The CRFC St Stephen’s Day clash between the club’s Leitrim and Roscommon players ended in a score line that could not have been more apt given the date on which it took place. With a welcome lull in the recent bad weather, the day stayed fine for the two sides to come together in what was both a highly competitive and tactical game, indicative of the improvements in performance the side have made over recent months.
Leitrim’s players were managed by former Club President Sean McKeon for this fundraising friendly in aid of St Ciarán’s Services in Carrick on Shannon, and the line-up comprised a dazzling array of current and former players and exiles from abroad as well as club captain Colm McWeeney and Youth Coaches Nav Logan and Liam Farrell.
The Roscommon contingent brought a youthful side to the field, with the centre partnership of Will Weaver and Michael Martin at 12 and 13 respectively, injecting the match with the energy and enthusiasm needed to overcome their veteran Leitrim counterparts.
The start of play saw Leitrim come out attacking, pushing Roscommon back into their own half, and forcing them to defend their own line, with a battle-hardened pack including Emmet Argue, Keith Crossan and Killian Kuhl fighting hard to retain possession. Roscommon defended hard, denying Leitrim any points in the early stages of the game, and clearing the ball back out into safer territory.
The momentum began to swing in the opposite direction however, when Roscommon fly-half Eddie Weaver made a break through the Leitrim defense before passing to fullback Conor Layden, who drew the final defender before offloading to Michael Martin who finished the move with a 30 metre sprint to the line to score the first points of the match. Weaver converted to give the Roscommon side an early 7-0 advantage over the Leitrim players.
Leitrim continued to show their strength and experience throughout the first half, denying Roscommon any further points and making numerous gains in both territory and possession going into half-time.
With fresh legs after the short rest, both teams were quickly back down to business but it was the Roscommon side who made the break, with Daniel Layden coming from inside his own half and racing to the line, chased up swiftly by Youth Coach Nav Logan for the Leitrim men. Despite his best efforts, Logan was unable to match the Roscommon number 8’s pace, and Layden carried the ball over the line to score Roscommon’s second try of the match, increasing their advantage to 12-0.
The third try of the match came via a long pass from the Roscommon scrum-half to flanker Justin Farrell, who showed remarkable skill and dexterity, drawing in the opposition centre’s to release Michael Martin, setting up Martin’s second try for Roscommon with another conversion from fly-half Eddie Weaver, taking the score up to a healthy 19-0. Moments later, Eddie Weaver pounced on a Leitrim spilt ball and dived over in the corner to score Roscommon’s fourth try which he went on to convert from the touchline, seeing Roscommon lead play by 26-0.
With all to play for, the last quarter of the game saw Leitrim’s experienced pack pile on the pressure, being rewarded with two penalty tries for repeated infringements after periods of sustained pressure from the pack. With conversions taken by Burns, Leitrim quickly increased their score line to 12 points.
Despite their best efforts, Leitrim were unable to improve on the 26-12 score in favour of the club’s Roscommon players, but the match gave all team members a welcome opportunity to get some match time ahead of next weekend’s league fixture home to Cregg’s RFC when Carrick will seek to retain their top 4 position in the league.
Thanks to Peter Hollage for refereeing the match and the excellent support from the touchline. A collection was made at the match in aid of St Ciarán’s services, raising a total of €550.00.