Ireland: Rhinos Secure Playoff Football

By Jimmy English

We’re now at the stage of the season where every single game matters, and this was most certainly the case on Sunday, with each team battling for their own particular cause. In Belfast, the Knights were just hoping to stay alive as they welcomed the UL Vikings to Malone Park, while on the North coast, the Crusaders mounted an assault on the Giants that likely saw the Northerner lose their grip on a spot in the postseason. There’s plenty to catch up on from the weekend’s games, so get stuck in!

West Dublin Rhinos 26 – Wexford Eagles 14 

Sporting their frankly sexy new black uniforms as well as a certain swagger, the Rhinos knew they would need a big performance against the Eagles if they wanted any shot of nabbing a playoff spot. Things began rather well, as they took an early 14 – 0 advantage thanks to the athleticism of Quarterback Ethan Foster. And while their playcalling seemed limited to QB keepers and pitches, it was certainly getting the job done. The Eagles answered back with rushes of their own; Luke Fitzpatrick finding the endzone on a reverse from 4 or 5 yards out in the second quarter with Kyle McLaughlin later plowing in on a good old fashioned power run. Defense, as you would expect, had a crucial role to play as well with both sides forcing several turnovers. An errant pass from the Wexford QB was easily picked off by Oscar Fajardo, with Padraic Lawlor additionally claiming a fumble recovery for the home side. A loose toss from the Rhinos on the other hand was recovered by Tommy Martin; Mattia Ajayi holding his head in dismay instead of scrambling back to try and grab the ball. Ajayi would later atone for this transgression with a dominant rumbling run to score and put the game on ice. The cataclysmic turning point in this duel came midway through the third quarter when, pinned back against their own endzone, the birds attempted a punt only for the ball to be blocked by Karl McGlynn and recovered for six by Fernando Cañete. After that, there was no coming back for Wexford. A late 4th down pass attempt almost found the endzone, only to be broken up at the last second. “Had we scored and converted there, we’d have been 21-20 up in the 4th quarter.” Eagles Head Coach Kevin Klatt commented in the aftermath.   “That’s football. The Rhinos played great.”  The West Dublin side indeed earned the victory, and now have some long awaited playoff football to look forward to!

Vlad Vasilescu

Causeway Giants 00 – Cill Dara Crusaders 42 

Newbridge to the Antrim coast is no joke of a journey. So to go on an absolute odyssey of a road trip and put up over 40 points is a tremendous achievement for this Kildare outfit. The Crusaders led by 7 after the first quarter, were up by 21 points at halftime, had a 35 – 0 advantage after three periods and ultimately shut out the Causeway Giants 42 – nil. Jordan Farrell had an outstanding game at Quarterback, throwing 4 touchdowns in total against a single interception. Two of those scores went to Riain Murphy, with one apiece distributed to Sidney Pidni and Phillip Tierney. Murphy added a third TD to his haul on a pass from Craig Dooley, ultimately earning over a 100 yards receiving on the afternoon. Oran Murphy then added a rushing TD for some balance, running for just shy of 100 yards on the ground. Not to be outshone, Corey McNamara nabbed an interception on defense, as the entire unit shut down any offensive opportunity for the Giants. “They were an extremely hard hitting, fair and strong team and we look forward to coming up against them again.” commented Coach Richard Maloney afterwards. “The guys played out of their skins today and were a testament to the Club.” With nothing to play for except pride, the Crusaders put on a fantastic performance, and in the process have potentially knocked the Antrim men out of the playoff race.

Desmond Loughery

Belfast Knights 9 – UL Vikings 0

This was a way lower scoring affair than we were anticipating! Only 9 points separated the sides in the end, all in favour of the home team. Both outfits had similar motivations going into the game: staying put in the Premier Division! Bruce Derry ran the ball in for six during the second quarter, while Daithi McShane tacked on a field goal in the 4th. The Knights defense put on an absolutely dominant display as well, forcing multiple 3 and outs by the opposing offense. Ryan Stewart was one particular contributor on D, earning his first sack, while Josh Harvey’s late interception sealed the victory for the home team. It will be very interesting to see how the bottom half of this division plays out; but for now the Knights and the Vikings remain safe. As a side note, it’s great to see the aul fella Gareth “Suntan” Millar back on the field! Keep it up!

Ian Humes