Malone make it two from two ad they defeat Highfield by 21-14
Malone secured victory against visitors Highfield by 21-14
Hero for the 'Red Sox' side in their opening AIL match at Gibson Park was right winger Rory Campbell who scored all his teams 21 points. Their opponents from Cork - Highfield proved difficult opponents to play against with the intense physicality they brought to their game throughout out the match. Three yellow cards were issued by the referee with Malone Head coach Paddy Armstrong questioning two over throws at lineouts by his team that contributed to the 14 points for the visitors.
The swirling windy conditions made it difficult for the kickers with the Malone kick off going straight into touch handing Highfield an early scrum. If anything Malone had the slight advantage with the conditions.
Highfield lost their centre Luke Kingston to injury early in the match. He was replaced by Robert McGuire who moved to scrum half with their number 9 Chris Bannon moving into the centre.
Malone were conceding penalties to allow Highfield to exert pressure on the Malone line. The well organised home defence resisted their attempts. An overthrow by Malone on their own 22 allowed Highfield to build pressure on the home line. Eventually their patience paid off when back rower Patrick Ryan touched down with full back Kieran Duggan adding the points to give his team an 7 - 0.
This Malone side did not panic with forwards Michael Shiels and Ulster Academy player Joe Dunleavy making an impact. Another penalty allowed out half Callum Smith to kick to within five metres of the Highfield line. From a series of drives Malone won a penalty with winger Rory Campbell reducing the deficit to 7 - 3. Malone maintained their composure and discipline to win two further penalties with Campbell increasing his teams lead to 9 - 7 after the referee lost his patience with the Highfield forwards and yellow carded their influential number 6 Patrick Ryan. With the half on the blow the touch judge raised his flag for foul play as the referee blew his whistle. This time the Highfield prop Ian McCarthy was yellow carded with the referee awarding Malone a penalty. The home side kicked to touch. From the lineout the ball was taken towards the Highfield 22 only for the ball to be spilled with the referee this time blowing for halftime with Malone leading 9 - 7.
Malone had made changes with prop Lee Barlow having replaced Chris Griffiths. Highfield secured ball from an early lineout deep in the Malone 22 at the beginning of the second half to exert pressure on the Malone line. Second row replacement Matthew Dalton was only on to the pitch 60 seconds when he was yellow carded to reduce the Malone team down to 14 players. With Highfield down to 13 players there were several replacements as they held out until they were up to full strength.
The wind had increased and in one of the home sides rare attacks 15 mins into the second half Malone right winger Rory Campbell received the ball just into the Highfield half close to the touch line. There did not appear to be any space. Somehow he feinted left and then right to elude several would be tacklers before touching down for a try at the posts. One of the finest individual tries scored in recent seasons at Gibson Park. Campbell added the points to increase his sides lead to 16 - 7.
Malone continued making replacements with Dan Kerr replacing Dave Cave at Hooker. With Dalton returning to the pitch it was the home side who went in search of their third try. They worked their way into the visitors 22. After probing away at their opponents line they moved the ball to the backs with full back Jack Owens hitting the line.He passed to left winger David McMaster who had joined the play to draw the Highfield winger in before releasing right winger Rory Campbell to touch down. Campbell saw his conversion drift across the face of the posts to leave his team leading 21 - 7.
Malone lost their prominent number 8 Ryan Clarke to injury with Dave Cave coming into the back row and Captain Ross Todd moving to number 8. Scrum half Shane Kelly had been replaced by Connor Spence with Josh Pentland coming into the centre alongside Michael Cartmill with Nathan Brown moving to the wing to replace Rory Campbell.
Highfield were not done and after a period of pressure, their forwards scored a converted try through their other back rower Jack Duffy converted by Duggan to narrow the Malone lead to 21 - 14.
Again the Malone team put themselves under unnecessary pressure when they kicked the ball straight into touch from the kick off allowing Highfield one final opportunity to level the match. The home side dug deep with Captain Ross Todd leading by example to turn over ball and allow the referee to blow his whistle after several minutes of injury time.
Another win for Head coach Paddy Armstrong and his players with Ulster Captain Chris Henry in attendance.
Conditions were not easy for both sides in this game. Several unenforced errors kept the Cork side in this match. Small margins that can quickly decide the outcome of a game.
It was very much a team effort this win with Captain Ross Todd showing his qualities as a leader to manage out the closing minutes. Forwards Joe Dunleavy and Michael Shiels were again very prominent. Another player who continues to perform consistently is centre Nathan Brown with several eye catching breaks in this match. Scrum half Shane Kelly has worked at his fitness levels in the off season and is playing some of his best rugby at Malone.
There can be only one man of the match. Every team needs a match winner and once again on this occasion winger Rory Campbell was the stand out player with his 21 points. In fact the winger is going through a purple patch having scored 61 points for his team in four out of five matches he has played so far for the 1st xv this season.
This weekend coming Malone 1st xv return to County Tipperary to play their third match against Munster opposition in the form of Cashel who won at Blackrock yesterday before the team complete their opening block of four matches with a game against Galwegians at Gibson Park on the 7th October.
Malone 1st xv: 1. Chris Griffith, 2. Dave Cave, 3. Ben Halliday, 4. Josh Davidson, 5. Michael Shiels, 6. Joe Dunleavy, 7. Ross Todd (Captain), 8. Ryan Clarke, 9. Shane Kelly, 10. Callum Smith, 11. David McMaster, 12. Nathan Brown, 13. Michael Cartmill, 14. Rory Campbell, 15. Jack Owens, 16. Danny Kerr, 17. Lee Barlow, 18. Matthew Dalton, 19. Connor Spence, 20. Josh Pentland.