A BRIDGE TOO FAR FOR VIRGINIA RFC U18
Virginia travelled to Letterkenny on Saturday 22nd of April for their Cup semi final. The Cavan lads knew the size of the task was huge, Letterkenny were undefeated during the regular season and hot favourite for the Cup title.
From the kick-off Virginia started well and occupied the hosts half of the pitch for the first 5 minutes of the game. Virginia were close to score within the opening minutes when extreme pressure from the forwards put the Donegal team on the back foot. Through good interplay between forwards and backs Virginia walked their way to Letterkenny’s 5 metres line only for the last pass to be dropped short of the line.
Virginia had the slight upper hand and were aggressive in defense a bit too much according to the official who continuously penalised them for off-side.
The penalties offered the Donegal team some respite; it allowed them time to regroup and were clawing their way back in the game.
Half way through the first half, Letterkenny exploited an unforced error by Virginia. The ball was spread wide and Letterkenny winger was able to beat Virginia’s scrambling defense to the line. The conversion was missed leaving the score at 5-0.
Virginia responded well and were awarded a rare penalty by the referee after an infringement in a ruck by one of Lettekenny’s player.
Virginia Georgian prop and captain, Mikhaïl Gordonashvili, opted to kick for the corner. From the ensuing lineout Virginia combined well for Oisin Kiernan to cross over and level the score at 5-5.
The remainder of the half saw both teams fighting hard for possession but nothing more was to be scored.
Letterkenny started the second half strong and very early found themselves near Virginia try line.
They were awarded a lineout and opted for a catch and drive. Virginia were under pressure but Letterkenny’s maul was losing momentum, stalled twice and collapsed. The referee blew his whistle and it looked like he was penalising Virginia for pulling down the maul. But in a confusing move, he slowly made his way in between the post and awarded the home team a penalty try! 12-5 after the easy conversion.
Virginia were throwing themselves at the game but were always stopped in their tracks by a very good Letterkenny defense. It did help the hosts that the official was not as regarding of the hindmost foot on Letterkenny side as he was for the visitors.
Virginia were more than often tackled behind the gain line and could not develop any form of attack.
As the game went on Letterkenny were able to freshen up their team by introducing their 7 subs as the game went on. Virginia had limited options with only one replacement available. The Cavan team was tiring and the home side was growing into the game.
Letterkenny increased their lead through a penalty half way through the second half. 15-5.
Virginia responded well and were more than a match at scrum and lineouts time stealing possession on a few occasions. But it was Letterkenny’s day.
With 12 minutes left Virginia French full back Redmond Égant was sin-binned for a high tackle.
Letterkenny exploited their advantage swiftly. Virginia defense was turned by a clever kick and chase. The ball ended up in Virginia try area. With no fullback cover Letterkenny’s winger pounced and grounded the ball. The difficult conversion was kicked leaving the score at 22-5.
In a last push Virginia made their way up the pitch and managed to score a last minute try when second row Dylan Tighe powered his way over the line from close range. 22-10. The drop goal conversion was missed and the game was over.
A good performance by the Virginia lads but it wasn’t enough on the day to beat an excellent home side.
Letterkenny will take on Armagh in the cup final in a repeat of the league final few weeks ago. Best of luck to both teams.
Season over now for Virginia U18. The cup run showed what great potential this team had and what it could have been without if the season hadn’t been plagued with injuries.
Thanks to the great support on the day and all along the season from parents and others.
The U18 will now lend their support to the club’s U16 in their plate final and the U14 in the Cup semi.