Midleton Senior XV took on Malahide on November 11th in Towns Park in their final game in this run of three, having lost previously to Thomond and Sligo in the last moments of the game. This was a must win for Tom Mulcahy’s men, who were sitting in 9th place in the table going into the match. If the two previous losses, to second and first placed respectively, were anything to go by, this Midleton team has a lot of potential and fire power.
Malahide are new-comers to division 2C, having come up from the Junior ranks the year previously, despite this they have been playing well, going into the match with three wins and three losses, picking up a number of try bonus points on the way. This may have been the cause of the slow start from Midleton, were they wary of the firepower Malahide clearly possessed? That said, the first points of the game came from the ever improving Stuart Lee, who added 16 points in total for the day.
However, Malahide found themselves comfortably on top after 25 minutes, leading 3-17. Their two tries coming from a strong running combination involving backs and forwards. A Malahide scrum on Midleton’s 5 meter line put them in the driving seat and following a few pick and gos they went over the whitewash to add their first five pointer of the day. With conditions good, but still wet and heavy underfoot from the previous days rain, there was a strong kicking element to the game form both sides, where on a number of occasions a series of kick tennis ensued. One wayward kick from the home sides 22 found its way into the hands of the Malahide full back, John O’Brien took advantage of the slow kick chase to sythe his way through the defense from 40 metres out. He offloaded to his support runner who made a long floating pass into the hands of the waiting winger who went over for a second five pointer of the day. All of this was in the first 25 minutes, with the home side failing to make a foot hold in the oppositions 22.
It was at this point that Tom Mul saw he had to make a few changes, and brought on a few of the more experienced players to offer a lift to the team. The results were instantaneous as Stuart Lee found time to take another penalty kick. The Midleton pack seemed rejuvenated having discovered a new burst of energy and started to assert their dominance at set piece time. Malahide ceased to challenge in the air, in order to attempt to stem the surge of the maul, Midleton began finding holes and weaknesses. Good carries again drawing in the defence ensured that the outside backs would have some room to maneuver, and that is just what they did. Kieran Moynihan received a wide pass from Lee on the opposition ten meter line and pinned the ears back, dodging and weaving his way over the line, a number of defenders left red faced in his wake. Lee failed to make the conversion, going into the half time break with the scores at 8-17, Malahide were not to score for the remainder of the game.
The second half started at lightning pace, with Malahide failing to deal with the kick off, Midleton found themselves on the front foot. Following some good running from Kevin Brierly and Aidan Ware, Stuart Lee was confronted with a hard up defence, a deft kick over the top left the Malahide back three scrambling, but too late as Lee got to the ball first and dotted down, before converting his own try, 15-17.
Tom Mul used his bench wisely throughout the game, resting players at vital times to bring them back with minutes to go. This ensured that Midleton were able to close out a game, something they had failed to do in the previous two outings. The game seemed to be won by Malahide having been 3-17 up but as Midleton have proved already this season, they are willing to fight until the end. Having pulled back to 15-17 with 10 minutes to go cool heads prevailed. Patience was the theme of the day as Rob Smyth marshalled his troops for another excursion into the Malahide half, were they conceded a penalty for going off their feet on their own 10 metre line. Some on the sideline were calling for a kick to the corner, which based on the set piece dominance would have been a logical choice, however, Smyth made the call to go for the posts, which Lee easily kicked to put the home side one point up.
Patience again prevailed as Michael “Yorkie” Cronin led fro the front to put the home side again into kicking range of the posts. Another penalty, this one for offside. The final five minutes held echoes of the previous week were Lee missed a kick at goal at the death to win the game. Having found his confidence again, Lee stepped up to split the posts, 21-17 to Midleton, three minutes to go.
It was now that the previous two games showed their worth to Midleton, having lost at the death twice in a row, they were not going to let it happen again. The experience earned on those occasions ensured yet again that patience was the theme of the day, the referee informed Smyth that it was all over, and Stuart Lee blasted the ball too touch. 21 – 17 to Midleton.