Ulster Bank League Roundup

by Conor Donnelly

A 100 metres, the length of the Donnybrook rugby pitch isall that separates the Bective Rangers Clubhouse from that of Old Wesley’s and this past Saturday the gap was filled when the two sides met on Derby day.The noisy neighbours is how Alex Ferguson once famously referred to his cross town rivals, Manchester City, at a press conference and it is a label I am sure some Bective members would apply to their co-tenants when the famous Wesley disco is in full flow.

 A supporter at a DLSP game once remarked to me that the only thing the two clubs shared was the pitch, but talking to officials from both sides before the game it became clear that  Bective, and Old Wesley rivalry was not quite as heated as  it might look to outsiders.

Indeed the thing that divides them, the Donnybrook pitch,also unites them in many ways. Both teams are in constant communication with each other about the pitch’s usage and I got the sense that these conversations have meant that there is no deep rooted hatred for one another and their’s is a rivalry more of competive friends than bitter enemies. Wesley PRO, Billy Browne,even went so far as to suggest to me that both clubs had bigger rivals elsewhere in the Dublin rugby scene.

That might be borne out of the extraordinary fact that despite the close proximity off the field, since the All Ireland leagues inception in 1990, on it they have been miles apart. Bective have toiled away for much of the league’s existence in Division Two, while Wesley spent a number of years in Division One before relegation. This has meant that Bective and Wesley have only met a handful of times, with Rangers coming out on top in the last two match ups.

Bitter sporting rivalries are built over decades on the pitch, with perceived slights by one team on another in games that occurred in bygone years passed on to generation after generation of players acting as the lifeblood for the rivalry. Bective and Wesley share no such blood stream.

That is not to say however that the game is as gentle as a summer breeze, far from it. The now annual contest is still a special one off event according to Bective Head Coach, Kevin Lewis, who added that form often goes out the window in the contest. Wesley invited all past players and members to attend the game and over 200 turned up to support their team in the clash for bragging rights and all important league points.

Those who were in attendances witnessed a real humdinger of a derby match. What the first half lacked in attacking finesse and cutting edge was more than compensated by the hard hitting and honesty of effort from both teams. Bective struck first through the boot of impressive outhalf, Georiod O’Grady.

Wesley hit back with a penalty of their own before Rangers crossed the line on thirty minutes to leave the scores 8-3 at half time. The temperature in the stands may have been dropping but the mercury levels on the field were bursting through the thermometer as the game became an open contest.  It was end to end stuff with the crowd looking more like that at Wimbledon, their eyes going from one end to another following the action. The introduction for Wesley of Dave Van Zyl added pace into their attack and it was the sub that reduced Bective’s lead to a mere two points with a drop goal.

The game remained on a knife edge up until the sixtieth minute when an excellent block by Bective number 8, Conor Harbison saw the back row scamper over the line for a try and a 15-6 lead. The nine point cushion would last for only three minuets however, as Wesley scored a try following an excellent move that saw the ball shifted from one wing to another before Brian McLaughlin touched down to make the scoreboard read 15-13.The Wesley Alumni and supporters were in full voice with ten minutes to go, urging their team on in pursuit of a winning score,Howver over exuberance by the players at the breakdown offered the ever reliable O’Grady the chance to put the game out of reach, which the Tullamore man did with two late penalty to give Bective a 21-13 win, the points and the bragging rights over the neighbours for another year.

Thoughts from around the League

What has happened to Old Belvedere? We have all heard of championship hangovers but Belvedere’s season-long malaise has seen last year’s Division 1A champions now look a certainty to be relegated following their loss to fellow league strugglers, Blackrock, on Saturday. It was a do or die battle for both sides, but you felt that Belvedere needed the win more as going in to the game they trailed Blackrock by four points. The loss means that Belvo are now seven points adrift at the bottom of the table and are yet to taste victory this season. The big change between last year and this year teams is points difference. Last year Belvedere finished the season with a plus 82 points difference, this year however they are currently at minus 82 points difference a complete reversal of the previous campaign.

League leaders St.Mary’s survived a scare emerging 13-12 point victors against Garryowen at home on Saturday. The one point win sees Mary’s clinging to first place just two points ahead of Clontarf and four points in front of Young Munster with both sides also enjoying wins at the weekend.

Looking ahead, next weekend’s fixtures for the three main contenders sees Young Munster first up in action with a Friday night game against Shannon at Thomond Park. Saturday sees St.Marys face a tricky trip to Musgrave Park to play Dolphin. Dolphin have already dented second place Clontarf’s title chances, beating them 9-3 last month and will be eager to end Mary’s eight game unbeaten run. Clontarf face bottom side, Old Belvedere, away, and although it looks like Tarf should win easily it should be remembered that they do not travel well with their three losing efforts so far this season all coming on the road.

Division 1B is incredibly tight after the weekend’s action with four points separating top team, Belfast Harlequins, from fifth place Dungannon. Those two teams face each other next Saturday at Stevenson Park in the tie of the round.

Division 2A is a similar story where Dublin University remain ahead of second Place DLSP by six points, while only seven points separate them from seventh place Malone.

Down in Division 2B, Cashel remain the only team in any of the Ulster Bank Leagues undefeated and stay on top of the division.

Author Info

Conor Donnelly

Aspiring Sports Writer, looking to make his way in the world. Writer for www.balls.ie,www.bloophit.blogspot.com.

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