Picture the scenario at the top of the leinster league Division 3 on the 2nd last weekend of the scheduled season. Portarlington RFC the league leaders have 43 points with 2 games left to play, Roscrea RFC in second place have 42 points and a game in hand on the leaders. The old adage of “a Winner takes all game” described the fixture in lea Road perfectly. Victory for Portarlington would all but secure the Championship and promotion, while a win for Roscrea would swing the reward pendulum in their favour. Roscrea had previously beaten their opponents in their earlier season home tie in a game that resulted in some controversy as Roscrea were subsequently docked 7 points for mistakenly fielding an ineligible player. Remarkably, Roscrea who are unbeaten this season and have won all their previous 10 games found themselves in a must win situation when visiting Portarlington RFC despite their endeavours since the season started in September.
Numerical permutations and calculations are one thing, but you still need to make it count on the pitch! When the 2 teams ran onto the field at Lea road, we knew we were in for a battle. We certainly were not to be disappointed. The contest itself started at a ferocious pace, with no quarter given and no territory easily relinquished. The 2 forward packs went at each other relentlessly and every yard gained could only be won with determination and courage. Both out halves kicked for field position intermittently with the swirling wind making finding touch a lottery at times. Roscrea landed the first punch after some great work by the forwards was awarded with a penalty which Sam Queally kicked despite the strong breeze. Portarlington responded in kind to level the score. After that the Roscrea forwards began to find some territory with Mikey Treacy, a veritable wrecking ball put to great use all match, punched his way through the middle. Roscrea scrum Half Stephen Carter found out half Jake Lawlor who fed his back line and after a few recycles, the superb Paul McNamara crossed the line. With halftime approaching Roscrea found themselves 8 – 3 ahead and containing a resurgent Portarlington. With the clock in the red Roscrea attacked the Portarlington defence pushing them back to their own 10m line. Then the sucker punch came as the Roscrea backs decided to go for width and a pass was superbly intercepted by the Portarlington outhalf who fed his winger to race under the posts. Portarlington scored the subsequent conversion giving them a 10 – 8 lead at half time, putting them in the driving seat while Roscrea had it all to do.
The second half started as the first had finished with play moving at a frantic pace. Some excellent work by Antoin Doherty, Ger Stone and Malachy Maher saw Roscrea awarded with a penalty, the ever-reliable Sam Quelly duly converted, giving Roscrea the slenderest of leads. As if it were possible, both teams upped the physicality in search of that season defining score. Every dominant tackle, turnover, territorial advance and strong set piece pushed the teams on as they drew motivation from each small victory. Some great lineout work by the towering 2nd row John Carter aided by fantastic accuracy by ferocious hooker Mikey Fitzgearld, saw Roscrea push closer to the Portarlington line. Sensing a score, the pack formed a maul and pushed over with Mikey Treacy eventually touching down, just reward for his endeavours. With only minute remaining Roscrea were in touching distance of destiny but knew that any lapse in concentration would allow their opposition in for a possible match winning score. Roscrea kept putting the pressure on at the ruck and some excellent work from the pack saw Sam Quealy afforded the opportunity to give his team a 2-score lead from a penalty kick, he duly converted making it 19 – 10. To their eternal credit, Portarlington would not go down without a fight and continued to probe and attack and spent the final minutes hammering at the Roscrea line. But the defiant Roscrea rearguard would not yield, phase after phase of seismic collisions followed. But the day would belong to Roscrea, through raw courage, pride, determination, resilience and an indomitable will to win they seized and won their date with destiny.
Afterwards Roscrea RFC head coach John Maher thanked the supporters who had made the journey to cheer on the team and paid tribute to the contribution of the extended senior panel to the team’s victory. He also commended Portarlington and thanked the hosts for their hospitality.
1.Kieran Stone 2.Mikey Fitzgerald 3.Mikey Treacy 4.John Carter 5.Antoin Doherty 6.Ger Stone (captain) 7.Malachy Maher 8.Seamus Treacy 9.Stephen Carter 10. Jake Lawlor 11.Sam Quealy 12.John Joe Ryan 13.Paul McNamara 14.Johnathon Sutton 15.Gavin Hannon