Ireland: The Mighty Dragons Defense Allows 0 Vs Phoenix

Photo: Paul Crawford 
Tullamore Phoenix 00
Dublin Dragons AFC 31 
Sunday 14 July '13 Kickoff 2pm
Westmanstown Sports Centre

Last Sunday 14th July, in Westmanstown Garda Rugby Club, the Dublin Dragons reignited a fiery rivalry under a blazing sun with nemesis Tullamore Phoenix. Hoping to make a huge day of such an important game, the Dragons players, coaching staff, and management expended a determined effort to getting friends, family and general well wishers to attend the clash. And this effort was well rewarded, as Dragon Nation showed up in force. In contrast, the Phoenix has fallen on hard times, with 17 tough, battle hardened players showing up to leave it all on the field, and indeed they did.

The game started as a cagey affair, with both defences dominating up front and stuffing the run. Dragons QB Conor Murphy also saw passes either clip off fingers, or go inches off target. The highlight of the opening sequences was some booming punts from Mick Duncan, who continually pinned the Phoenix offense behind the 20.

As the game wore on, the Dragons Oline started to find its rhythm, and running lanes for Dave Edwards started to open up. He took full advantage of these lanes, running the ball with authority, and ripping off several 10 yard plus runs. The Tullamore defense toughened up however, and served up a nice 3rd and long at midfield for the Dragons offense to chew on. This was where Conor Murphy showed his teeth, and stepped up in the pocket to throw a dart to Wide Receiver Mick Duncan, who added some tough after the catch yards and set the Dragons up with a first and goal at the nine. The Dragons run game smelt blood, and Dave Edwards and the Dragons Oline pushed the ball over the line for the first score of the game.

With fantastic performances from all 3 levels of the Dragons defense, they quickly got the ball back in the hands of the offense, and more fine running from Dave Edwards and Peter Worthington set up a 4th down in field goal position. General footballing juggernaut Mick Duncan spanked the ball well over the bar to give the Dragon a 10-0 lead.

On the only kickoff from Mick Duncan of the day that didn’t go for touchback, ballhawk Eoghan Whelan blew up the block and stone walled the kick returner with a crunching tackle. More fine play from the Dragons defense, with choking pressure from the pass rush, most notably from the inside partnership of Augustas Zigmantavicius (affectionately known as Gus) and Conor Tyrell, added to blanket coverage from the secondary gave the Dragons the ball at midfield. The drive stalled after one first down, and the Dragons elected to try an improbable 42 yard field goal. Mick Duncan let off a fine kick, that looked a dead certainty to go over the bar, unfortunately it went just wide right. The Phoenix got the ball determined to shorten the lead before the end of half. They started the drive with a rocket down the field for a long completion. They threatened to score, until a fine pass defense from Jayme Sejean ended the half 10-0.

The second half began much the same as the first, with Tullamore playing tough defense up front, barricading the run, and administering a dynamic pass rush to ensure Conor Murphy had no time in the pocket. Buoyed by earlier success, the Tullamore QB tried once again to push the ball down the field. This time Brian Tyrell punished this invasion of his territory with a fine interception.

As well as the support of the fans, the Dragons sideline had staunch support from selfless volunteers bringing water up and down the field to hydrate thirsty players. This support proved invaluable as the Dragons were able to stay fresher, and the offense utilised this to make a huge drive down the field. They breed a hardy bunch down in Tullamore, and the defense would simply not give up, stopping the drive short, and sending the Dragons offense away scoreless. The Phoenix offense returned to the field, and elected to use a designed QB run to the right, the Dragons defense contained this, but the QB employed great improvisation skills, pulling up the run, and throwing a missile down the field for another big completion. The Dragons front 7 were simply too stout and fresh, as they toughened up to stop the drive.

As the Phoenix defense finally began to wear out, fantastic blocking by Derek McGarr, the rest of the Oline, tight end Brian Cleary, and even the receivers paved the way for another rushing TD by Dave Edwards who rewarded his blockers by showing power, elusiveness, and great field vision. Nose tackle Gus made his dominance pay, as a blocked punt set the offense up with great field position. And QB Conor Murphy was finally rewarded for his masterful game management when he fired the ball 20 yards through the tightest of windows for a touchdown to Mick Duncan. Even the defense got involved when SJ Mac Kell scooped up a fumble and returned it for a touchdown.

A fine day of football was capped off when after the final whistle, players and fans from both sides enjoyed some barbequed food made by tireless helpers to end the day. The Dragons next game is away to the Mullingar Minotaurs on Sunday July 28th at 2pm.

Conor O'Driscoll