Charleville RFC 7 - 13 Mallow RFC
Mallow made the short trip up the road to Charleville for the latest North Cork derby in this Munster Junior 2 division. Both teams went into this game feeling the need to inflict revenge on their opponents. Mallow were responsible for relegating Charleville and knocking them out of the County Cup 2 years ago while Charleville are to date the only team to conquer Mallow in all competitions this season. For these reasons, this game was set up to be a gritty battle between two near neighbours. Throughout the warm-up, a heavy drizzle fell over Charleville and just as the referee whistled to start the game, a downpour descended on players and supporters saturating anyone not under an umbrella. This resulted in a much tighter affair, forcing both teams to play a cautious and slower brand of rugby than perhaps they would've liked. That said, while the weather may have dampened proceedings, it failed to dampen excitement levels throughout this contest. Charleville to their credit got off to the better start, seeking to stamp their authority on the tie. Their strong pack sought to dictate proceedings and indeed they got the upper hand for the majority of the first half. Their dominance in the scrum was paying dividends during the opening 20 minutes, so much so that Mallow's loose-head Tysone Stephens was penalised and sin-binned for an over-reaction at a scrum. Mallow's defence contained the threat of Charleville's pack until the 15th minute. Following countless solid pick-and-go's, the home side breached Mallow's try line as Dan O' Dwyer grounded for the game's opening 7-pointer, which out half, Jesse Smith converted. True to expectations however, Mallow managed to drag themselves back into this game. The home side brought relentlessly quick line speed and accurate tackling, while often succeeding in latching onto the ball sufficiently to regularly take the tempo out of Mallow’s game. Although under pressure, the Mallow line-out was coping well and anytime the visitors got their rolling maul going, it caused havoc in the opposition. Indeed, similar to their 5th try in Irish Independent Park last week, it was an excellent rolling maul which brought about Mallow's opening score of the match. No.8 Mike Lenihan caught a fine Timmy Fitzgerald line-out throw. As he came down, Hugh Keena, Chris O' Regan, Sean Hannon and Owen Glynn set up the maul and got a dominating shove on. Tysone Stephens was on the end of the maul to dot down for his third try of the season. Jimmy Glynn converted to level the match at 7 points a piece. Mike O' Flynn almost got a second out wide only for the greasy ball to slip from his grasp with the try line beckoning. Glynn hit the upright with a penalty attempt shortly afterwards as the sides went into half time all square.
As the second half began, the sun finally broke through the clouds. Mallow looked to exit their half and kick for territory whenever possible. Charleville refused to bend the knee however and they often managed to get good field position of their own. Mike Sweeney, Owen Glynn and Mike Lenihan repeatedly carried with gusto getting Mallow front foot ball in the tight and close quarters. Mallow added another penalty to go into a 10-7 lead after fifteen minutes of the second half before sending on David Walsh, Dan McCarthy and Sean Glynn to bolster the ranks. The visitors looked to get their attack firing through their backs and on the hour mark, the ball made a rare expedition out wide before Jimmy Glynn was tackled late having just put boot to ball. The resultant penalty from where the ball landed was duly knocked over and this put some daylight between these bitter rivals. Mallow led 13-7 going into the final quarter. Charleville had a penalty attempt deemed wide by the referee to leave the men from the Blackwater valley 6 points to the good. The home side fought tooth and nail to get themselves a converted try at the death. Despite the extremely tense closing moments Mallow managed to hold out and claim the first Division 2 title in their history. It was a proud day for the club and to do it with a game to spare highlights just how good a season they have had to date. Were it not for the strong support Mallow have had all year, Mallow may not have reached such heights.
Next up for Mallow is a Junior Cup fixture against AIL giants Cork Con in Temple Hill on Monday, February 25th at 7.45pm. Looking beyond that however is Mallow's last league game of the season where they face relegation-threatened Waterford City at home on March 3rd.
Updated 19:00 - 19 Feb 2019 by Michael Sweeney