Midleton 11 Suttonians 9
After a wet morning, the weather cleared to a sunny afternoon at Townspark as Midleton welcome Suttonians for the third round of the Ulster Bank All Ireland League. You wouldn’t have thought that as Suttonians got the game underway events would unfold to make this a most memorable encounter. From early on it looked like Midleton would be heading to a comfortable win, but that was to be far from the case.
As the game starts Midleton quickly gather the opening kick and return the ball back to the Suttonians half. Midleton are then penalised for going in off their feet. Play now in the Midleton half as Suttonians attempt to drive forward with a kick over the top that goes over the dead ball line. About 5 minutes played at this point and it’s a scrum to Midleton. Midleton clear and play is back to about halfway, Suttonians mount an attack and some good forward play sees Midleton on the defence, Suttonians force the penalty and with just under 10 minutes played the first scoring opportunity falls to the Suttonians fly half; Adam Martin. He takes the kick from out to the left and easily puts it over – Midleton 0 Suttonians 3.
Midleton mount an attack on the restart and are rewarded with a penalty just inside halfway and over to the right. Midleton fly half Christian Walker attempts a long-range kick but puts it wide. The score stays Midleton 0 Suttonians 3.
With about less than 15 minutes played, Midleton full back Diarmuid O’Sullivan puts in a great tackle and wins the ball, quickly recycled by Midleton the ball is moved across the pitch and winger Diarmuid Rohan is in for a try at the corner. With the conversion missed the score is now Midleton 5 Suttonians 3.
The game restarts and O’Sullivan gathers, kicks and brings play back to half way. Midleton are up quickly and putting the pressure on forcing a penalty. This time Walker splits the posts to bring the score to Midleton 8 Suttonians 3. Midleton are now looking dangerous and eager to push on. At this point it is looking like Midleton are going to have a confortable game and an opportunity to put up some good scores.
The game restarts and Suttonians mount an attack, Midleton defend well but knock on, the ref plays advantage and Suttonians gather and kick to the corner. Midleton win the line out and clear bringing play back to the 10m line. Another lineout – Suttonians win and attack again, Midleton defend but are penalised for not releasing. A chance now for Suttonians to close the gap from in front of the posts and Martin delivers. Midleton 8 Suttonians 6.
Midleton restart and immediately go on the attack. Great play sees a line out to Midleton on the Suttonians 10m line. Midleton win and a great driving maul pushes Suttonians to their line. Midleton then win a penalty and it looks like try number two is in the making, however the touch judge has spotted something and, on conferring with the Referee, the penalty is reversed and Midleton Prop Brierly is harshly punished with a red card for an alleged stamping incident. Midleton are now down to 14 men with just over 20 minutes played.
Suttonians clear but then it’s a scrum to Midleton for a knock on at the lineout from the penalty. Suttonians win a penalty off the scrum and take play into the Mildeton half. Suttonians maul from the lineout hoping to take advantage of the numbers difference but a knock on sees a Midleton scrum with about 30 minutes played. Midleton then win a penalty and that brings play back to around the half way mark.
The Midleton team appear galvanised by the loss of Brierly and are putting Suttonians under pressure at every opportunity. Midleton attack again, a long kick down to the Suttonians 22 and the fullback Conor Lennon, calls the mark. Midleton push on again attacking and get a good driving maul going from which a drop goal attempt is missed. Again Midleton attack, even though its 14 versus 15 there is a pure determination in the Midleton team that keeps pushing them forward. Midleton are constantly attacking, winning a great turnover and then forcing a knock on. With seconds left in the half Midleton then win a free, Midleton tap and go and race for the line, it looks like we are in for the second try but the Ref brings play back for a Midleton knock on. Scrum Suttonians on the 5m line. Midleton pressure again, Suttonians clear and that’s half time.
The second half gets underway with Christian kicking short and Suttonians awarded the scrum. Suttonians attack now and play is soon at the Midleton 5m line. Suttonians, seeking to capitalise on the 1 man advantage, are frustrated by the vigour and strength of the Midleton defence. Midleton give a penalty though and Suttonians decide to take the points. Midleton 8 Suttonians 9.
Christian restarts for Midleton and the ball is out for a lineout to Suttonians. Midleton are relentless now and attack again winning a scrum in the Suttonians half. It has to be said; Suttonian forays to the Midleton half are few and far between at this point despite the numerical advantage. Midleton’s attacking strategy pays off with another penalty and a chance at points – Christian kicks and Midleton are back in front Midleton 11 Suttonians 9.
Suttonians restart, Midleton gather and go hunting again, kicks are traded for what is eventually a lineout to Midleton just inside their own half. The next 15 minutes are spent battling for ground, tired bodies at this stage on both sides and the injury count starts to rise, yet Midleton are relentless in defending the slimmest of leads.
Its around 25 minutes in now to the second half, Suttonians again mount an attack but are again frustrated by the Midleton defence giving a penalty away and an opportunity for Midleton to go on the attack. Midleton fly-half Christian is penalised with a yellow – Midleton are now down to 13 men – those left on the pitch are fighting hard and still trying to push forward. Midleton win a penalty but the shot is wide. Still Midleton 11 Suttonians 9. All Suttonians need is a penalty and with Midleton down to 13 they are pushing hard for it.
About 10 minutes to go and its pulsating stuff, how Midleton can appear like 15 with 13 on the field is a mystery but they are doing it. Play is kept in the Suttonians half and they are unable to open up the Midleton defence. Christian returns to the field and a collective sigh of relief goes up from the supporters as Midleton are back to 14 men. Suttonians attack again and win a scrum just inside the Midleton half from which they try to mount an attack in the final minutes of the game but it comes to nothing and the ref blows for full time.
To see it was to believe it, over 60 minutes with 14 men, 10 of that with 13, the joy was there on every players face as Midleton held on to win. Credit where it is due, if ever a team showed heart and soul putting bodies on the line and fighting for their club then it was at this game. Undoubtedly one to remember in the early stages of this competition and one that tells a lot about the commitment and resolution of this team to want to win. Congratulations to them all from 1 to 20 and to their coaches for a great game.