Non-stop Terenure show an appetite for battle
BEFORE kick-off, the seasonal mix of Alaskan cold and blustering wind looked like the perfect foil to Old Wesley's time-honoured practice of shielding the ball in the tight and squeezing the life out of a patently lighter opposition eight at Donnybrook on Saturday. But, Terenure College came offering an uncommon appetite for battle.
Both sides have played two games and won one. At this early stage, a victory would mean mid-table respectability a loss relegation headaches.
"At the start of the season, we would have settled for four points from six going into the Christmas break," said former Irish coach and current Terenure helmsman Gerry Murphy.
The key to Terenure's survival was the scurrying, non-stop attitude of the forwards. And when the game threatened to descend into an all-out brawl (as it did on more than one occasion), Terenure met Old Wesley head on in the physical collision.
In fact, Niall Hogan was lucky to escape with a reprimand from referee David McHugh in the 47th minute. As the ball came back on the Terenure side at ruck, Hogan was blatantly held by Shane Gill. Immediately, Hogan launched into a fistie attack on Gill. This led to a 20-man pile-in. Eventually order was restored.
Terenure paid the price for this folly shortly afterwards when penalised for pulling down a maul. Old Wesley fly-half Adrian Hawe kicked the penalty to dwindle Terenure's lead to 8-6.
This was the culmination of Wesley's fortright determination not to allow what had gone before to shake them out of their stride. But, in the wider scheme of things, the home side were taking a buffeting around the pitch. They could not prevent Terenure from playing a high-paced game.
The back row of Peter O'Malley, Brendan Kavanagh and David Moriarty were suitably destructive when Wesley were in possession and positively constructive when the roles were reversed.
This trio had the legs of their direct opponents around the field, although Chris Pim gave his usual whole-hearted performance in defence of his side. Another to dent the Terenure defence was second row Dave Bursey. His numerous stampedes were directed at both Terenure centres. This did have the effect of committing Ronan Browne and Michael Smyth to the tackle but, invariably, the Terenure back row was first to the breakdown.
Always snapping at their heels was the beavering Hogan. He instigated the only try of the match when starting a Terenure movement that began some 60 metres from the Wesley line. The muscular Browne received the ball approaching halfway, with Ciaran Clarke lurking at his shoulder. The full back took Browne's pass and made ground before chipping over Conor Hoey and winning the race to the line with Andrew Leeson.
This gave Terenure a 5-3 advantage which they never lost. Adrian Hawe had flighted over a fourth minute drop goal to put Wesley in front, before Terenure's Peter Walsh endured a horrendous day with the boot. He missed a remarkable seven kicks from nine. His first success came in the 34th minute and his second, in the 63rd minute, guaranteed that Terenure held on for the two points.