Athy 27 – 12 Portlaoise
Athy U16s overturned a first half 0-12 deficit to overcome a committed Portlaoise team in this Phase 2 Leinster League game. Athy played into a gale in the first half and had restricted Portlaoise to a single try before Portlaoise eventually forced their way over to extend the lead to 12-0 with the last play of the half. However this lead seemed anaemic in the conditions and within two minutes of the restart Athy had their first try when centre Billy Doyle scored after quick ruck ball was worked quickly wide. Soon after Athy scored again, this time No.8 Martin Maloney breaking from a scrum to outrace the defence to make the touchdown. Cormac Moore’s conversion tied the game. A rare excursion into Athy’s 22’ by Portlaoise was repelled and the subsequent clearing kick, chase and follow-up tackles put the Portlaoise fullback in all sorts of trouble. Moloney benefitted with the touchdown for a 17-12 lead. By this stage Athy were dominant and the next score was the result of quick hands from the backs, winger Cian English breaking a number of tackles to dot down in the right corner. The backs created the fifth and final try with early passing giving English the space to beat the last defenders on the outside for a 27-12 victory.
The seeds of this victory were laid in the first half with the pack leading the way. In this Eoin Cooney had no equal, consistently achieving shoulder contact in the tackle and driving attackers into the ground or backwards – then into the ground. In the backs centres David Considine and Billy Doyle were excellent in defence when it was required and showed great awareness in attack. An excellent performance and result from a hard working team hitting its stride.
6th December 2014
Athy 24 Newbridge 0
Athy claimed their fifth league win of the season with a comprehensive 24-0 victory over Newbridge on Saturday. However this was not a facile win and Athy had to work hard for that scoreline against a competitive Newbridge side. In fact it was Newbridge who began strongest and for the opening 15 minutes Athy found themselves defending a series of strong surges. However the defensive line hit hard and every ball carrier was driven back until Athy secured a key turnover and finally cleared their lines. The failure to convert this pressure into a score seemed to drain Newbridge of confidence and fortify the Athy men. Now it was Athy’s turn to attack and immediately they upped the pace and kept a width to their attacks that had the Newbridge defence at breaking point. After a number of quick rucks the ball was moved wide where centre Seamus Lacey forced his way over in the left corner. Cormac Moore hit the huge sideline conversion. Athy kept up the pressure and scored again when Spencer Loughman drove over from a ruck, taking advantage of a stretched defence to score in the right corner. Cormac Moore surpassed his first effort, landing the monster conversion from the right touchline to give Athy a 14-0 halftime lead.
Athy continued to press in the second half but a determined Newbridge team held firm and at times forced Athy onto the defence. Midway through the half Athy grabbed their third try when quick ruck ball was moved wide where winger Cian English touched down for a 19-0 lead. There was time for one more score. From a scrum number eight Martin Maloney went up the blindside and found Jack Smith who carried on the move. The flanker made good ground before finding hooker Ronan Black just outside the 22 meter line. There was a lot to do but a crafty sidestep put Black into space and from there he scorched the defence to dive into the corner. Next up is the final league game of phase 1 where Athy travel to Portlaoise hoping to secure a place in the top tier of phase 2.
29th November 2014
Athy 28 Longford 12
Athy U16s continued their march up the league table with an impressive 28-12 victory over Longford in the Showgrounds on Saturday. Athy sought to control this game from the first whistle and after the opening minutes it was clear that Athy had an expansive, high tempo game plan based around power in the pack and speed and skill in the backs. This multiphase approach was paying dividends and only some excellent Longford defending prevented and early Athy try. Longford for their part were much more direct, choosing to either kick or use one up runners to build up the play. It was from one such speculative kick that Longford scored first – a defensive slip followed by a fortunate bounce helping them to a 7-0 lead. However from that score onwards Athy simply took over. Firstly second centre Seamus Lacey burst through a gap to level the scores then prop Spencer Loughman powered through a ruck to splash down at the sticks to make it 14-7 to the home team. Next up was flanker Seamus McKenna who, benefiting from great work from fellow backrow Jack Smith, dismissed two attempted tackles to score under the posts for a 21-7 halftime lead. Athy kept the pressure up in the second half and were unlucky not to score before Longford snuck a try with some close in drives to make the score 21-12. Still Athy persevered and after more near misses and close calls a wonderfully sweeping move ended with winger Cian English scoring to make it 28-12. This was Athy near their fluent best with the entire squad of players contributing to an accomplished team effort. In a pack that was in no mood to take a backward step McKenna and Martin Maloney were ubiquitous. The backs tore into the space out wide, Cormac Moore benefiting most from the good work inside.
15th November 2014
Athy 24 North Meath 0
After a couple of stern encounters Athy U16 got back to winning ways with a 24-0 victory at home to North Meath on Saturday. Athy sensed that this might be their day and began positively in the near perfect conditions, enjoying the bulk of possession and territory. However despite this the Athy attacks lacked penetration and were all too easily negated. For their part the forwards over committed at ruck time allowing the defence to comfortably outnumber the secondary attack. If this sin was venial in nature the sins of the backs were positively cardinal. All too often the inside backs took far too much out of the ball and seemed happy to pass only after using up yards of space. When not taking too much out of it the backs tended to drift across the pitch, giving the Meath men the simplest of tasks to follow them into the wide channels. On the occasions when the ball made its way across the backline the winger found himself with no space and plenty of defenders to negotiate. Despite this the handling was secure and a few enterprising loops and switches created opportunities. However several tries went abegging – a David Considine effort was disallowed for an off the ball infringement and a simple 3 on 1 ended with a race away interception which Seamus Lacey did well to haul down on the half way line. Just before half time the same man produced the first try of the game when a good kick chase was rewarded as he collected a loose ball and went through some weak tackling to touch down under the posts.
The second half continued in the same vain with Athy again having the better of things. From a scrum number 8 Martin Maloney broke to the blindside and carried through a tackle to score. The pressure continued and Eoin Cooney was unlucky to be denied a try after appearing to burrow over. The pack was making serious inroads at this stage and Caoimghin Bradshaw finished off a series of strong carries to bulldoze over for a try at the posts. All continuity was lost when a serious looking injury to Cathal Ryan meant a long delay and the game continuing on another pitch. On the resumption Athy scored another try when good early passing gave winger Cian English the space to score in the corner. Ciaran Fennessy was the next to try his luck and sparkling feet brought him into the 22 where he released a rampaging Bradshaw. However the pass was correctly called forward and the big prop, much to the relief of the final defender, was asked to pull up. North Meath, to their credit, fought out the remainder of the match and Athy did well to keep them scoreless, aggressive line speed and solid hits key to keeping them out. A strong looking bench augurs well for the season ahead and two of the stronger performances came from those ranks; Ben Loughman tackled strongly and Cormac Moore looked comfortable under the regular stream of high ball. Tyler Perse looks a good addition and did well on his home debut. Birr next week will tell a lot about where this team’s ambitions lie. The unfortunate Cathal Ryan looks to be fine and may even report for duty next week.
11th October 2014
Athy 17 Tullamore 10
Athy U16’s began their Leinster League campaign with a well deserved 17-10 win at home to Tullamore on Saturday. The 12.30pm kick off gave enough time for the sun to burn off the morning’s lingering fog and the match was played in a near blaze of autumnal sunshine. The early exchanges indicated that this would be a step up from any area games played to date and so it proved with the physicality of the collisions a feature throughout. Tullamore began brightly with their pack using a succession of first up runners to gain ground, only good line speed and brave tackling in defence halting their momentum. However eventually the pressure told and an infringement at ruck time led to the first kick at goal which the Tullamore outhalf had little difficulty negotiating. Athy responded from this setback with a series of wide plays that stretched the Tullamore defence with only an inaccurate final pass or desperate tackle ending the move. However Athy persisted and the tactic soon bore fruit when Athy deployed a number of close in carries to crash through the under-resourced fringe defence. Eoin Cooney dotted down close to the posts giving David Considine a straightforward conversion for a 7-3 lead. Athy spent the remainder of the half on the attack, opting to run a number of kickable penalties but a strong Tullamore defensive effort held them out.
The highly entertaining fare continued in the second half with both teams fully committed and it was clear that the next score would have a large bearing on the outcome. It came to Athy. When an initial attack broke down quick ruck ball was swiftly moved from left to right and Cian English made the most of the space on the outside to race in from the half way line for a 12-3 lead. The pace of the game refused to drop and Tullamore brought themselves right back into it with a well worked try in the left corner. An excellent conversion brought the scoreboard to 12-10. The final twenty minutes were top notch stuff and have set the bar for performance levels for the remainder of this campaign. Athy seemed to relish the high stakes rugby. To a man the entire team upped the aggression and both scrumhalf Ciarán Fennessy and outhalf Considine made good ground in the ensuing chaos. The away team penalty count rose as Tullamore hung on and it was no surprise when Ben Loughman scored to push the lead out to 17-10. Athy played the remainder of the game camped in the Tullamore half and came up just short on three separate occasions as Martin Moloney and Cormac Moore were unfortunate to narrowly miss the touchdown.
Athy should benefit enormously from this outing. The lineout and line speed in defence are areas of rapid improvement and should nicely complement the strong fundamentals in place. The alignment of the newly constituted backline was, understandably, a little flat in attack and only remarkably quick thinking allowed the ball to get wide. Finally, from this observer’s point of view the team would be better served to concentrate on themselves rather than get distracted by influences beyond their control – this as much as anything may well determine how their season pans out. One hopes that the next time they have the opportunity to deny a team a losing bonus point they have the wherewithal to tap over the simple three points in the final minute. In the pack Ronan Black, Caoimhghin Bradshaw and Jack Smith made their mark while in the backs Liam Hubbock put long term injury behind him with a fine game.
Athy under 16s gave a strong Skerries team a 14-0 lead in the opening quarter of this Leinster League game at the Showgrounds on Saturday, then matched them from the remaining three quarters to eventually trail by those 14 points at the final whistle. On a dry day with firm turf underneath this was always going to be a fast paced match and so it proved with teams looking to play a wide, expansive game. Skerries attacked from the off and it wasn’t long before they began making inroads into the Athy defence. A series of direct carries found little resistance and only desperate scramble defence saw Athy win a turnover penalty near their try line. However soon Skerries were again breaking tackles for easy yards and this time they made no mistake with the ball moving sharply wide for the right winger to score. The conversion, into a tricky wind, floated effortlessly over the crossbar. As the first quarter drew to a close Athy were beginning to awake and made their first forays into the Skerries half only to be undone when an attack broke down with the ball falling kindly for Skerries who clinically raced in to score under the posts for that 14-0 lead.
Despite this setback Athy were up and running and beginning to find space with ball in hand. One cut into the drift defence saw outhalf David Considine beat the first line and round the fullback only to be caught by a wonderful ankle tap yards short of the try line. Unfortunately the offload didn’t go to hand and the opportunity was lost. However Athy were now more than matching their opponents and it was no surprise to see Martin Moloney and Seamus Lacey combine out wide for the latter to dot down under the posts for a 14-7 interval score line.
An excellent second half saw both teams continue with attacking intent but it was Skerries who pounced first to extend the lead, their forwards powering through close in to lead 19-7. Back came Athy and good work from the forwards saw them camped on the Skerries line. However a number of pick and goes were repelled and eventually Skerries were able to affect a turnover and clear their lines. Both teams began to tire and it was encouraging that Athy chose this moment to produce the try of the match. A series of offloads around midfield eventually led to centre Cian English getting the ball in space and he made good ground before releasing winger Billy Doyle who in turn raced into space before offloading to Seamus McKenna. The big flanker had done a lot of work in supporting the move and had more to do as covering defenders looked to halt his progress. None came close and the try in the corner left the score line 19-12. The game was back in the melting pot but it was Skerries who had the final say with their forwards powering through tired tackles before releasing their backs, a swift transfer through the hands allowing their right winger to squeeze into the corner for the final score line of 26-12.
This was a step up in class for Athy and they will be disappointed to be caught cold at the start of what turned out to be an even contest. However there is little doubt that they belong at this level, if the squad come away from this game with that belief it will have been a good day’s work. In the first half Kyle Loughman showed glimpses of his power with some good carries and in the second Seamus McKenna relished the physicality in the forwards.
Athy U16’s unbeaten start to the season continued with an impressive 43-14 win against Portlaoise on Saturday. Portlaoise kicked off in glorious conditions, the slight breeze on their backs the singular element. Athy started brightly and their ambition soon paid dividend when left wing Cian English broke clear of a few despairing tackles to score the game’s opening try. Soon after quick ball moved wide early put the same man into space and this time his pace saw him race in from the half way line to score. Both tries were unconverted and this allowed Portlaoise back into the game when a speculative punt up field bounced wickedly and into the hands of the onrushing attack for a touchdown under the posts for a 10-7 score line. Soon after another speculative punt, this time from Athy, had the same effect with David Considine collecting his own kick before feeding prop Eoin Cooney who made light of the remaining 30 meters to touch down near the posts. Athy were playing well at this stage and two more tries before half time sealed the points. First, centre Billy Doyle cut back against a stretched defence to dot down, followed quickly by number eight Martin Moloney who found space out wide to score with the final act of the half. Athy kept the pace up in the second half and soon after the restart Cooney scored his second when bursting through the close in defence before racing from the 22 to score. The quality dropped for a while and the scoreboard froze as fatigue and substitutions took the pace and accuracy out of the game. However with 6 minutes remaining Athy refocused to produce the score of the game. The attack started from deep within the Athy half with a number of good carries and layoffs. The move could have petered out only for a sumptuous reverse pass by Considine to keep the attack flowing, finally arriving with centre Ben Loughman who timed the final pass to perfection for Billy Doyle to grab his second try of the game, dotting down in the shadow of the posts. The final play of the game saw Portlaoise mount a series of spirited attacks, culminating in the forwards crashing over for a try that was well converted. A good display from Athy with the rush defence and breakdown play an encouraging feature. Jack Smith, Ben Loughman and Dean Murphy put down real markers of intent.