SME lost out to a very strong Portlaoise squad in a thrilling cup semi final on a cold November morning in Edenderry RFC. They held their own for large parts of the game but ultimately, it was CBS physical superiority and impact off the bench that proved pivotal.
CBS struck first after 5 minutes when they found themselves with a penalty inside the SME 22. They opted to take a tap and run and their huge second row brushed off 2 SME defenders and stretched to reach the try line. They missed the conversion to leave it 5-0 to the away side.
This sparked SME to life as they dominated possession and territory for the next 15 minutes. Paidi Gorman playing at scrumhalf kept the tempo high and clever kicks and strong carries saw CBS struggling to defend against St. Mary’s pace. It was Gorman who open SME’s account when he sold a clever dummy and used his pace to run it in from 40 metres and dot down in the corner for a great individual score. Andrew Nicholson converted from a narrow angle to leave the score at 7-5 to SME who were playing with confidence.
The next scoring opportunity came shortly after. Jack Mckeown, who performed excellently at number 8 throughout the game, broke from the base of the scrum. He made 20 metres downfield and drew in the last defender before offloading to Nicholson running in support. Nicholson looked to have the pace to go all the way but he pulled up short suffering an unfortunate hamstring injury that ended his part in the game. CBS were offside in the ruck that followed and St.Mary’s neglected to take the 3 points on offer from under the posts. They went with a tap penalty and CBS defended excellently managing to turn over possession and clear their lines leaving SME with no points to show for all their pressure.
Portlaoise received a yellow card for consistent infringements leaving them down to 14 men but SME couldn’t break down their defence. CBS size was starting to pay dividends now. Their big forward pack carried hard and they found themselves back in the SME 22. The SME defence tackled excellently but eventually CBS bulldozed their way over for a second try leaving it 10-7 to the away team at half time.
The first 10 minutes of the second half was the period where CBS put SME to the sword scoring 3 tries unanswered. Their third try was the score of the game. Their fullback gathered a kick in behind and showed great pace and agility to break as far as the half way line. He fixed the last defender and passed inside to his winger who outpaced the chasing defence to score in the corner for a fantastic counter attacking score.
CBS now emptied their bench with each player added bringing a huge physical impact to proceedings. Their next 2 tries came in quick succession after with big ball carriers bursting through the SME defence to score from short distance. CBS missed both conversions leaving the score 25-7.
A lesser team would have laid down at this stage but SME showed huge heart and determination to claw their way back into the game. Some CBS ill-discipline aided this and SME found themselves with a line out in the opposition 22. Sean Cox was on the end of a fantastically executed set piece that saw him crash over the line for a badly needed score. Jack Gorman showed great composure to convert and giving SME a sliver of hope with 7 minutes remaining.
SME continued to attack relentlessly. TJ Dunne and Alex Bagnall carried hard to make holes in the CBS defence. It looked like the next SME score was immanent with 3 minutes left with the backline passing accurately across the line to put Conor O’ Donoghoe away on the outside. It wasn’t to be as a CBS defender made an excellent last ditch tackle to deny the home team.
The final whistle came shortly after. The home team leaving some scoring opportunities behind them but overall CBS were worth their win on the day scoring 5 tries to the home team’s 2. SME’s effort couldn’t be faulted as they defended excellently against a physically dominant side.
Reflecting on their season SME can be proud of their efforts. All but 3 of their squad are eligible to play again next year, and with several key players to return from injury they can optimistic heading into next season.
Panel: Alex Bagnall Matthew Loughrey Jack Mckeon Aaron Maguire Jack Gorman Paidi Gorman Darragh Walsh Matas Nenartavicius Gavin Murphy Conor O Donoghue Thomas Metcalfe Brandon Murray Jamie Kirwan Luke Nicholson Andrew Nicholson Sean Cox Tiernan O Connell TJ Dunne Luke Mahon Dylan Mckeogh Callum Bermingham Jack Fahey Conor O’Brien Tom Norton Josh McGlade Jack Byrne Iarflaith Killally Harry Goulding Conor Walsh Cian Tyrell