Despite losing 15-14 to Garryowen on Saturday, Clontarf director of rugby Bernard Jackman believes that the battle to avoid relegation is not over yet and he was resolute that his side will ‘fight for every point’ in their final two matches in AIB League Division 1A.
With only two games left, Clontarf remain in the relegation zone in seventh place, six points behind Blackrock College who have a game in hand.
Bernard Jackman’s charges have had a disappointing season so far, losing eight of their 12 games, several of which were tight losses that could have easily gone the other way.
Their poor track record has not necessarily been down to a lack of proficiency, but more so because they have not been clinical enough in execution.
However, Jackman was quick to praise the fighting quality of the team after they were just pipped by Garryowen in Saturday’s Division 1A duel at Castle Avenue.
“I think over the last few weeks the team has reacted well to being in a bad situation. They’ve really stuck together and that’s a credit to them,” he told IrishRugby.ie.
“We’ll see which way the results go this weekend and we’re going to fight for every point we can get in the end.
“We have to finish as well as possible but we’ve just got to lick our wounds for a few games.”
The Leinster hooker, who scored a try for his province in their Magners League victory over Cardiff on Sunday, was impressed by a late comeback effort which almost inspired a late win.
“Obviously I’m very disappointed but the lads showed unbelievable spirit. We were 15-0 down and they came back to make it 15-14 but we just couldn’t get in the position near the end to get the win.
“You want to be more clinical but sometimes in these pressure situations, especially in a relegation dog fight like today, it’s sometimes hard for guys to execute.”
Two well-taken tries from centre Daragh O’Shea and number 8 Martin Garvey in the second half demonstrated the north Dubliners’ ability once they got their phase play working well.
However, the multiple handling errors from ‘Tarf ensured that they could not maintain good spells of possession and Garryowen duly took advantage of this sloppy play.
“Garryowen dominated from the outset. We just gave away a lot of unforced errors, giving them territory,” conceded Jackman.
“They’re a very good side at keeping the ball and a couple of mistakes and they took their points.”
It will be a big ask for ‘Tarf to defeat Shannon and St. Mary’s in their final two matches but Jackman would dearly love to do it for the Castle Avenue faithful.
“Shannon and Mary’s will be tough matches but the fans here are brilliant and we want to finish with two wins for them,” he added.
For Garryowen, this game was also a relegation battle but the victory has pushed them one place up the table into fifth and they are now well in contention for the third place play-off spot.
The Light Blues, who stretched their unbeaten run in the AIB League to six games, did well to hold off the spirited Tarf comeback with a stern defence and they now sit four points behind third-place’d Shannon with one game in hand.
Head coach Paul Cunningham was satisfied with an assured performance, saying: “We had a very good first half and on the balance of play we probably deserved to be 15-0 at the start of the second half.
“When Clontarf got to one point behind us we never gave them an opportunity of even getting a penalty or a drop goal, so we did defend very astutely at that stage.
“The win puts us a good few points clear of ‘Tarf with a game in hand, but they’re not gone yet. It makes it hard for them but they’re a good team.”
Since losing the AIB Cup final to Cork Constitution, Garryowen have performed impressively while winning three games in-a-row.
With this momentum and some players coming back from injury, Cunningham is optimistic about his side’s chance of progressing to the play-offs.
“We have some good momentum and hopefully we’ll carry that forward. We got off to a poor start to the season – injuries really hurt us,” he admitted.
“But, some of the guys are coming back now, like Mark Melbourne who played today, and if we had a couple more we’ll be flying.
“If we get Damien Varley and Ciaran O’Boyle in from Munster, we’ll see what happens.”
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