THe top two teams in Division 2B went head-to-head in Offaly on Sunday and put on a thrilling contest.
After the heavy rain in the morning the sun shone brightly, Balbriggan kicked off and Edenderry took the ball right back at them.
After a couple of cycles Balbriggan turned the ball over but then got penalised for not releasing and that enabled the home side to put the first points on the board.
Minutes later Balbriggan again infringed, but this time the penalty was sent wide of the posts.
Balbriggan put together a good move in the Edenderry half, with Mark Fay leading the charge, but Edenderry eventually turned the ball over and this became a feature of the half, with the Balbriggan ball carrier getting isolated and either having to surrender the ball or a penalty.
Edenderry got their second score after Balbriggan conceded another penalty for not releasing.
Five similar offences in the opening 15 minutes should have focused the attention of the pack on what they were doing and how the referee was viewing it. Only for a strong tackle from skipper Ian Murphy inside the 22 Edenderry could have had yet another score.
But Balbriggan settled and a good break from Conor Caldwell led to a penalty as they pushed the Offaly side off their own ball in the scrum.
Scannell kicked a fine penalty into the corner, from the lineout the pack drove over and Reilly touched down. Scannell added the extra points with a great kick from the sideline and Balbriggan now led 7-6.
Edenderry hit back in bizarre fashion when their full back called a mark even though he was well out of his 22 in Balbriggan’s opinion. The two nearest attacking players pulled out of the tackle - otherwise they both could have been sin-binned for a late tackle - and the full back took his opportunity and sprinted straight through the gap to run the length of the field to score!
So, with the conversion successful, Balbriggan had now slipped 13-7 behind and just before the break they had Miller controversially sin-binned for a high tackle.
Balbriggan rang the changes, among them Conor Colman who got on to make his debut for the adult side on his 18th birthday.
He had featured for the Ireland U19 rugby league team in the summer, so this had given him some idea of what to expect and after his first carry he was double-tackled but got up, dusted himself down and got on with it.
Balbriggan scored early in the second half when another of the replacements, Hagan, won a penalty and Scannell converted.
A couple of opportunities weren’t taken, though, and yet another penalty to Edenderry was slotted between the posts for a 16-10 lead.
Balbriggan kept attacking, but a slow pass from Scannell was intercepted and for the second time Edenderry were gifted a score, with the additional points threatening to put the game out of reach at 23-10.
Balbriggan went looking for a try and conversion to get that precious bonus point. They won a penalty when scrum half Wall was tackled before he got the ball.
Scannell took maximum yardage from the kick, Balbriggan flashed the ball across the line and it looked as if Staunton was going over in the far corner.
However he was taken out of it with what Balbriggan felt was a very high and dangerous tackle.
Their expectation was a penalty try and a card, but the outcome was only a penalty.
Balbriggan, though, were not going to be denied and Reynolds barged over for a try. However, from the corner Scannell was just wide with the difficult conversion attempt and they were still two points short of the losing bonus.
The referee decided that there was still a minute to play, Edenderry kicked long and the ball was gathered by Wall who fed Staunton He took off in the direction of the Edenderry line at pace and got to the half-way line when he was taken out high, earning the Edenderry replacement out half a yellow card.
All Edenderry had to do then was sit back and wait for an error. but in their eagerness they went offside and Scannell slotted over the penalty for a deserved bonus point.
Again, there was good work from the Balbriggan side. Andrew Miller was impressive both in the pack and later when he moved to the backs, but the overall Player of the Match was Mark Fay who never stopped for the 80 minutes both in defence and attack.
Balbriggan are working towards becoming the finished article, with the move of Graham Reynolds to hooker tightening the scrum significantly and giving them a fearsome front five.
BALBRIGGAN: T Murphy, E Nolan (C Colman), I Murphy (T Hagan), A O’Connor, D Staunton, J Scannell, M Walls, A O’Connor, G Reynolds, C O’Donoghue (R Mooney), C Caldwell, G O’Reilly, F Tuckey (J Davis), A Miller, M Fay.
If so you can get in touch here