Scots Let Lead Slip To Resurgent Irish Pack

A poor second-half saw Scotland Club XV surrender a 17-point lead and the inaugural Dalriada Cup to their Irish counterparts at Netherdale tonight, becoming the first of the sides to lose at home since the creation of the annual fixture in 2006 (30-32).

The Scots dominated the first 40 thanks to two opportunistic tries from Ayr centre Ross Curle, either side of a pair penalties from Melrose stand-off Scott Wight. Two minutes from half-time, the Scots were looking set for good innings at the whistle but an Irish try one minute before time (added to an earlier penalty) kept them within reach.

The second-half was an entirely different story as the visitors stuck to their game plan and their strengths (up front) and, in a classic Irish fashion, controlled possession to nullify the Scot’s attacking threat. With little answer to their pick and goes and driving maul, the Irish battered back and barged over three, short-range tries to edge the tie in spite of a late Scottish flury.

A typical barnstorming run from stalwart Damien Kelly who played his last match in a thistle

A poor second-half saw Scotland Club XV surrender a 17-point lead and the inaugural Dalriada Cup to their Irish counterparts at Netherdale tonight, becoming the first of the sides to lose at home since the creation of the annual fixture in 2006 (30-32).

The Scots dominated the first 40 thanks to two opportunistic tries from Ayr centre Ross Curle, either side of a pair penalties from Melrose stand-off Scott Wight.

Two minutes from half-time, the Scots were looking set for good innings at the whistle but an Irish try one minute before time (added to an earlier penalty) kept them within reach.

The second-half was an entirely different story as the visitors stuck to their game plan and their strengths (up front) and, in a classic Irish fashion, controlled possession to nullify the Scot’s attacking threat.

With little answer to their pick and goes and driving maul, the Irish battered back and barged over three, short-range tries to edge the tie in spite of a late Scottish flury.

Scotland Club XV Ally Donaldson, said: “We just didn’t get enough ball. Ireland played eight-man rugby, occasionally nine-man rugby, but they did it very well.

“We lost four tries to pick and goes but the key thing was that we gave away possession in our own final third and that gave them a platform to drive the mauls and pick and go from there.

“When we upped the tempo and got the game going the way we wanted we played some very  good rugby and got a bit of pace on it. Some of our attacking play was very good indeed, we just didn’t do it often enough.”

It took just one minute for Scotland to get on the scoreboard when Glasgow Hawks centre, Dean Kelbrick, blocked an Irish clearance kick on the 22 and Curle raced through to collect the rebounded ball to score.

Wight added the extras.

Ireland stand-off Barry Keeshan then missed a chance to claw back three points before Wight sent two from three penalty kicks through the sticks, the second of which was combined with the sin-binning of Irish hooker, Richie Sweeney, for repeated offences at the breakdown, 13-0.

With Sweeney back on Ireland began to show signs of the threat they posed up front as they worked the ball in from the Scotland 22 before being awarded a penalty for a Scottish infringement at the breakdown.

Keeshan duly converted.

Added to the penalty was the sin-binning of Scotland scrum-half Richard Snedden who, having received turnover ball from Ayr lock Damien Kelly, booted the ball to safety however, having simultaneously blown for the penalty, referee Stefano Penne considered the kick to be an act of petulance of the Arsenal striker Robin Van Persie variety and showed Snedden the yellow card.

With Sweeney back the Scots were at a numerical disadvantage but still managed the next score – Curle the man to capitalise on the work of centre partner Kelbrick who won the jump for a searching punt forward and offloaded to his centre partner at pace to slide in unchallenged.

Wight converted on the 38th minute and things were looking good for the hosts at 20-3 however, one minute later, the Irish driving maul backed up what it had threatened earlier in half – second-row Simon Crawford the man at the centre of the forward rumble for the crucial, unconverted score.

HALF TIME:   20-8

The second-half was an entirely different affair with the visitors continuing their momentum long into a second period in which the hosts rarely got out of their own half.

After just 14 minutes, Ireland had crossed the try-line twice with a succession of short-range pick and goes from the fringes of 5m line rucks.

Keeshan converted both efforts and the hosts were in trouble with no answer to the Irish forward dominance, their ability to maintain possession and increasing momentum (20-22).

Pacy young full-back Tom Brown contributed well when the counter was on
So it continued for the majority of the half as a Scottish side starved of possession could not bring its attacking threat into the match.

An opportunity to do so arrived with about 15 minutes remaining.

With a sniff of ball, Scotland ran through some quick phases and sprinted their way into the Irish half where they were awarded a penalty that allowed Wight to regain the lead.

Unfortunately this lead was short lived as a Keeshan penalty, combined with the a second Scotland yellow card (this time for Andy Dunlop) put them two points ahead before the Irish bulldozed over their third score of the half through replacement front-row Ger Slattery.

Keeshan’s conversion meant that the Scots were now trailing by more than the score with time running out in a half in which they had, in the main, been absent from (23-32).

However, with ball, the Scots once again showed they were a potent attacking threat and hand burst into the Irish half in a final flury.

When the move ultimately broke down on the 5m line, it was the veteran Kelly (playing his last match for the side) who crashed over.

Wight added the extras seconds before time to give the hosts one last play at snatching the tie but, after several tense phases, they were turned over and the match was lost.

FINAL SCORE: 30-32

Scotland club XV: Tom Brown; Fraser Thomson, Ross Curle, Dean Kelbrick, Dougie Fife; Scott Wight, Richard Sneddon; Gordon Reid, Eric Milligan, Bruce McNeil, Rory McKay, Damien Kelly, John Dalziel CAPTAIN, Rob Colhoun, Ross Weston
Substitutes: Alan Dymock, Finlay Gillies, Nick Campbell, Andy Dunlop, Andy Dymock, Matt Scott, Harry Duthie

Ireland club XV: John O’Brien; John Cleary, Eric Maloney, Evan Ryan; Barry Keeshan, Matthew D’Arcy; John Ryan, Richie Sweeney, Christy Condon, Philip Donnellan, Simon Crawford, Hugh Hogan, Garry O’Mahony, Frank Cogan
Substitutes: Ger Slattery, Ciaran Kavanagh, Liam OG Murphy, Damian Hall, Gerard Harley, Alan Kingsley, Stuart Morrow