This weekend saw some fantastic rugby from all three Montreal Irish teams.
Saturday morning came early for the Men’s third division who had to travel to Quebec for a 12:30 Kick Off. With three teams in action at two venues and some players unavailable due to vacation, injury or getting engaged (well done Dave O’Neill), the team had a slightly forward orientated make up.
Young Dom De Fazio scored his first try for the Irish and veteran second rower and George Clooney lookalike Jim ‘John Eales’ Kellett scored two from two, converting the try and also making a penalty – also for a tally of five points.
Whilst the 3rds fought well, they eventually succumbed to a strong Quebec side and made the journey home with a respectable scoreline of 17 – 10 Quebec.
The Irish arrived at the Douglas Hospital to play Wanderers 1st and 2nd XV teams, in what appeared to be ideal conditions for playing some running rugby. These expectations were quickly dashed however as the heavens opened and heavy rain began to pour just before kick off.
First up where the Division A reserve sides and a fairly evenly matched battle ensued. The Irish team had arrived expecting a battle up front and that is exactly what they got.
The Irish scrum was surprisingly dominant on the day however and was used to good advantage for launching attacks, but in the wet and very windy conditions, it turned out to be a forwards affair in the first half, with relatively little ball going wide.
Similarly the Wanderers kept it tight in the opening exchanges and used channel one ball to good effect with solid running from their inside centre, who managed to penetrate the Irish inside defence, on more than one occasion.
With the wet conditions, both sides were guilty of slowing the ball at the break down, but it was the Irish who managed to turn these penalty chances into points and slowly built a lead with a penalty and a conversion in the first half from Cormac and some excellent place kicking from veteran full back come winger, Trevor Lane with a tally of 9 points for the day from the second half.
Shannon Brown also managed to get over the line after some excellent forward play.
With a decent lead and only a few minutes to go the Irish were feeling confident, however a resurgent Wanderers side were not one to accept defeat so easily and broke away in the dying minutes to score a try about 10m to the right of the posts.
The Wanderers kicker stepped up with an opportunity to tie the game up and the wind had died down leaving the Wanderers hopeful and the Irish team and supporters with their hearts in their mouths.
The pressure may have told for the young kicker as his conversion attempt drifted right and wide of the upright, leaving a jubilant Irish side celebrating, but also pondering their good fortune on this occasion.
Final score; 19-17
Scorers; Shannon ‘Prof’ Brown (Try), Cormac Long 1 penalty and 1 conversion Trevor Lane 3 penalties.
Yet again the Irish 1st XV had a hard act to follow just as the rain let up right before the scheduled 3PM kick-off.
Again the Irish expected a tough battle up front and had readied themselves to tackle all day. The Wanderers showed early on that they were up for a game and ran at the Irish inside defence in waves – the Irish defence stood strong however and repelled each attack and kicked cleverly to the corners.
The Irish took the early lead through a Huw Roberts penalty for an infringement at the breakdown and this was to be a common theme for the rest of the game.
Noted by players on Sunday as the toughest game yet – due to the length of time it took to get aching bodies out of bed – the Wanderers threw everything they had at the Irish for the first 20 minutes and sensibly played it tight, in the less than ideal conditions. The Irish absorbed this pressure with some fine tackling however and turned the ball over on more than one occasion with good counter rucking and pressure around the fringes. The Wanderers did eventually break through for a converted try to leave the score 7-3 to Wanderers.
The Irish played some controlled rugby after that and took advantage of more infringements at the breakdown, allowing the Huw Roberts to kick over another six points.
The Irish started to gain the upper hand and taking advantage of another penalty, set a line out on the opposition try line. A catch and drive, was mauled this way and that and was in danger of being forced over the touch-line, when an alert Gareth McDonald managed to rip the ball free and squeeze through a gap for the touch down which Huw converted.
Half time score 16 -7 Irish
The second half also saw its fair share of rain and a ruck and maul type game developed. Another penalty saw the Irish extend the lead by another three points which was quickly neutralised by an Irish indiscretion and a Wanderers penalty.
Deciding to play in the opposition half, the Irish pinned the home team for around 10 minutes, but couldn’t quite break through the dogged Wanderers defence at which point Huw waited for the right moment to make an excellent drop goal and extend the margin by 3 points.
Both teams were awarded and converted penalties in the next 10 minutes of play and as players tired and tempers frayed, no less than four yellow cards were shown for slowing play at the breakdown (3 for the Irish).
This left the Irish with a two man deficit in the closing five minutes of the game but a good kick chase from the backs gave the Irish a scrum right under the Wanderers posts. Despite being a man down and throwing a Centre into the No 8 position, the Irish somehow won the scrum and some good link up play between Andy Plimer at 9 and Clint Toffa on the wing, allowed Clint to swan dive into the corner for another five points and deny the Wanderers a bonus point despite their hard fought and determined efforts.
Final Score 30 – 18 Irish
Scorers: Gareth McDonald (Try), Clint Toffa (Try), Huw Roberts (5 pens, 1 con, 1 drop goal)
Finally the Irish players and coaching staff want to extend a huge thank you to all the Irish supporters who made this fixture a home game, by turning out in huge numbers in the pouring rain and standing by to cheer for both teams. We only hope that we did not disappoint and would love to see you all again next Saturday for three home games against Quebec. It really did make a difference and some of the banter was legendary…..