Last Sunday saw the visit of the reigning Shamrock Bowl Champions the Dublin Rebels to Cork to take on the Cork Admirals in a SBC South clash. The Rebels entered the game in flying form having comfortably won all of their fixtures to date while the Admirals had had just suffered their first loss in a thriller against the UL Vikings. The result of this one would have a big impact on the division with the Admirals trying to get back into the division race while the Rebels were looking to keep pace with UL.
Both teams looked eager to start and the game kicked off early in a blustery PBC Sports Grounds. The conditions not only troubled both teams passing attacks with a strong breeze gusting almost straight down the field to the changing room goals but also brought some squally showers to dampen the atmosphere
The Rebels came out of the blocks flying and after a quick three and out from the Admirals Offence the Rebels got on the board on their first play from scrimmage when a run off tackle picked up a pair of key blocks and the Rebels running back won the foot race to the corner of the end zone. The two point try was stopped short and the early score left the score board at 6-0.
Again the Rebels brought huge pressure on defence and the Admirals were struggling to get the chains moving early. The resulting possession for the Rebels got them back on the score board again. Following some more hard running the passing game was opened up and a quick throw to the slot put the Rebels receiver away and he beat the final tackle on the line to put another score on the board. The Admirals kept another two point try out and the score board was left at 12-0 to the Dublin team.
At this point in the game the Admirals looked like they were under the cosh and struggling to get to grips on both sides of the ball. Players were dropping from both teams and the level of physicality brought to the table was ferocious from both sides with the Admirals stepping up to and meeting the challenge of their counterparts. A turnover by the defence after a ball had been forced loose and recovered by Cathal Buckley gave the team a spark and a pair of first downs followed with Steve Hayes starting to link up with Paul O’Driscoll, Andrew Lyons and the dynamic Vladamir La Greca getting involved. A few plays later and super Vlad hit a seam behind Eoghan Lynch at left tackle, made a nice move in space and ran untouched for thirty five yards to score. Kieran Murphy added the PAT and suddenly the Admirals were in the game after weathering the intense early storm and battling the conditions in the first quarter.
The defence was starting to get to grips with the punishing Rebels running game and punts replaced first downs as the teams switched ends. Harris Monagan, Kilian McNally and Frankie Tschifo were becoming very prominent and the confidence level on defence noticeably improved. The Admirals were starting to find their rhythm at this point and pulled out all of the stops to try and get the lead before the half. A fake punt kept a drive going and for good measure a second on the same drive kept it going further. The third fourth down on the drive allowed the Admirals to pin the Rebels deep inside their own half. Following a three and out from the Rebels in the face of a buoyant Cork defence there was one more chance for the home team to get on the board before the half. The Admirals drove the ball behind Hayes and La Greca and faced with a fourth down from the fifteen backed their running game to pick up the yards. On the next play a pass from Hayes just slipped past a diving receiver in the end zone and it looked like the chance to score a touchdown might have vanished. A short completion on third down came close as La Greca was forced out at the one by a pair of defenders. With one play left in the drive it was score or nothing and Super Vlad got into the end zone diving over the line to set the home side up and give them a 13-12 lead. Consternation followed the PAT attempt as what looked like another successful kick from Kieran Murphy was first waved good the waved no good with the home team frustrated that an seemingly accurate kick was waved wide for the second game in a row.
So after a first half of two halves the Admirals had the lead facing into the third quarter. That period of the game was more of a stalemate than the previous half. The Admirals had the better of field position for the majority of the third bar one Rebels drive which threatened the Admirals goal line. After gambling on fourth down to keep the drive going early a first and goal for the Rebels from the seven was hampered by a penalty and didn’t produce any points when Frankie Tshifo had a touchdown saving tackle on third down and Harris Monagan knocked down a pass on fourth down. The game ticked into the fourth quarter and the Admirals held onto their slender lead. After a few attempts for each side with the ball the Rebels were able to pin the Admirals deep in their own half after a long punt was allowed to bounce and the returner was tackled inside his own ten. The Rebels backed by the elements in the fourth quarter kept the pressure on and the relieving kick from the Admirals on fourth down didn’t get the team far from their own goal. This was the best chance the Rebels had to get ahead in the second half and with a fifteen yard field they made no mistake punching the ball in with less than five minutes left on the clock. The visitors converted their first two point try of the day and lead 20-13.
The Admirals rallied again and following a promising drive a pass outside was picked off close to the Rebels goal. That looked like it was going to seal it for the Dublin team but the Admirals failed to give up the ghost. After a forced three and out the home side created a chance on a punt return when Kit O’Keeffe wove his way up the sideline only to be brought down by the last man, however a flag on the field would have nullified the play and took away the promising field position. The Admirals now inside the final two minutes were forced to air it out and turned it over again chasing the game. The Rebels were now in clock killing mode and despite one scare where the ball was put on the ground they successfully ran out the clock to finish the game.
Another disappointing loss for the Admirals following a whole hearted and honest display against the reigning Shamrock Bowl Champions who came to Cork an experienced and powerful team but were pushed to the pin of their collar. After a slow start the Admirals rallied and got themselves back into the game, took the lead and held that lead until deep into fourth quarter beforing losing the game very late on for the second time in a row. The squad will have to get over the loss and recuperate quickly after the battle because a crucial tie awaits. In two weeks the Admirals travel to Trinity for the return fixture between the two teams. With points at a premium and playoff places to fight for still the winner in the next game will take control of their own destiny with the loser left outside looking in.