Leigh directs dramatic win
Jenkinson Cup final: Balbriggan 30 Boyne 29
Balbriggan and Boyne brought the rugby season to a close with an exciting final game that ended with the Fingal club lifting the Jenkinson Cup.
On a fine if cool evening at Dundalk RFC's Mill Road ground, Balbriggan had skipper Conor Caldwell and scrum half Andy Smith back after missing their victory over Ardee the previous Sunday. However, there was a crisis in the front row.
Hooker Jason Furze had headed home to Australia that morning, not realising that in Ireland an April end to a season could include the first week of May!
Graham O'Reilly was on the injured list, having dislocated his shoulder in the Ardee match, while veteran hooker Jonny Davis and prop PJ Joyce were both unavailable due to work commitments and Alan still on the injury list.
Youngsters Gavin Mullen and Charlie Brown had to step up, with Brown moving across to tight head, but this still left a vacancy at hooker.
Balbriggan director of rugby Leigh O'Toole, who apart from a cameo appearance at the end of the Ardee match has been unavailable for the season due to a combination of injury and all the other club roles he has been filling, had to play the full 80 minutes!
Balbriggan kicked off and straightaway Boyne set out their cards by running it back and won two quick penalties that brought them up to the 22. Eventually another penalty was awarded for not rolling away and the Boyne scrum half tapped and ran and offloaded, and Boyne exploited a mis-read in the Balbriggan midfield to get in under the posts for a 7-0 lead.
David Healy kicked two penalties in response to leave them trailing by just a single point.
However, Boyne then started to pile on the pressure and after winger O'Brien stopped a sure try with a bone-shaking tackle the Drogheda men exploited a Balbriggan error to get over for their second converted try.
A great follow-up of the restart by Charlie Brown saw him snaffle the ball, though, and with Glen Predy on his shoulders Balbriggan took it on, with Malone driving hard and skipper Caldwell on hand to finish the move with a dive over the line - 14-11. Healy missed the conversion, and that was his last input to the game as he pulled a muscle in the run-up.
Boyne had the final say of an entertaining first half as a penalty attempt came back off the upright, with the Drogheda side quickest to react as they grabbed possession and got in for a try in the corner - 19-11 at the break.
Replacement full back Tomas Murphy had a clearance kick charged down just after the restart and suddenly Boyne were 24-11 ahead, but Balbriggan weren't finished and Murphy was twice involved in the move that ended with winger O'Brien touching down near the posts to allow Downes to convert.
At 24-18, Balbriggan were back in it, but when Boyne won a scrum against the head they took full advantage to stretch their lead to 11 points with just over 10 minutes remaining.
It looked as if Ciaran Malone was over for a try, but the ref said he was unsighted and awarded a five-metre scrum. Caldwell eventually got over from the set piece and Downes converted to make it a four-point game.
With time almost up Predy was taken out with a high tackle. Caldwell nearly opted for the posts and it was only when the ref turned his back to look at an injured Boyne player that he heard colleagues on the line screaming that they were now in added time.
Downes kicked to the corner and from the lineout Balbriggan threw the kitchen sink at their opponents who then conceded another penalty for offside.
Balbriggan went for the lineout once more, from which they drove for the line again. Mullen, Malone, Caldwell and Brown all were held up short and then up popped director of rugby O'Toole to crash over for the winning score!
BALBRIGGAN: Healy (Murphy), Brennan, Verdon, Downes, O'Brien, Murphy, Smith, Mullen, O'Toole, S Malone (D Bryan), C Caldwell, M Fay G Predy, C Malone.