Clonmel V Bandon 25th Sept League
You can toss out all the contradictory clichés: ‘Nothing is won in September’; ‘Tús maith leath na h-oibre’; ‘Top of the table clash’ and all the rest, a game of rugby comes down to two teams standing toe-to toe on the pitch. The winners are the ones who score more. Simple as that. To get to that simple result can sometimes be complicated. The contributory factors are many and various; coaching, talent, skill, ambition, conditions, decisions can all come into play. One that can’t be ruled out is Vince Lombardi’s famous quote that “Winning is a habit”.
This must have resonated on Sunday last as two time champions Clonmel came up against last year’s runners up Bandon RFC. Much has been made of Bandon’s pre-season spending. A new imported coaching set-up has been the envy of many other Senior not to say Junior teams in the province. This was all set to be a cracker and it was.
Both teams played Rugby the way it was meant to be played. Beautiful smooth hands, hard tackling and strong defence was the order of the day as both teams delighted a lively crowd in Ardgeeha from the off. Clonmel put the pressure on from the off. A huge scrum gave Clonmel a penalty. New Clonmel captain Tony Cantwell nominated Conor Cooney to kick for the posts. His attempt went narrowly wide. From the 22’ Clonmel received, Ronan Cross broke the midfield defence before energetic scrum half Jaco Oostuysen sprinted for the line to score the first try of the game. Cooney was unsuccessful with the conversion which sailed wide by a hair's breadth.
This lead was shortlived. Bandon woke to the task and attacked. On the 10-minute mark, some nice interplay from the Bandon backline saw their outside centre strike to cross the whitewash. The try was converted to leave the score at 7-5.
One of the features of the game was the dominance of the CLonmel scrum. A penalty awarded to the front row of Mark Corby, Gareth Mulcahy and Billy O’Kelly 15 minutes in was one of many on the day. Conor Cooney had found his range and kicked the three points. Clonmel piled on the pressure but Bandon were resilient and their defence stood firm. A lineout that didn’t find its target in the Bandon 22 was snatched upon by the Bandon backs and cleared. Bandon were now on the attack. A maul from the lineout put pressure on the Clonmel line. Openside John Gallagher who was everywhere in defence had unfortunately put his hands where they didn’t belong and gave Bandon another penalty and got himself a Yellow Card to boot.
The 14 men of Clonmel stood tall under fierce pressure from Bandon. Their backs slung the ball to both sides of the pitch but couldn’t infiltrate the Clonmel line.
On 33 minutes, Bandon were reduced to 14 when their full back was carded for a high tackle on the always dangerous Luke Hogan. Great interplay from half backs Jaco Oostuysen and Dylan Cadogan saw Clonmel threaten the Bandon line again. Good defence by Bandon saw Greg Carroll pushed over the side-line.
The half time score of 8-7 to Clonmel didn’t reflect the running rugby layed by both teams but it did echo the strong defensive organisation of each. Yet another scrum penalty to Clonmel saw Cooney kick another penalty. Intense attacking by Bandon was relieved by Cooney’s massive boot. Another scum and another Clonmel penalty. This was again notched by Cooney.
Great work by john Gallagher to snaffle a loose ball on the ground saw Clonmel convert defence to attack and again a scrum was awarded to CLonmel. With Dave ‘Tank’ O’Gorman now on the pitch for Billy O’Kelly and Mark Corby switching sides from tight to loose head, Clonmel pushed the Bandon 8 backwards, as they retreated their scrum crumbled. The referee deemed that Clonmel were about to score and ran straight to the posts to award the home side a penalty try. Cooney added the extras. Clonmel 18, Bandon 7.
The game was far from over Bandon scored a great try with centre Enda Phelan crashing through to score a converted try. Clonmel’s experienced heads came to the fore. You don’t win 2 leagues in a row without knowing how to close out a game and wise heads, Neville Melbourne, Cooney, Gallagher and Gareth Mulcahy had enough experience to put Bandon to the sword. Great work by blindside Ciarán Burke forced a penalty for Clonmel at the death to see out the game by 21 points to 14.
This was a very mature performance by Denis Leamy’s men. While it was very much a team performance, it was hard not to notice the excitement in the crowd every time Jaco Oostuysen got the ball. John Gallagher was a menace on the ground and in defence. Dylan Cadogan controlled the game at ten. Tony Cantwell led from the front. Ronan Cross tackled every member of the Bandon forwards but it was the Clonmel prop Mark Corby who decimated every prop that Bandon put up against him on both sides of the scrum and indeed this dominance proved the winning of the game.
It sets down a good marker for what is sure to be a tough, long season. Next up for Clonmel are Old Christians in Rathcooney, Cork next week. If Clonmel play with the maturity, they displayed in the season’s opener they will be very hard to beat.
15.Conor Cooney 14.Greg Carroll 13.Luke Hogan 12. Luke Noonan 11.Kelan McDonald 10. Dylan Cadogan 9.Jaco Oosthuysen 1.Billy OKelly 2.Gareth Mulcahy 3.Mark Corby 4.Neville Melbourne 5.Ronan Cross 6.Ciaran Burke 7.John Gallagher 8.Tony Cantwell (C) 16.David OGorman (for Billy O’Kelly) 17.Brendan Lawlor (for Ronan Cross) 18. Joseph Keane 19.Robbie Carroll (for Luke Noonan) 20.Conor Tobin