(Under 9’s & U14’s also win!)
The day started ominously, with heavy grey clouds threatening to dampen the spirits ahead of our first AIL home game in over a year against Sundays Well. In fact, our last AIL home game, held in early 2020 was against the same opposition.
However, as punters enjoyed the first pre-match meal festivities in a long time, and the teams warmed up ahead of kick off, the skies cleared and gave way to a day more akin to a pre-season friendly than a mid-October AIL game, leaving spirits high for a free-flowing game of rugby.
The match started in similar, ominous, fashion. Despite Midleton having a good share of possession, and being comfortable in defence, they were unable to gain a foothold in the game in the early stages. On the other hand Sundays Well, without making any significant in-roads into the game, found themselves leading 6 – 0 as the end of the first half approached.
Sundays Well kicked off, playing into the Midleton Clubhouse. Midleton relieved some early pressure by winning a dominant scrum penalty – a theme that would continue during the game. After a further period of pressure between the 10 and 12th minutes, despite some big tackles from Rob Carey and Rian Hogan, Midleton conceded a penalty which Sundays Well kicked to take a 3 – 0 lead.
Midelton were harshly penalised again in the 15th minute, for a high tackle, when a Sundays Well player appeared to dip into the tackle. However, Midleton repelled the Sundays Well pressure with a great turnover on the deck by Rob Carey, and a subsequent lineout steal by Charlie Murphy a couple of minutes later.
From here Midleton tried to build some phases of play together. Some good carries by the forwards were complimented by some nice running from the outside backs. However, Midleton were the makers of their own downfall with too many simple handling errors and knock-ons allowing Sundays Well to stay in the game.
On 22 minutes, a great lineout steal by Denis Broderick lead to great interplay between the forwards as they broke upfield from the lineout. This was followed up with some good backs play to move the ball wide. Unfortunately the move was ended with another knock on. However, Midleton were dominant again at the scrum, winning a penalty which they kicked into touch at the Sundays Well 5m line. A well worked lineout lead to a series of picks and drives for the try line. However, the move ended when the Midleton pack fell foul of this season’s new rule of having too many ‘latchers’, with the referee awarding a penalty to the Well.
Some great work on the deck by Midleton’s Willie Casey on 29 minutes and Rob Carey again on 35 minutes, earned penalties which allowed Midleton to gain territory in the Well half, only to be outdone by unforced errors. During this time Paul Kingston came on to give some fresh legs to the pack. However, in a rare foray into the Midleton half on 38 minutes, Sundays Well forced a penalty which they converted to take a 6 – 0 lead into the halftime break.
If ever the cliché of ‘A Game of 2 Halves’ applied, today was one of them. Not so much that one team dominated the other, but more so that in the 2nd half Midleton finally managed to make their passes stick, gain momentum and turn pressure into scores.
Midleton always enjoy playing into the clubhouse and when the 2nd half kicked off the forwards continued to dominate at scrumtime in the early stages, earning penalties which allowed them to gain territory deep into the Sundays Well half.
After only 7 minutes of the 2nd half, having been put under the cosh by the Midleton forwards, Sundays Well were punished with a yellow card after giving away a series of penalties. Following a good performance by Conor Smiddy and Rob Hickey, Fionn O’Connell and Luke Obersby were brought on to add some bulk to the pack and Midleton kicked for the corner, turning down a potential 3 points to go for 7. To their credit, Sundays Well defended the lineout and cleared their lines.
Between the 54th and 60th minutes, Midleton began to turn the screw, using the advantage of the extra man, and continued to attack the Well’s try line. However, despite multiple attempts at crossing the line, they were outdone again by unforced errors and knock ons. Somehow Midleton turned into the 60minute water break trailing 6 – 0.
After the break Midleton continued to live in the Sundays Well 22. Midleton were ferocious in refusing to allow the Well out of the 22, typified by a great block down by Midleton’s no. 8 on an attempted box kick which nearly lead to a try. They persisted to hammer the Sundays Well try line but could not find that chink in the defence to get through. If anything, Midleton could be found guilty of trying to force the final scoring try, with a little patience needed in attack to get over the line.
On 65 minutes a great break by the Midleton outside centre, almost lead to a score but the move broke down and Sundays Well cleared their lines again. Midleton rang the changes around this time with Ken O’Connell, and Julian Power coming off the bench after good shifts from Rob England and Rian Hogan, and Ger McIntyre returning to bolster the front row.
Another good phase of play by the Midleton backs lead to a clever kick through from Stuart Lee and following a great chase by Rian Hogan, Charlie Murphy forced the Sundays Well full back over the line for a 5m scrum! The Midleton pack, who had the upper hand in the scrum all day, licked their lips as the try-line beckoned. As an 8 they turned the screw on the Well pack, marching them backwards towards the clubhouse, leaving the referee no option but to award a penalty try!! Midleton 7 – 6 Sundays Well after 69 minutes.
In the following 5 minutes, Midleton upped the ante again with a superb penalty turnover on the deck by Charlie Murphy allowing Midleton to gain a foothold in the Well 22 again. After a series of penalties, Midleton again chose an attacking scrum in search of a score that would put them out of reach. Midleton marched forward again and, following a serious of pick and drives, finally crossed the line when the pack dragged Denis Broderick over the line to score. Stuart converted to make the score 14 – 6 with 5 minutes to go.
For the last 5 minutes the Well tried to attack from deep but Midleton were able to withstand the pressure, with some great tackles made by Jack Colbert, Florence McCarthy and Julian Power. In the 80th minute, stalwart David ‘Dosser’ O’Sullivan epitomised the effort with a huge hit when Sundays Well threatened to break the line. The Well continued to attack and, after a great last ditch tackle from Richie Daly, the game ended Midleton 14 – 6 Sundays Well. The roar from the crowd was of relief and delight to get one over on our local rivals!!
While Midleton will be happy with the win, and with the effort from all involved, there are areas for improvement. Despite having the lions share of possession, and attacking in the opposition’s 22 for long periods, errors and knock-ons could have derailed the win. They will need to work on these and learn to build continuity, momentum and multiple phases into their game. However, they ground out the win today and if they can improve on that performance, they wont fear any team.
A resounding rendition of ‘Red is the Jersey’ was a great way to round off the day after earlier success for our Under 9’s who triumphed in a blitz held by Cobh Pirates and another win over the Well by our Under 14s team!!