Ireland: Waterford Wolves Take A Home Win

Photo: Brian Naughton 
Tullamore Phoenix 0 @ Waterford Wolves 14 – RSC Waterford 28.07.13

Tullamore Phoenix made the trip to the RSC today looking for retribution for a 12 to 2 loss at Tullamore Rugby Club seven weeks earlier. Back then the Wolves ran out winners in a hard fought game by two tough and dogged teams. Today the weather would not be so fair, there were storm clouds approaching both off the field and on.

The two teams launched into battle as the clouds started to gather overhead and as in the last game it was the defences that stood strongest for both teams, with both offences being left with several long yardage situations on third down. To be fair Tullamore were probably the better of the two teams in the first half as a whole. This though is to take nothing away from the Wolves with #21 Kevin Butler pressing time and again from the half back position. Working for yard after yard on the ground tirelessly, even at one stage drawing a fifteen yard penalty from the Tullamore defence for unnecessary roughness. Tomas Kirik #43, playing at safety popped up with his fourth interception of the season, but still the first half ended in a stalemate 0 to 0.

The crowd of close to 150 people, including Waterford United goalkeeper Chip Saunders and even a couple of North Kildare scouts, were most likely feeling a bit deflated after that hard fought first half. Coach Steve Collins of the Wolves had some tough words for his rookie team at halftime and they hit the field with renewed vigour for the second half.

The second half began with Waterfords offence on the field and unfortunately they fumbled on the first play leaving the defence to do what it has been doing all season – stand strong, they didn’t disappoint. This spurred the offence on, #21 Butler and #25 Brian Sullivan rotated in and out as running back time and again as the rain started to pour and Tullamores defence started to feel the effect of Waterfords impressive offensive line and ground and pound running game. Led by quarterback #37 Aaron Walsh they started to move the chains, Walsh running a bootleg himself bringing the Wolves to the Tullamore 13 yard line. On a 4th and 8 a facemask penalty on the defence pushed them farther back again to their own two yard line. The following play saw #25 Brian Sullivan take the ball over the line for 6 points; the subsequent 2 point conversion was unsuccessful though.

Photo: Brian Naughton
Tullamore pushed hard against the solid Wolves defence, but to no avail as the third quarter became the fourth. And so the offence took the field again, now the confidence started to show, Walsh conducting his orchestra expertly, Kevin Butler, the Radio DBSC MVP, eventually taking the ball from the 29 yard line to the bank. The two point conversion was a success, Walsh turning on a naked bootleg to take the ball home and give Waterford a 14 to 0 lead. Phoenix pushed again and again, but the Wolves defence remained strong in a true team performance, every player as outstanding as the next, and were probably unlucky not to force a safety late in the game, backing Tullamore up to their two yard line on a third down.

The game finished 14 to 0 to Waterford, they won, but they had to fight damn hard to get there, Tullamore promised a real physical challenge and they did not disappoint. After the game QB Aaron Walsh probably summed things up best saying “The Wolves had their ups and downs in the game. But the found a way to get through it. They believed they could. That is Wolves football”. He was right, in a tough game the Wolves relied on their inner strength and self-belief to persist with their running game and grind out the “W”. It wasn’t pretty but it was effective.

Waterford top IAFL D1 after the game but their faith is by no means guaranteed, The league is now whittled down to three possible winners, Dublin Dragons, after a slow start are now within touching distance and if results suit could take the plaudits, but the game in a fortnights time will probably be the one that decides the IAFL D1 title and with it promotion as the Wolves head to North Kildare to take on the Reapers. Both teams in their first season in the league and both hungry for success. This promises to be a true test for both teams. In two weeks’ time the question WILL be answered. Who will be the IAFL D1 Champions for 2013? But for now Waterford have a 6 and 1 record and are top dogs, they are in pole position, and they very much have their eyes set on promotion and the D1 championship.

Greg Barrett