ALL-IRELAND League new boys Skerries came agonisingly close to an opening-day upset as they eventually settled for a losing bonus point at Shaw's Bridge last Saturday.
With hosts Instonians having come down from 2A and John Murphy's charges moved up from the Leinster League, it looked a tall order for Skerries to go to Belfast and pick up a result.
There was a real sense of the unknown for both teams and Skerries had a surprise before a ball was even kicked when the referee deemed that they would have to change their gear, as both sets of jerseys were too similar. Fortunately, Instonians share their impressive grounds with junior club Cooke RFC, so the seasiders subsequently took to the pitch in an unfamiliar white, red and black strip! Skerries, playing with the stiff breeze at their backs in the opening half, were first to strike with three points from the boot of David Hewitt after only two minutes and it was a penalty trade-off for the remainder of the first period as both sides caused the referee to use the whistle liberally. Poor handling, possibly due to the blustery but dry conditions, made it a frustrating spectacle for people watching on the sidelines, but that didn't worry Skerries too much as they carried a reasonable 15-6 lead into the interval.
The second half saw a marked improvement in the quality of play as both sides began to make some telling breaks that were sadly lacking before the break. The respective defences were still dominant, however - until Skerries hooker Chris Tonge got at the end of a fluid passing movement to touch down for the game's opening try in the 50th minute. Shortly after that winger Paul Devitt appeared to touch down for what might have been a decisive second Skerries try, but instead a 22 drop-out was awarded and that unpopular decision was to prove crucial in the final analysis.
Kicking from the tee was proving very difficult and Skerries failed to slot any points in that way in the second half, but Instonians - on the other hand - had a match-winner in their newly acquired out half who knocked over some wind-assisted, longrange efforts that dragged the home team back into contention. Indeed it was he who touched down under the posts and converted following a scrum in the Skerries 22 with seven minutes to play, and those seven points proved decisive as the visitors were unable to conjure another match-winning score. Nevertheless Skerries can take plenty of encouragement from their performance and will hope to build on it when they host Suttonians - victors over Ards last weekend - at Holmpatrick this Friday with an 8pm kick-off.