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Shannon Survive Late Harlequins Fightback

7th May 2005 By Munster Rugby

Shannon Survive Late Harlequins Fightback

Leading 25 nil at half time, Shannon had to survive a second-half comeback before they overcame Belfast Harlequins 25-20 to retain their AIB League Division One title

Leading 25 nil at half time, Shannon had to survive a second-half comeback before they overcame Belfast Harlequins 25-20 to retain their AIB League Division One title

AIB DIVISION ONE FINAL

Shannon 25 Belfast Harlequins 20

The AIL Division One title heads back to Munster, after Shannon held on for their 7th AIL title despite a determined second half performance from Belfast Harlequins.

Shannon began with conviction, setting out their stall early with a 3 minute penalty from out half Dave Delaney. A drop goal attempt from Delaney shortly after failed to reach its mark, but it showed Shannon s eagerness to lay early claim to the title. Shannon played expansive rugby from the outset, testing the Harlequins defence. Harlequins soaked up this early pressure with some excellent defensive work, but struggled to get possession.

After 13 minutes, second row Eddie Halvey was the first Shannon player to cross the line, but referee Alan Lewis didn t award the try due to Halvey making a double movement. Some ill discipline followed with both reduced to 14 men after Halvey and Harlequin s John Andress was sin binned. Shannon took a firm grip on the first half; with scrum half Frank McNamara in particular putting on a tremendous display while No. 8 Steven Keogh was a driving force in the pack.

Playing with a strong wind in the first half, Shannon got their first try after 21 minutes, with centre Brian Tuohy getting the touchdown after some good work by the back line. It was Tuohy s 8th try of the season, and adding to his top try scorer tally of the season. Delaney converted to give Shannon a 10-0 lead. After 28 minutes, Delaney added a penalty to the score sheet, with Colm McMahon scoring a wondering try from an intercept three minutes later. Although unconverted, it gave Shannon a comfortable 18-0 lead, with Harlequins kept on the back foot, and having extreme difficulty in coming back into the game.

Scrum half McNamara was instrumental in creating the next try, with some excellent ball distribution to Halvey, who drew in the tacklers allowing Nigel Conroy in for Shannon s third try of the half. Delaney converted, giving Shannon a 25-0 cushion at half time.

It was certainly a game of two halves, with Harlequins emerging after half time a team intent on not allowing Shannon an easy victory. Despite a poor first half performance, a penalty in the opening minute of the second half gave them hope, with Ian Humphries notching up three points.

Harlequins continued to reduce the deficit with a try from Matt Mustchin after a some great mauling by the Quin s pack, with Mustchin getting his third try of the season. Quin s winger Stuart Wilson came close to adding another try after 53 minutes, but he was denied after some great defence by Shannon full back Dave O Donovan. Shannon suffered a set back when O Donovan had to be stretchered off the field after 62 minutes after colliding with a television camera positioned near the touchline. O Donovan suffered a gash on his knee and required stitches.

At 68 minutes, Harlequin s Paul McKenzie was denied a try after a great run from the 22, with Eoin Cahill sinbinned for deliberately stopping the ball from coming back to Harlequin s support. Harlequin s were awarded a scrum, and a break by No. 8 didn t amount to a score after some excellent work by flanker John O Connor, who put in a fantastic performance throughout the game.

At 71 minutes, Harlequin s edged closer to Shannon after an excellent individual try from Ian Humphries. With the conversion missed, Shannon supporters were naturally tense, with just under 10 minutes of normal time remaining, and Harlequin s really pushing for scores. Harlequin s full back Johnny Lowe saved a sure try with a perfectly executed ankle tap on Colm McMahon, who looked a shoe in for a try after supporting a break by No. 8 Stephen Keogh. Shannon hearts were racing after Greg Mitchell got a try for Harlequins in the 79th minute, after a pick from the back of a ruck less than five metres from the line. With Humphries adding the conversion, Harlequin s came just five points behind Shannon with just moments left in the game. Shannon held on for a 25-20 victory, despite a fantastic second half performance by Harlequins, who kept Shannon scoreless in the second half, just as Shannon had done in the first half. Man of the Match, Stephen Keogh put his side’s victory down to a superb first half performance, "We really got it right in that opening half. People say that the wind doesn’t win matches and they’re probably right but it certainly was a help to us in the first half and we made good use of it. "In fairness to them they kept plugging away and in the end we were looking a bit shaky but I’m delighted by our overall performance." The victory proved a fitting end to the career of Eddie Halvey who has decided to hang up his boots and it was of course a marvellous start to the coaching career of Mick Galwey in this his inaugural year as coach.

Shannon D O’Donovan; I Dowling, B Tuohy, E Cahill, F McLoughlin; D Delaney, F McNamara; L Hogan, N Conroy, T Buckley, E Halvey, T Hayes (Capt), C McMahon, J O’Connor, S Keogh. Subs: J. Blaney for N. Conroy, F. Roche for L. Hogan, T. Cregan for D. O Donovan, A. Thompson for D. Delaney, D. Quinlan for J. O Connor

Harlequins J Lowe, P McKenzie, G Mitchell, WP Strauss, S Wilson, I Humphreys, A Matchett; J Carey (Capt), N Hanna, J Andress, L McGowan, M Mustchin, S Lamb, D Dougherty, C McCarey. Subs: R. Best for Hannah, D. Fitzpatrick for Andress, D. Barbour for Lamb, A. Gillespie for Dougherty

Referee: Alan Lewis (Leinster)

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