Ireland Clubs edge out Scotland in tight game

Ireland Club’s Michael Melia is presented with the Man of the Match Award by Elaine Dunning of Ulster Bank and Dr Tom Meagher, President of Buccaneers RFC

Ireland Club’s Michael Melia is presented with the Man of the Match Award by Elaine Dunning of Ulster Bank and Dr Tom Meagher, President of Buccaneers RFC

IRELAND CLUBS 26

SCOTLAND CLUBS 23

The Ireland and Scotland club teams served up a highly entertaining international contest last weekend, with the home nation edging the game 26-23 in a thrilling finish at Dubarry Park.

There was a decent attendance at the Athlone venue despite the bitterly cold night and little or no promotion in the national media for this fixture. The hardy spectators were well rewarded with a lively and committed affair from start to finish.

Both teams endeavoured to play expansive rugby and had chances, before a blistering Ireland counter attack from inside their own 22 saw Harry Brennan racing along the left flank, before off-loading to Jake Swaine for a stunning opening try after 10 minutes. Neil Cronin duly converted, but a brace of Craig Jackson penalties narrowed Scotland’s arrears to the minimum.

The visitors then enjoyed a good spell before the hosts regrouped to force the pace. It took a last ditch tackle by Fraser Thomson to deny his opposite number, Swaine, a second try, following a flowing Ireland move initiated by Jack Dwan and carried on by Daniel McEvoy.

Ireland notched their second try when a smartly taken resultant lineout caused confusion in the Scottish defence, and Joe McSwiney charged over for a 36th minute try, with Cronin again adding the extras. However, the impressive Thomson weaved his way in for a splendid final move of the half, touching down for an unconverted try to narrow Ireland’s half-time advantage to 14-11.

Ireland dominated after the change of ends and Scotland substitute Nick Beavon, on the pitch literally a matter of seconds, was sin-binned after 49 minutes for bringing down a maul. But the hosts were hurried in their endeavours and lacked composure for a period, leaving them unable to make their temporary numerical advantage pay off. However, a sparkling 67th minute attack that seemed certain to yield a third try was denied by a knock on by a Scotland defender, and referee Matthew Turvey, following consultation with a touch judge, awarded a penalty try.

Scotland retorted swiftly and, after some neat interplay, full-back Thomson notched his second try on 70 minutes, again unconverted. The bigger visiting pack then put in a superb maul just two minutes later to earn a penalty try that edged them ahead for the first time 23-21.

Spurred on by the crowd, Ireland responded with some fine, patient attacking play that led to McEvoy racing in for a 77th minute try, which Swaine was unable to convert. Scotland again unleashed their huge pack in an effort to retrieve the situation in a dramatic conclusion to this game, but Ireland held out for a narrow but merited 26-23 victory.

So, it is all to play for in two weeks time, when the winner of the Dalriada Cup will be decided. Ireland may need to beef up their pack a bit and improve their lineout work if they are to deny the Scots the trophy for the third time in a row.

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