This led for softer tackles in places and gave the travellers the chance to make inroads into the Midleton half. Quickly changing the attack plan, Tullamore found a gap close to the ruck and went through to score under the posts, 14-10.
If Rob Smyth and his men had learned anything from previous matches this season it is that patience is very much a virtue. However, Tullamore found another way back into the game with a penalty between the Midleton 10 metre and 22 metre line, 14-13. One point gaps are not uncommon to Midleton so it was far from time to panic. Stuart Lee began to take more control of the game, and the pack managed to retain the ball better, creating space for the backs to unleash, and that they did. A last minute tackle on full Back Martijn Korterik saved a certain try. This was followed by good interlinking play, from receiving a kick, gave Lee the chance to throw a perfectly weighted pass out to winger Rian Hogan who bobbed and weaved his way towards the line. This resulted in a penalty, 30 metres out, on the 15 metre line. Lee again stepped up to cooly add 3 points, 17-13.
With 115 to go and all to play for, Tullamore set about harrasing the Midleton defensive line time and time again. Making their way onto the Midleton 5 metre line 3 times, and each time being rebutted by a strong and well drilled home side. However, repeated infringements saw centre Ross O’Mahoney make his way to the side line for a 10 minute rest.
Tullamore stuck to their guns and their game plan proved effective, however, it was a lapse of concentration that led to them breaking the lines again. Following a disallowed try due to a neck roll spotted by the touch judge, Midleton cleared to just outside their own 22. A slip of the mind at the tail of the lineout let the ball drop onto the foot of the Tullamore defense who kicked through and managed to dive on the ball over the line, adding the extras made the game 17-20 in favour of the visitors.
Learning from lessons past, Midleton knew what they had to do to eek out the points. Tullamore gathered the kick off near their own 10 metre line and tried to hold on for dear life, picking and going and securing over and over again. However, the Midleton defense proved too strong and pushed them back towards their own 22 before substitute prop, Darragh “Yogi” O’Keeffe, got his hands on the ball and forced the penalty. The choice was go for the corner and aim for the try and the win, or take the kick at the posts and the draw. Skipper, Rob Smyth, pulled his years of experience to calm things down. knowing their is still a long season ahead and to take points when available, and chose to take the kick. Stuart Lee stepped up to make it 20-20, and a 10 point tally for himself on the day.
The next home game is on Saturday the 9th of December against Bruff and is the last home game of 2017 for the Senior XV. We hope to see you all there.
All photo credit to Kieran “Pops” Kelleher, many thanks for the amazing images.