Finally back in action for their last group match, AIT showed they had not played since November by starting very slowly. Hesitancy in the Athlone play allowed the DCU scrum-half to pick up on the halfway line and scamper through for an unconverted try to put DCU 5-0 up. Despite playing against a strong wind Athlone were having a fair share of play so it was no surprise when Craig Hansbury forced his way over to level the scores (5-5). DCU then capitalised on another AIT mistake to score a try that was converted to extend their lead to 12-5. A fine break by Ricky Dixon narrowed the deficit to 12-10 but back came DCU with another converted try and their lead was 19-10. Despite not playing to their full potential the college managed one more try before half-time to leave the score at 19-15 to DCU.
There were signs towards the end of the first half that AIT were beginning to find their feet and play the rugby of which they are capable, now with the wind at their backs the signs were promising, and within two minutes of the restart Hansbury crossed for his second try and Athlone took the lead for the first time. A try by speedy winger Sean Chitz increased the lead to 25-19 and this was quickly followed by a try from Sean Dempsey which was converted by Cathal Evans to extend the lead to 32-19. The college were now in full flow and DCU had no answer to the attacking skills on display. Dempsey added his second try and Hansbury took over the kicking duties to add the conversion (39-19) before Harry Hester scored a try from a powerful run with Hansbury again adding the extras to leave the score at 46-19. There was still time for Hester to add a second try for himself, Athlone’s ninth, with Hansbury maintaining his 100% kicking record to make the final score 53-19 in favour of Athlone I.T.
Despite the slow start, Athlone produced some excellent rugby in the second half and will hopefully build on this display as they approach the business end of the season.
Dates and semi-final details to follow.
Match Report by Kevin O’Sullivan