Ballymena 11 23 Shannon
Cork Constitution 20 10 Clontarf
Buccaneers 20 30 Blackrock College
Dolphin 24 17 U.C.D.
Dungannon 23 29 Garryowen
Galwegians 29 8 Belfast Harlequins
Lansdowne 34 18 St. Mary's College
U.L.Bohemians 43 8 Terenure College
AIB League Division 2
Barnhall 16 15 Malone
Bective Rangers 16 23 Young Munster
Co. Carlow 13 25 Highfield
Greystones 27 23 D.L.S.P.
Midleton 23 26 Suttonians
Old Belvedere 10 20 Dublin University
Old Crescent 20 10 Thomond
U.C.C. 28 21 Clonakilty
AIB League Division 3
Ballynahinch 8 6 Nenagh Ormond
Banbridge 15 10 Sunday's Well
Connemara 18 5 City of Derry
Corinthians 15 17 Rainey Old Boys
Instonians 23 13 Bruff
Portadown 0 32 Old Wesley
Queens University 22 7 Waterpark
Wanderers 11 3 Ards
Thompson tops 1000 as Shannon open league with a win.
Ballymena 11 Shannon 23
Reigning AIB league champions were forced to endure a tense and fretful second half before they secured an opening round win in the new campaign against Ballymena last Saturday. It took a monumental and often heroic defensive display to hold out a Ballymena side who can deem themselves unfortunate that they lost to Shannon for the third successive season.
The feeling of relief was palpable when Shannon eventually lifted the siege and consolidated their win when David Quinlan scored a try at the death. Up to that point it was all one way traffic in the second half with Ballymena dominating both possession and territory, however try as they might they could only reduce Shannon s halftime 17-6 lead by a single try. Ballymena will rue three missed attempts at goal in that second half, and had their South African full back Dirke Strydom his kicking boots on, their desperate attempts at clinching a winner may not have needed to be as frantic.
Shannon began this game with several new introductions to AIB league rugby and in a scrappy opening they soon found their feet, but it was the home side that scored first through a penalty when they were applying all the early pressure. Shannon s response was quick and decisive when Mark Tuohy scored a fine try after 10 minutes. Colm McMahon and Sean Cronin Combined well down the right flank to release Tuohy who ran a clever line which ensured he had a clear gallop to the line from just outside the 22.
Andrew Thompson added the extras and in doing so notched up a personnel milestone of topping 1000 all time AIB league points. It s yet another remarkable achievement for a fantastic servant to club rugby, but any celebrations would wait until after the game. Shannon were establishing a confident rhythm and had the upper hand as the half progressed. A yellow card for Ballymena s Simon Shaw after a high tackle on Thompson yielded another three points and Shannon s numerical advantage was soon converted to more points on the board when David O Donovan crossed for his side s second try.
From a deep inside his own half Mark Tuohy gathered a loose clearance and his decision to counter attack was proven right. The ball passed through several hands and Ballymena s commitment to tackles and rucks resulted in the inevitable overlap and O Donovan made no mistake and touched down beneath the posts. Thompson added the conversion and Shannon now had a comfortable 17-3 lead.
The home side were by no means overrun and still posed a threat, especially from their powerful forward unit. On the occasions they found themselves close to Shannon s line their pack always seemed confident enough to score, but a resolute Shannon defence kept them at bay several times. They could be accused of being over confidant when they spurned very favourable penalty chances and elected to take on Shannon s scrum. They did manage to reduce the lead just before the break when after several failed attempts at crossing for a try they eventually took the route of a drop goal through scrum half David Drake.
It had all the appearances of a minor blip for Shannon and the indications were that they had the ability to finish off the job despite a little creakiness in their scrum. The confidence continued after the break when Shannon could have increased their lead after a marauding run by Tony Buckley led Shannon close to the line but Ballymena held out and what followed could accurately be described as dominance by the home side. They were helped somewhat by a high penalty count in their favour and it s much to the credit of Shannon s stubborn defence that they couldn t capitalise.
Two penalty misses didn t help Ballymena s cause, but eventually their persistent threats paid off, only after Shannon s Donnacha Ryan was sin binned, mainly due to a series of technical infringements by his colleagues. Ballymena s try came after Shannon withstood an onslaught of scrums close to the line and the home side had little option but to move wide, with success. Replacement winger Craig Woods crossed, but Strydom s missed conversion meant that the home side would have to score a converted try to take the lead. However, try as they might they failed to breach a very well organised Shannon defence.
As time ticked away, Ballymena again laid siege on Shannon s 7 man pack, but again they were held at bay and Ryan s reintroduction was a timely boost.
Shannon turned over a ruck and lifted the siege and as Ballymena tried to reassert territorial advantage a loose ball from a ruck was pounced on by the ever alert Quinlan who raced from the halfway line to seal the win for the visitors.
Shannon will be more than happy to come away from a notoriously difficult venue with a win, especially in the first game of the campaign. They will however be under no illusion that improvements are required.
D.O Donovan M. Tuohy, A. Finn, J. Clogan, S. Kelly, A. Thompson, F.McNamara T.Buckley(L.Hogan) (F.Roche), S.Cronin, F.Roche, D.Ryan,F.Walsh, A Meany (P.O Brien), C.McMahon, (Capt), D.Quinlan.
Andrew Mc Namara
Shannon RFC PRO