Old Christians 23
IN the end it came down to the team that wanted to win the most and, unquestionably, Old Christians demonstrated their hunger was greatest in this very entertaining Munster Junior League fixture at the Showgrounds on Sunday.
This was a must-win game for Christians as a loss would have meant almost certain demotion to Division 2 next season, so the visitors were well motivated and it showed.
For Skibbereen this was their first match since February 1st due to postponements and cancellations and the absence of match practice was evident – plenty of mistakes were made and the penalty count was high.
Old Christians, with the benefit of a good wind, started in a flurry and caught the home side off guard and were awarded an early penalty try after just five minutes.
A Ger Hurley penalty got Skibbereen on the scoreboard after 15 minutes (7 – 3), only for Christians to respond with a penalty of their own.
Then, after Skibbereen pressure, the referee awarded the home side a penalty try – again to the amazement of players and supporters – and with Hurley’s conversion it brought the sides level at 10 – 10 after 24 minutes.
A Sean Meaney penalty helped Christians lead 13 – 10 as the half-time whistle sounded.
It got a lot better for Old Christians early in the second half when Alan O’Connell powered his way over for a try after four minutes. No conversion this time but the lead was extended to 18 – 10.
Skibbereen responded with a try of ther own, converted by Hurley, and they were now within a point of Christians at 18 – 17 after 17 minutes of the second half.
Psychologically, Skibbereen were now in a better place and had enough time on the clock to press home their advantage.
Skibbereen had also nearly exhausted their bench having sustained too many injuries in this rather physical encounter.
Coming up to 65 minutes on the clock Christians initiated an attack down the touchline, bringing play inside the Skibbereen 22. Switching tactics Christians moved the ball infield and, passing quickly through numerous hands, stretched the Skibbereen defence until Christians’ Niall McCarthy found enough space to slide through and score their third try.
The conversion did not succeed and the score now read 23 – 17 to Christians with 15 minutes to play.
Skibbereen needed a converted try to snatch victory and, in truth, had enough possession and opportunities in the time remaining to achieve that ambition.
But it was not to be their day. When Skibbereen had the possession and were bearing down on the line the Christians defence was not yielding and stood firm.
Other times in those closing minutes the Skibbereen lineout faltered and left them down badly at the critical stage and denied themselves that final push for the line. The hungrier team won on the day.
Next week Skibbereen travel to Waterford to play Waterpark in the final league game of the season.
Skibbereen: Mike Calnan, David Jennings, Peter Stoutt, Ian Hurley, Declan Coppinger, Ivan Jennings, Richie Byrne, Kieran Shannon, Mike Limrick, Ger Hurley, Rory Hone, Alex Maseesee, Denis McCarthy, Darren Lynch, Dave Shannon.
Replacements: Gerard McCarthy, Steve Cotter, Kevin Coombes, Jack O’Driscoll.