Ireland Club XV 26
Scotland Club XV 23
IT was a case of close but no cigar for the Scotland Club XV in Athlone last night, but head coach Rob Chrystie says he was encouraged with how his team performed and has backed his boys to turn around the three-point deficit when the second leg of this Dalriada Cup double-header is played out at Netherdale on 16th March.
Ireland scored two first half tries through Jack Dwan and Joe McSwinney, but a couple of penalties from Craig Jackson and a try just before the break from captain Fraser Thomson – shrugging off a couple of tackles – kept the Scots in touch.
The visitors survived a period with 14 men after prop Nick Beavon was sent to the sin-bin for pulling down a maul at the start of the second half, but they conceded a penalty try in the 69th minute for a deliberate knock-on.
However, they rallied well, and Thomson grabbed his second score of the night through a typically sharp break following some good inter-play involving both backs and forwards.
Scotland then grabbed the lead through a penalty try off the back of a powerful driving maul, but Ireland responded immediately with an excellent try from Daniel McEvoy to recapture the initiative.
Scotland engineered one more chance to secure the win at the death with another driving maul, but it wasn’t to be.
“It looked pretty good – it was going over – but we didn’t get the decision, the referee gave a scrum,” lamented Chrystie, who has been around the block enough times to know that there is no point losing sleep over these sorts of marginal decisions.
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“We created a lot of opportunities and probably weren’t quite as clinical as we needed to be, if I’m being honest,” he continued “But that is a positive because we have got something to work on.”
“The good thing is that it is only half-time. To come across to Ireland and only lose by three points is not bad going – but we know we can get better. They scored off our mistakes – turnovers and a loose kick – so that’s something we can tighten up.”
Speaking more generally, Chrystie congratulated his players for their performance on the night, and also for the professionalism they have demonstrated in the build-up to this game.
“We’ve got some really good club players in Scotland, there is absolutely no doubt about that,” he said. “Every one of the guys who played in this match did really well –they represented their club excellently, as they have done all week. So, I’m pretty proud of them. They’ve chucked everything they have at this game and there were a few sore bodies afterwards – but they’ll be ready to go again in a couple of weeks’ time.”
“I spoke to Grieg Oliver [former Hawick and Scotland scrum-half who is now elite player development officer at Munster Rugby and assistant coach of the Ireland Under-20s side] during the week and he highlighted a number if their players who have been involved in the pro game over there, so that tells us a bit about where our club game sits.”
“We’re pretty excited now about playing down at Gala with a home support – it should be a big night,” Chrystie added.
“In terms of mind-set, it is maybe not a bad thing that we didn’t quite get the win tonight – it will drive the boys on. They know that they have something to prove, and they know that they are capable of turning it around because there was loads more points in that game.”
Scotland Club XV: Fraser Thomson CAPTAIN (Melrose); Jordan Edmunds (Boroughmuir), Ross Curle (Stirling County), Robbie Nelson (Currie Chieftains), Craig Gossman (Ayr); Craig Jackson (Melrose), Charlie Shiel (Currie Chieftains); Shawn Muir (Hawick), Russell Anderson (Melrose), Steven Longwell (Ayr), Iain Moody (Melrose), Robert McAlpine (Ayr), Blair MacPherson (Ayr), Jack Turley (Heriot’s), Pete McCallum (Ayr). Replacements: Michael Liness (Heriot’s), Nick Beavon (Melrose), Struan Cessford (Heriot’s), Ruairidh Leishman (Stirling County), Rory Drummond (Watsonians), Murdo McAndrew (Melrose), Scott Lyle (Ayr), George Taylor (Melrose)
Ireland Club XV: Jake Swaine (Tenenure College); Harry Brennan (Lansdowne), Niall Kenneally (Cork Constitution), Matt D’Arcy (Clontarf), Daniel McEvoy (Lansdowne); Jamie Gavin (Garryowen), Neil Cronin CAPTAIN (Garryowen); Cronan Gleeson (Old Wesley), Paddy Finlay (Dublin University), Colm Skehan (Young Munster), Alex Thompson (Terenure College), Michael Melia (Tenenure College), Jack Dwan (Lansdowne), Joe McSwiney (Cork Constitution), Michael Noone (Clontarf). Replacements: Ed Rossiter (Old Belvedere), Tom O’Reilly (St. Mary’s College), Michael Cromie (Banbridge), Ciaran Ruddock (St. Mary’s College), Paulie Tolofua (Naas), Angus Lloyd (Dublin University), Mark O’Neill (Terenure College), Eamonn Mills (Lansdowne).
Referee: Matthew Turvey (England)
Ireland: Tries: Dwan, McSwinney, Penalty Try, McSwinney; Con: Cronin 2.
Scotland: Tries: Thomson 2, Penalty Try; Pens: Jackson.
Scoring sequence (Ireland first): 5-0; 7-0; 7-3; 7-6; 12-6; 14-6; 14-11 (h-t) 21-11; 21-16; 21-23; 26-23
Yellow cards –