Midland Warriors V Birr (7 – 15)
Leinster League Division 3
2nd December 2012
The Showgrounds, Moate, Westmeath
The first Sunday in December isn’t going to be the warmest day of the year, nor is it going to be the driest. So on a bitterly cold and damp December afternoon, Birr travelled to Moate, the home of Midland Warriors RFC to contest their Leinster League game.
This game was the return fixture for both sides, Birr having come out on top with an emphatic win back in September and lying in second position coming into this game. Midland Warriors came into this game on the back of 3 straight wins and confidence was high for the Moate based team.
The playing conditions were very difficult for both sides as the pitch was very muddy in parts, making underfoot conditions very slippery. Surprisingly and with a huge amount of credit to both sets of players, the handling and ability to remain on their feet was outstanding.
Birr began by exerting a lot of pressure on the Warriors line from the kick off and found themselves the recipients of a penalty. Birr chose to opt for a scrum and it became immediately apparent that Birr had the advantage in this department. The Warriors held firm and for six phases only 5 meters from their line the kept Birr at bay. Eventually, however, Birr crossed from close range to touch down near the post. The try was converted and after 10 minutes Birr led by 7 points.
The Warriors came back from this and responded positively and from the kick off, they put significant pressure on the Birr defence from both line outs and open play. Mid way through the first half the Warriors, from a maul, crossed the Birr line only for the referee to determine that ball had been held up and in fairness, the number of bodies that piled up over the Birr line no referee could have called a touch down there. Birr cleared their lines and the Warriors began the process all over again. The Warriors back line was operating well and Paddy Murphy, playing at full back, threatened the Birr line on many occasions to the point where he and Evin Guing almost combined to score in the corner.
Birr, however, weathered this period of Midland Warriors ascendancy and managed to finish the half inside the Warriors half. Birr lost their influential No. 8 due to injury just before half time and the Warriors made a change of personnel at front row. These two changes suddenly swung the scrum superiority in the Warriors’ favour.
The second half was hardly begun when the game changed dramatically. The Warriors had begun the half well and found themselves 5 meters out with a scrum in their favour. The scrum was set and immediately collapsed. The referee called for a reset scrum. From the subsequent scrum, both front rows popped up, so the referee again stopped the game to reset. Suddenly and for no reason that could be seen from the sideline, the Birr tighthead struck out and punched the Warriors hooker in the face, right in full view of the referee. The outcome was a straight red card for foul play.
From the resulting penalty, the Warriors opted for a scrum, unfortunately they knocked on from the base of the scrum and lost their momentum. At the next scrum, the Birr loosehead went off injured and the next thing we know the scrums are going uncontested. This really deflated any and all momentum that was gathering from the Warriors perspective. The Warriors did continue their attacking tactics and it eventually bore fruit, when after a loose ball in midfield, the Warriors players pounced and the ball was hacked deep into the Birr half, the ensuing chase looked odds on for a Warriors score near the corner only for a Birr player to slide in soccer style and take down the Warriors winger, leaving the referee little choice but to award a penalty try.
The scores tied at 7 points apiece you would have expected the Warriors to push on and take the win, outright. But, for some reason it didn’t pan out that way and Birr were the ones that rose to the occasion following the penalty try.
After much tooing and froing in midfield and many, many uncontested scrums for knock on’s, Birr found themselves 10 metres out from the Warriors line and similarly to their opening try Birr crossed close in after a number phases leaving the score 12 – 7 with half and hour remaining.
The game petered out in terms of intensity after that as both sides were having their energy sapped from the muddy conditions underfoot and from the high number of tackles made by both sides. Birr closed out the game with a penalty for an offside with about 15 minutes remaining and despite the Warriors efforts in the last 10 minutes it just wasn’t to be their day.
Stand out players on the day were Paddy Murphy from the Midland Warriors and Chris Molloy from Birr. But the man of the match for me was Graham Ross of the Warriors who led from the back of the scrum with several breaks and great link up play with his back line.