Sunday’s Well 20, MU Barnhall 26.

The form guide didn’t look good ahead of last Saturday’s clash at Irish Independent Park. MU Barnhall were the visitors; the table-toppers who won all their previous 13 matches; including a series of convincing wins in their double-header with their closest challengers Greystones. For the ‘Well; it has been unfortunately a different story; with 9 successive defeats before this game.
Despite these stark statistics there was a positive and expecting vibe around the club ahead of kick-off. This wasn’t just blind-faith.  The squad have been extremely competitive and unlucky to lose their recent matches against other top sides. The squad hasn’t wallowed in self-pity and have retained a focus and determination. With the attrtional nature of the league, the squad depth has been tested with  players young and old stepping up to the plate.

Much of that confidence could have easily been dissipated in the first ten minutes. There certainly was no underestimation of the Kildare side and they showed their class. They managed to get themselves into strong attacking positions; with line-outs and scrums deep in the ‘Well Twenty-Two. The powerful and quick Michael Mellett finished off an initial move before Dan Murphy powered his way over. Adam Chester converted the latter try to put his side 12-0 in front. To the casual fan or outsider; it might have looked like a whitewash was beckoning,
The ‘Well didn’t drop their heads. Barnhall had managed to get into ideal attacking positions and the ‘Well’s intensified defence reduced those opportunities for the remainder of the half. Cyprien Jouve led by example with magnificent cover tackling and the players constantly trusted their team-mates to cover their men rather than over committing.
They also displayed their potency in attack. The set-piece was excellent with Willie McCarthy at the heart of it. The hooker was sublime at the line-out with James Mulcahy and Cormac Kelliher not only able to secure possession but also get quality possession from which they could launch a variant of attacks. They were also getting the upper-hand in the scrum with the returning Evan O’Connell having a great game while fellow prop Michael Moynihan was his usual abrasive self.
Sean Glynn and Shane Desmond were also among those carrying strongly in the tight and regularly burst their way over the gain-line with a mixture of power and determination. Eoin Geary was also making some decent breaks while his half-back colleague Peter Arigho controlled the tempo of the attack. Having gotten on the front-foot that started to win some penalties. Eoin Geay produced a great touch-finder into the strong cross-field win to give the ‘Well a line-out in the opposing 22. After initial obstruction; they had another kick to the corner. Willie McCarthy broke off and powered towards the line. The ball was recycled and Shane Desmond wriggled over to the delight of the vocal home support.
The ‘Well continued to press and the line-out again was central to their threat. Kelliher was taken out in the air leading to a yellow-card for perpetrator Paul Nalty. The resulting kick to touch was just outside the 22. The ‘Well secured possession and showed great unity of purpose with a magnificent driving maul. They were certain of getting over but just two metres short it was pulled down. They were awarded a penalty but no further action was taken and the ‘Well were unable to get in for another try before the break.

A magnificent kick-off to the second-half was gathered by Sean Glynn who burst towards the 22. Eventually a penalty was rewarded for a deliberate knock on and the ‘Well went to the corner. Perhaps with some worries from the first-half, Barnhall  didn’t challenge the maul. James Mulcahy had secured possession and made sure no one drove in front of him as he raced to the line and then pirhoutted his way round the eventual tackle to touch-down.
There was a great ebb and flow to the game with both sides hammering away and not giving an inch. Barnhall looked to go back to basics and let their pack dictate matters around the tight to get go-forward ball with Tom McKEown making some big carries. Once they got into the 22 they were always a major threat and Nathan Veltom finally went over with Chester converting to extend their lead to nine.
Barnhall seemed to be setting up another attack from half-way as they looked to utilise their powerful back-line. However; the alert Josh Featherstone read their intentions and shot out of the defensive line to steal the ball. He raced up to the Twenty-Two but couldn’t quite make it to the line. However; the ‘Well reacted superbly running great support lines and some perfectly timed passes took out the quickly recovering Barnhall defence with Darragh O’Sullivan rewarded for his effort and smart running-line as he touched down. Brian Derham; who took over kicking duties for the injured Eoin Geary added the conversion.
Barnhall again battered away at the line. The ‘Well defended bravely but eventually with a penalty-advantage awarded Adam Chester chipped through. The ball ricocheted off the large pads on the post taking out the defenders who had the ball covered and it fell nicely for Chester who converted his own score.

The ‘Well got into losing bonus-point territory with a Derham penalty. They then had one final opportunity; with a kick to the corner but for once the line-out malfunctioned as they throw to the back just strayed slightly towards the ‘Well side of the line. Unfortunately the ‘Well couldn’t muster any further notable efforts and did get a small bit of luck as Barnhall missed a late penalty that would have cruelly denied the valiant hosts a deserved losing bonus-point.

 With four games to go; the ‘Well are five points adrift of Belfast Harlequins but do face them at home in the penultimate game.  It is still everything to play for and their should be plenty of twists and turns left. The ‘Well have shown they are capable of competing with all sides in this division but just have consistently lacked that little bit of luck and the literal bounce of the ball. A tough game against Dungannon is next on the agenda and the team will hopefully get that rub of the green.

Scorers: Sunday’s Well: S Desmond, J Mulcahy, D O’Sullivan tries; B Derham con, pen.
MU Barnhall: A Chester try, 3 cons; M Mellett, D Murphy, N Veltom tries.  
Sunday’s Well: B Derham; J Kiernan, D O’Sullivan, C Jouve (c), P Hegarty; E Geary, P Arigho; E O’Connell, W McCarthy, M Moynihan; S Desmond, J Barnes; J Mulcahy, C Kelliher, S Glynn. Replacements: N O’Donoghue, I Murphy, O Glynn, E Ackland, J Featherstone.
MU Barnhall: E Quinn; M Mellett, D Stewart, S Dwyer, L Mellett; A Chester, R Holt; G Brooks, G Murray, D Jennings; N Veltom, D Murphy; P Nalty, D Thomas, T McKeown (c). Replacements: B de Carvalho, P Courtney, S Stokes, D Hudson, R Mullen.
Referee: M Scanlon (IRFU)

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