NEWCASTLE WEST………………………………………………………………17

Newcastle West reached the Promised Land of Munster Junior Rugby League Division 1 after overcoming Mallow in a nail biting contest at Mallow on Sunday. Sun drenched Mallow was no place for the faint hearted as too committed, enthusiastic sides left everything on the pitch in a bid for promotion to the top tier.

Newcastle West claimed the spoils and while it was all happening, away in east Clare, Limerick side St. Mary’s were scoring a bonus point win over Scariff to be crowned Division 2 champions meaning the west Limerick club had to settle for the second promotion spot.

It was a historic day for both clubs who were bidding to reach Division 1 for the first time in their history and it is one of the cruel realities of sport that there must be winners and losers. The sides had only each lost just once in league fare in the current season before Sunday’s showdown, so disappointment was the inevitable outcome for one side. Mallow came into the game leading the table by three points from Newcastle West and St. Mary’s and in the end it was they who missed out and must try all over again next season

The hosts will not have to probe too deeply into why it is the west Limerick side that will compete at the higher level next season. During two different periods late in the first half and again at the very end during the 10 minutes of additional time , they pulverised the visitors line but could not find a way through due to the quality of the Newcastle West defence and some bad decision making on their own part. Mallow’s play when in prime attacking positions was predictable and for that reason it did not yield the dividend necessary to put vital points on the board. At the end of the day, tries usually decide games and in this high octane contest, it was Newcastle West who succeeded in registering two, even if one was in dramatic circumstances. The first try was highly controversial when the ball bounced in the in goal area and a Mallow defender under siege from the Kelly bothers palmed the ball over the dead ball line only for referee Mr. Butson to immediately go under the sticks to award a penalty try. It appeared a harsh decision but the referee was left with little option but to apply the letter of the law.

Newcastle West got off to a perfect start when in a first foray into enemy territory, out half Seán Neville dropped a neat goal with just three minutes gone. It was an early blow that quickly spurred Mallow into a response and when a Newcastle West player strayed offside on seven minutes, Michael Flynn exacted full retribution by converting the penalty. The restoration of parity heralded a period of Mallow dominance. Robbie Doyle went close with a drop goal attempt after 11 minutes while on 24 minutes the home side were awarded a penalty in a kickable position and inexplicably took a quick tap when three points were up for grabs on a day that place kicker Michael O’Flynn was happy to snatch every opportunity. Mallow were in full flow at this time, Sam Holt’s darting runs were a source of concern to the visitors whose rearguard was now in receipt of a pounding. But no matter how hard Mallow tried they were unable find any fault lines in the Newcastle West defence and the half ended all square at 3-3.

Mallow drew first blood in the second half when O’Flynn’s radar was spot on in the 48th minute to nudge his side ahead for what transpired to be the only time in the game. The lead lasted just ten minutes when the controversial try arrived and Alan Roche provided the extras to put the first bit of daylight between the sides, 10-6 to the visitors. It got worse for the home side eight minutes later when Newcastle West applied pressure in the right corner and eventually it was captain Declan Moloney that got over for the touch down to which Roche converted brilliantly from the touchline. Now trailing 17-6, promotion seemed to be rapidly slipping away from the home side with just 14 minutes remaining. However O’Flynn kept his nerve on 70 and 76 minutes to land two penalties to set up a nail biting finale. Doyle was off target with another drop goal attempt just as the clock ticked into injury time and Newcastle West had a very narrow escape a minute later. Michael O’Flynn was the instigator of the move when he followed his own kick through that bounced unkindly for Alan Roche but somehow the full back claimed possession and scrambled the ball to the sanctuary of the touch line. Mallow kept coming forward and camped on the Newcastle West line and were awarded a couple of penalties and because of the five point deficit had to opt for the scrum on each occasion. Michael Sweeney came the nearest to salvaging the outcome for Mallow when he was help up tantalisingly literally inches from the line. But it was not to be for Mallow and they went down fighting in what was a memorable day and a special win for Newcastle West.

Mallow: Dave Walsh; Leonard Browne, Michael Sweeney, Michael Flynn, Richard Weedle; Robbie Doyle, Sam Holt; Chris O’Regan, Frankie Thornton, Ray Roche; Neill Lucey, John McAuliffe; Owen Glynn, Denis Murphy and Seán Glynn.

Replacements: Donal Lucey, Jason Sheehan, Des O’Callaghan, Graeme Kelly and Rory McSharry.

Newcastle West: Alan Roche; Tommy Kelleher, Seán Berkery, Stephen Kelly, James Kelly; Seán Neville, Michael O’Leary; Shane Magner, Seán Corbett, Declan Moloney (capt); John Sheehan, Alan O’Riordan; Michael Culhane, Mikey Berkery and Rory Keating.

Replacements: James Lane, Donal Egan, James Corbett, Brian Doherty and Niall Kelleher.

Referee: Adrian Butson, M.A.R.