Record crowd see Virginia RFC claim final victory
Virginia hosted Monaghan in the Championship Division 3 promotion play-off final. Virginia pulled out a very strong performance to see off their division rivals on a score of 42-10. Under perfect conditions, both teams played an excellent brand of rugby to the delight of the biggest crowd ever recorded at the Deer Park.
Monaghan elected to kick off with the breeze at their backs, showing their intent to seize the day and hopefully an early lead. However it was Virginia who after 10 minutes of observation, took the advantage. Good work from the pack put their opponents under pressure and gaps started to appear in Monaghan's defence. Following a mix of strong carries by the forwards and good ball handling by the backs, full-back John Cooke outpaced his marker to score in the corner. The conversion was missed, 5-0.
Monaghan reacted well and were helped when Virginia's hooker Evan Charters was shown a yellow card by the referee for a dangerous tackle. With numerical superiority, Monaghan were quick to capitalise following a rare mistake by Virginia near their line. A poor attempt to clear their lines following a pressurised scrum saw Sean Warren's kick blocked in Virginia in-goal area, Monaghan were quicker to react to ground the ball, 5-5 after the tough conversion was missed.
Virginia kept their nerve and once back to full complement, asserted their dominance. In the 30th minute following a line-out on Monaghan's 10m line, Virginia gained great territory with a strong maul, Monaghan collapsed it but Virginia played the advantage and spread the ball wide.
Niall Patterson nearly scored but was stopped metres short of the line. After few phases working the blind side, Virginia spread the ball wide, fly-half Sean Warren found Cillian Cahill, the prop eager to keep the ball alive pulled a great basketball pass to Oisin Kiernan who let the ball bounce before he could gather it to send winger Cormac Lindsay speeding over the line.
John Cooke landed the tough conversion to bring the score to 12-5.
Virginia pressed on and added a third try before half-time; from a ruck on the left hand-side of the pitch the ball landed in John Cooke's hand in a first receiver position, the Crosserlough fullback ran at the defence, sat his defender with a cracking dummy well helped by Kealan O'Connell running a line, Cooke took the gap, O'Connell looped around to take the pass and was stopped only metres from the line.
Followed a couple of strong carries by Cillian Cahill and Kiernan, Conor Cahill eventually scored from close range. Cooke added the conversion and Virginia reached the halfway break with a 19-5 lead.
Virginia U11s, spurred on by their senior team, provided the half-time entertainment by playing an in-house game in a display of skill and running rugby.
Monaghan started the second half strongly, and laid siege near Virginia line. They were rewarded with a few penalties and elected to go for a scrum each time, sensing an opportunity.
On one of them Monaghan No8 Christopher Brady attempted to pick at the back of the scrum but was stopped in his tracks by flanker Luke Brodie. Brady lost control of the ball and winger Cormac Lindsay toe-poked it into touch.
From the ensuing line-out, Monaghan over-threw the ball and it landed in Adam Sherriff's hands. Virginia weathered the storm and were back on the attack!
Monaghan grew tired and started to infringe more frequently; their indiscipline cost them dearly as two well taken penalty kicks from John Cooke allowed Virginia to build the score, to add to their misery Monaghan saw their second-row receiving a yellow card for an infringement at the ruck. 25-5 after 10 minutes in the second half.
On the 55th minute, Virginia once again found themselves deep in Monaghan territory. With a scrum on Monaghan's five metre line near the right hand-side touch line. The ball was picked by Oisin Kiernan, and after a couple shaky passes, captain Niall Patterson inherited the ball under huge pressure. But with one of his trademark runs he broke the gain line and Virginia were advancing again.
Following a strong carry by Oisin Kiernan, Sean Warren got the ball and out ran the defence to score in the left corner. No conversion, 30-5.
Virginia introduced fresh legs, the seasoned veteran Garry Daly went on at hooker for Evan Charters and Jack Tighe replaced Luke Brodie at flanker. It paid off immediately as both were involved in Virginia fifth try.
With a lineout 10 metres from their visitors line, Daly throw hit Conor Cahill and the maul was formed. The pack made good progress and the ball was sent wide. Monaghan defended well initially but were slow to fold and Virginia manage to create a 5 on 3 overlap. Kealan O'Connell drew the last defender to send Jack Tighe over the line. Cooke landed the conversion bringing the score to 37-5.
Virginia gathered the kick-off and from it scored a contender for try of the year!
Luke Brodie, back on the pitch for the injured Oisin Kiernan caught the restart and carried hard, another strong carry by prop Owen Doyle put Monaghan’s defence under pressure.
The ball was spread wide and after great handling by the back-line the ball reached John Cooke who came from his fullback position into the attacking line to create the overlap.
Cooke ran strongly and passed to Connor McHugh, McHugh was eventually stopped near Monaghan's 22m line. Garry Daly carried on the next phase and after a quick recycle Cillian Cahill was next on the carry breaking the gain line.
The ball was spread wide and Sean Warren lasered a flat pass to flanker Liam Gordon, Gordon took the edge, ran at the last defender to send Cormac Lindsay for his second try of the day. The tough conversion was missed, leaving the score to 42-5.
Monaghan reacted and managed to score their second try with minutes remaining when fullback Lorcan McGillan gathered his own fly-half grubber kick. McGillan missed the rushed conversion. 42-10. Not much happened after that as both team were tiring and 2 minutes later the excellent referee on the day Josh Burgess, blew the end of the game to the delight of the Virginia, players, coaches and supporters.
It was a fantastic performance by Virginia men on the pitch and once again a great one too off the pitch only made possible by the effort from all the club's volunteers. See you all again next season in Division 2!