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Last Saturday saw Holywood make the short journey to Stormont to face Civil Service in the next of their Gordon West Cup round robin matches. The travelling supporters weren’t to be disappointed when Holywood ran out victors by 25 – 33.

Holywood kicked off into the face of a good breeze on a perfect pitch that was to be the suitable stage for the feast of entertaining rugby that was to follow. The Civil Service pack failed to catch the starting kick cleanly which allowed Holywood’s pumped up pack to pour through their defence. Having tried to steady the ship the clearance kick from the Civil Service out half was charged down by Gareth Hillen but the ball bounced tantalisingly out of his reach and into touch. Nevertheless, Holywood were now camped on Civil Service’s 5 metre line and the first attempt by skipper Stevie Glover to dart over was held up just short. Civil Service were given the scrum but Holywood pushed them off the ball and Matt Mullan dived over for what looked like a good score, only for it to be disallowed.

The first ten minutes of the game belonged entirely to Holywood who had dug in deep in Civil Service territory. Unfortunately a momentary lapse of concentration allowed Civil Service off the hook and the opportunity to not only clear their lines but also put Holywood very much on the back foot. The Holywood defence had 3 different opportunities to clear their line but on each occasion managed to mess things up so it was only a matter of time before they were made to pay for their mistakes. A catch and drive form a lineout 5 metres out opened the scoring for Civil Service and although the kick was missed Holywood found themselves on the wrong side of the 5 – 0 score line.

Despite the setback this Holywood team don’t let their heads drop and went straight back on the attack and played the next ten minutes in Civil Service’s half despite some long clearing kicks from the home side’s defence. The pressure eventually told whenever Civil Service conceded a penalty just outside their own 22 but Gareth Hillen’s effort at the three points on offer drifted wide on the wind. The subsequent 22 dropout gave Holywood the breakthrough they were looking for. A ruck and quick ball sent Gareth Hillen bursting up the blindside and a clever short pass gave Ivan DePledge the chance to stretch his legs and sprint into the corner from 20 metres out, despite a blatant trip attempt by a player. Again from far out the conversion attempt drifted wide but the deficit had been cut to 7 – 5.

The restart gave Civil Service a rare visit into Holywood’s territory and in their efforts to put width on the ball their centre was caught in possession and turned over. For a completely inexplicable reason the ref penalised Holywood whenever it was quite clearly a Civil Service hand in the ruck but justice was done whenever the penalty, in front of the posts, was missed.

This seemed to give Holywood a lift as a period of great interplay between backs and forwards took play back up into Civil Service’s half of the pitch. This period of play saw yet another late tackle on a Holywood player go unpunished in terms of a spell in the sin bin because by then the ref had begun to lose control. Blatant late tackles, continuous offsides at rucks, non-stop moaning, head strangling tackles and players running 30 yards to get involved in nothing can best be quelled by a ten minute stint behind the posts. The ref didn’t avail of the chances with the result that the game was peppered with strange decisions and a feeling that it could boil over at any moment. To the credit of the Holywood team they stood above all of that and did not take the law into their own hands although the temptation must have been very strong to do so.

Having been awarded a 5 metre scum at their own line Civil Service were pushed off it by the impressive Holywood eight and Stevie Gilliland was able to pick up from the back of the scrum and plough over to score. Gareth Hillen added the extras to give Holywood a 7 – 12 lead with only a few minutes left of the first half.

Those three minutes were enough though to give the ref a chance to miss seeing the Civil Service scrum deliberately wheeling the set piece because that was the only weapon they had in that arena, the ref to give another strange decision and allow Civil Service to reduce the deficit to 10 – 12 and Civil Service to lose a prop with a dislocated elbow from a one-on-one tackle.

Holywood had the wind at their backs for the second half and began to use it to good effect with Stevie Leyland ensuring that Civil Service stayed camped in their own half. They were eventually allowed following the strangest call for a fair catch that will be seen in a long while. The catch was good but the call of “mark” was not made but rather the only noise that was heard was groan that came out of the catcher as he hit the ground. Another strange decision from the man in the middle! It was though the chance for Civil Service to break loose and their efforts were rewarded when Holywood gifted them a three point penalty in front of the posts to regain the lead at 13 – 12.

The next strange decision came on 10 minutes when Joe Wood brought gasps from the crowd with the ferocity of a fair tackle on a rampaging Civil Service back. The ref was the only person in Stormont, including the Civil Service player who had no complaints at all, to find something wrong with the tackle and penalised Holywood. The resultant Civil Service line out was turned over by Holywood and as they progressed upfield it was time for the Holywood pack to make their mark on the second half. Another great take in the line by Matt Mullan saw the Holywood eight drive for the line and present Ivan DePledge with a 1 yard sprint and touchdown for his second try of the afternoon. Gareth Hillen converted and Holywood were back in the lead at 13 – 19.

Almost straight from the kick off Civil Service broke out after passing the ball out across their line. Unfortunately the last pass was about a yard forward but the ref was, by his own admission, unsighted and the Civil Service winger scored in the corner. The missed conversion left Holywood still ahead by 18 – 19 after 20 minutes of the second half.

The final quarter of the game got underway in bizarre circumstances. Holywood’s restart kick was beautifully caught by a sprinting Peter Storeng who set up Holywood to attack the Civil Service line. The pressure was mounting whenever a pass was intercepted and the Civil Service back ran the length of the pitch to score under the posts. Not a lot of people saw who gave the intercepted pass but Stevie Leyland knows who did it! The conversion left Holywood trailing again at 25 – 19.

This Holywood team never know when they’re beaten and back they went into the Civil Service half in the search for more points. With only 10 minutes left they spurned an easy 3 point penalty and chose a scrum instead. Two rucks later and Stevie Leyland had enough of a gap to waltz through and score. Gareth Hillen added the conversion and Holywood had retaken the lead at 25 – 26.

Two minutes later and Holywood were back inside Civil Service territory. A lineout at Civil Service’s 22 metre line saw another pinpoint throw from Cormac Smyth to Matt Mullan which gave Stevie Leyland just enough time to chip the ball into the Civil Service in-goal area. First to arrive was the long striding Joe Wood who used all of his height to reach the ball and score and all of his bulk to fend off the defence. The conversion by Gareth Hillen took Holywood’s lead to 25 – 33.

Civil Service themselves still refused to accept defeat and came back strongly only to have their attack nullified by a long raking kick out of hand in open play by Gareth Hillen which ensured that the final moments of the game were played out inside Civil Service’s 22 metre area.

When the ref blew for no side Holywood were delighted that their unbeaten cup run continued but the coach and backroom staff can be well pleased that their side showed much more discipline and focus than on previous weeks. Man of the match candidates were thick on the ground including Cormac Smyth and Matt Mullan for their excellent work in the lineout and in broken play, Gareth Hillen for his display of hard and smart rugby, Johnny Elliot for showing that some forwards do actually know how and when to pass along with Joe Wood for being an ever present rock in defence and threat in attack. The award however went to Ivan DePledge for having played through the pain barrier, putting in a vintage display of front row rugby and topping his day off with two tries.

2nd XV

Holywood 2nd XV hosted Carrick on a perfect day for playing rugby, with very little wind and the sun shining over the pitch. The lads looked up for the game and were hoping to kick start the season which has been disappointing so far. With last week’s centre partnership not available the untried pairing of Ritchie McRoberts and Jonny Rodgers were called in and to their credit did all that could be asked from them in what was always going to be a tough physical game.

Carrick came out strong and the first ten minutes were looking interesting as both sides had a go at each other but on eleven minutes Carrick broke through the Holywood defence and scored under the posts. This was converted and the score was 0-7. Holywood kicked off and the ball fell short of the ten. From the resulting scrum Carrick broke up the field to score again with the conversion making it 0-14. From defending this try Simon Hobson took a knock to his neck which needed treatment to get him back on his feet and to his credit he played on for the rest of the match when others may have been tempted to call it a day.

The first half continued as it started and with the score at halftime 0-38 it was going to be a difficult team talk for the skipper at the break.
Carrick started the second half where they left off and scored early in the second half which was converted to bring the score to 0-45 but shortly after some good work by the pack Holywood were awarded a penalty 20 yards out which was kicked by Robert Cooper to bring the score to 3-45.

There then followed some good play by Holywood but in the end Carrick scored again with conversion to stretch the lead to 3-52,when they scored again five minutes later to take the score to 03-57 the ref called time on what was a hard work out for the Holywood team who despite the score line worked hard to the end of the match.


This week Holywood 1sts are away to Ballyshannon in the league so if anyone is up in Donegal for the weekend they would be most welcome to support the team! The
2nd XV are at home to Ophir and the team would hope to see more spectators and supporters down to cheer the lads on and can get their first league points of the season.

Don’t forget that on Saturday the 2nd October live rock band, “SECOND FLOOR SCANDAL” will be playing at the Club. Admission will be £5 only and all proceeds are being very kindly donated to the Cancer Care Bridgewater Suite in the City Hospital and Marie Curie Cancer Care. These are charities close to many of our hearts so let’s ensure that this event is well supported!

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