30th November 2014
Leinster League Div 2B
Athy 8 Edenderry 13
By Mark Bergin
The expression often used that â€˜defence wins matchesâ€™ in rugby certainly applied in this match between Athy and Edenderry at the Showgrounds. Unfortunately for Athy it was the commitment of Edenderryâ€™s defence and counter attacking movements against the home sideâ€™s dominant possession, set piece play and attacking rugby which prevailed in a gripping and intense match that offered full value to spectators right to the final whistle.
These sides have become quite familiar with each other over the last number of seasons and a full on game from both teams was expected in this league encounter. As was the case a few weeks ago in their first meeting Athy started the game strongly, asking questions of the Edenderry defence from the kick off and securing a kickable penalty within 3 minutes. The conversion attempt was just short and Edenderry began to come into the game more, asking their own questions of Athy but it was the home side who continued to have most of the play in the first 20 minutes. Athyâ€™s complete dominance of the scrums and excellent line out mauls were causing the visitors all manner of problems, resulting in a high penalty count against Edenderry in this period. However, as was the case in their last match, it was Edenderry who opened the scoring somewhat against the run of play at the end of the first quarter when they won a penalty for an Athy line out infringement just outside the home 22 and converted it to lead 0 â€“ 3.
Athy knocked on the following kick off but won a penalty from the resulting scrum which saw them bring play to the Edenderry 5m metre line. A superb line out maul by Athy looked sure to see them cross the line but the maul was brought down. From the resulting penalty Athy went for another line out maul, again they looked sure to cross the line but the Edenderry defence held eventually winning a relieving penalty. Having cleared their lines the visitors pushed back up field winning a penalty and lineout on the Athy 10m line at 30 min. A good maul from the throw in resulted in quick ball out to the left wing who got by a number of Athy defenders before touching down in the corner. Once again Athy had conceded a score against the run of general play and now found themselves 0 â€“ 8 down. Shades of dÃ©jÃ vu from the first fixture between the sides came a few minutes later when Edenderry fielded an Athy kick upfield and again got the ball to the left wing quickly who again managed to beat 3 Athy defenders before being stopped. Edenderry were not to be denied and crossed the line from the resulting ruck to lead 0 â€“ 13 at the break.
Play in the second half continued as before the break with Athy dominating possession but finding a stubborn Edenderry defence very difficult to break down. The home side began to attack space better in this half and the solid visitor defence began to look more vulnerable. Athy started to get the ball to their pace players more quickly and were rewarded on 45 minutes with an attacking lineout maul halfway inside Edenderryâ€™s 22 which delivered the platform for David Walsh to cross over and reduce the gap to 5 â€“ 13. Despite changing the point of attack more and testing the Edenderry defence more in this half all too often incomplete passes or knock-onâ€™s killed Athy momentum. A converted penalty for Athy by Mark Beever on 59 min closed to the gap to 5 at 8 â€“ 13. Now within one score of the visitors Athy increased the intensity of their attack, winning a number of scrum penalties on the Edenderry 5m line and putting the opposition under serious pressure. Despite this they still could not cross over and eventually Edenderry got a toe to the ball from an incomplete Athy pass to relieve the pressure. This proved to be Athyâ€™s best chance to catch the visitors. Although Athy continued to have the greater share of possession in the final quarter, and dominance of the scrums, they could not add to their tally. Athy did, however, get to grips with Edenderryâ€™s dangerous counter attacking, closing down their strike players better to prevent a repeat of the first half scores. Athyâ€™s line defence also held on the occasions that Edenderry managed to bring their attack to close quarters. The score finished 8 â€“ 13 in a game that Athy will know they could have won had they been able to reduce their handling error count and maintained concentration against the dangerous Edenderry counter attack in the first half.