Balbriggan count the cost of missed tackles
Athy 34 Balbriggan 14
While the 20-point winning margin somewhat flattered Athy, Balbriggan won't be happy that it was three missed tackles that led to their three key scores and accounted for the difference between the teams.
This top-of-the-table clash in Division 2B started at a frenetic pace, with Balbriggan winning a scrum after kick-off and then setting up a number of goods moves.
Skipper Caldwell carried well, assisted by Graham O'Reilly, and Jay Mullen in the centre made a couple of good breaks. On one such break he put a grubber kick in, but this allowed Athy gain possession and it was their turn to test the Balbriggan defence, with the number 8 looking to break holes in the Balbriggan defence - only to run into Conor Caldwell and his pack.
The ball was going back and forth across the pitch and it was one missed tackle that let Athy in at the far corner for their opening try.
They added a penalty soon after to go 8-0 ahead, but Balbriggan hit back straightaway from a good attack as out half Murphy made the space and the ball was held up short before Sean Malone got over the line and Dave Healy added the extras.
Balbriggan lost prop O'Reilly to injury and veteran Paddy Joyce joined the fray and began to cause problems in the scrum.
Nevertheless, Athy ran back a kick where they had a penalty advantage and their winger ran through a number of Balbriggan players before scoring under the posts to give his side a 15-7 interval lead.
With all still to play for Balbriggan came out fighting, with replacement Ciaran Malone's driving play causing Athy all sorts of problems and resulting in a yellow card for the hosts for continually slowing the ball down.
Balbriggan were unable to take advantage, though, as the error rate in their play increased, with too many knock ons and dropped passes.
Athy then rubbed salt into the wound when they hacked clear a Balbriggan attack and winger Staunton was left flailing at his opposite number.
The bonus point came minutes later when their impressive number 7, a youths and schools international, forced his way over for a score from a five-metre scrum.
Balbriggan lost Ciaran Malone to the bin as he put his body on the line to stop a score, but the visitors did hit back and a great break by Mark Fay saw him score under the posts.
The away side had a number of further opportunities but failed to put them away and near the end Athy kicked a long-range penalty to ensure that any losing bonus point was out of reach.
Afterward, skipper Caldwell reminded his players that if they want to win the league these are the teams to beat, and that they need to play with the same intensity as their opposition for the full 80 minutes.
As usual Glen Predy had a good game both in defence and attack, while in the backs Glen Foley and Marcel Brennan was sharp. Ian Murphy had a huge tackle count, but unfortunately the one that got away was expensive - although he should have had better support.
Balbriggan host Roscrea next Saturday as the top two teams face each other, so all is not lost at this stage.
BALBRIGGAN: T Murphy; D Staunton, J Mullen, G Healy, M Brennan; I Murphy, D Healy; G O'Reilly (P Joyce), J Furze (J Davis), A McKiernan (C Browne); S Malone, D Bryan (C Malone); M Fay, G Predy, C Caldwell.