Leinster League Div 2B
Swords 12 Athy 16
By Mark Bergin
Swords hosted Athy in the second of three Leinster League fixtures to be played between the sides this season. Athy recorded a good win previously against Swords in the Showgrounds and on paper at least would have been strong favourites for this match. However, as in the past, Athy found the ALSAA complex at Dublin Airport a difficult venue and were very happy to eventually come away with the winning points.
Swords kicked off and from the beginning showed little respect for the visitors, putting them under pressure and keeping play in Athyâ€™s half. Swords kept the ball close, hitting the rucks hard and using runners off ruck play to get over the gain line regularly. Athyâ€™s defence had to work hard to contain the opposition in the first period of the game and it took until the 12 minute mark before Athy forced a good relieving penalty bringing them to the Swordsâ€™ 10m line. Athy won a good lineout ball and brought play towards the Swords 22m line, forcing a penalty. A quick tap by captain Stuart Holland and subsequent play put Swords on the back foot with the ball finding its way to scrumhalf Myles Aspil at the end of the line who crossed over for a well taken try. This was converted by Mark Beever putting the score at 0 â€“ 7.
Athy settled now and began to dictate the game, holding most of the possession and testing the Swordsâ€™ defence constantly. They won another penalty on the Swordsâ€™ 22m line at 23 minutes, converted by Mark Beever, which pushed them further ahead to 0 â€“ 10. Five minutes later Swords were penalised for a high tackle, again Beever converted to put Athy 0 â€“ 13 ahead. Closing out the first half Athy seemed to take their foot off the pedal somewhat, slipping off tackles and not driving Swords back in the rucks. This allowed Swords back into the game and the half closed out with Athy doing most of the defending.
The second half began with Athy kicking off into the sun which was won after a wonderful chase and catch by prop Joe Deegan. Athy pushed into the opposition territory and won a penalty for a ruck infringement just inside the Swordsâ€™ 22m line but the conversion attempt was wide. Play in the third quarter was mostly Athy who had the lionâ€™s share of possession in this period. However, rather than putting the result beyond doubt by scoring from this Athy frequently lost the momentum through slow ball and failing to break down the Swordsâ€™ defence. The visitors would have profited handsomely had they moved the ball wide quickly but an approach that was at times ponderous gave Swords ample time to realign their defensive structure and contain the Athy threat. Athyâ€™s only profit from this period of dominance was a converted penalty on 56 minutes which put them 0 â€“ 16 ahead.
Having weathered Athyâ€™s efforts Swords began to up their game moving into the final quarter and pushed deep into the Athy half. On 62 minutes they had pushed right to the Athy line when they were held up for a 5m scrum. Athy got a great shove on Swords but the hosts held on to possession and kept the pressure on the Athy defence until a gap opened up outside of a ruck allowing them to slip in easily under the posts for a try. The conversion closed the gap between the sides to 9 at 7 â€“ 16. Just 5 minutes later Swords won a lineout on the Athy 10m line and from this they made huge yards due to very slack Athy defending, bringing play again to the Athy line. Athy stopped the attack on the line but Swords moved the ball quickly to the left and crossed over for their second try. The conversion attempt failed but with the score at 12 â€“ 16 this was now a single score game and, based on the general run of play in the second half, could have gone either way.
Athy did steady the ship in the last 10 minutes of the game but despite securing better possession they struggled to make territory. The concession of a series of penalties, mainly for ruck infringements, by Swords kept Athy just about on the front foot but they failed to get the necessary score to open up the gap again. Eventually Athy won a penalty on 40 minutes which they tapped and immediately put into touch to prompt the final whistle the final whistle from the referee. Athy were relieved to finish the game knowing that they could well have lost.
Athy Team: Joe Deegan, Alan Harding, Brian Berry, John Fraser, Nigel Holland, Clive Kavanagh, Craig Hussey, Stu Holland, Myles Aspil, Alan Talbot, Davey Walsh, Mark Beaver, Gavin Kelly, Jimmy Quinlan, Paul Waters. Subs: Paul Buckley, Brian Meredith, Conor Martin, Steven Cooke, Dave Curtis.