Tries from replacements Rory Allen and John Colgan pushed the Midlands to victory in the opener of a double-header in the Shane Horgan Cup at Energia Park on Wednesday afternoon.

This competition, delayed due to the pandemic, provided meaningful rugby for the provinces best U17 youth players.

North Midlands enjoyed their best period of play in the opening phases, applying pressure steadily in the face of energetic defence.

The North Midlands struggled to convert a number of chances, even though half-backs Max Gaynor and James Harris, a Kildare minor, flanker Sean Peters and hooker David Moore all carried positively.

The Midlands defended resolutely as their openside Sam Mills set an outstanding example with fellow back-rowers Jack Boyan and Daragh Brennan close behind.

But, when North Midlands were held up over the line, a set play from the ensuing 5-metre scrum was worked for centre Conor Kelly to waltz through in the 20th minute.

Slowly, the Midlands turned the tide of possession and territory, spending the rest of the half in the right area until wing Sean Brennan made good use of an overlap to make it 5-all at the break.

Then, the Midlands began to increase the pressure, pushing the pace for long stretches of a torrid second period.

The weight of pressure eventually told with Allen, on for full-back Dean Broderick, showing a clean pair of heels to the defence and Colgan closing the show with the third try.

The Shane Horgan Cup is primarily about setting players on the right course to reach their potential, also serving as an experimental tool to uncover which role best suits each individual.

“We had three guys playing in the front row today who had not played there before,” said John Bagnall of the North Midlands.

“We are trying to identify areas where the physical nature and attitude of players might be best served, in terms of position.

“We have had a lot of success in doing that over the years.”

Certainly, the Midlands Leinster Development Officer Ken Moore was satisfied with his squad.

“It is nice to get the win. I thought both teams put in a great effort. The physicality and commitment were really up there.

“But, I wouldn’t be too concerned about the competition. It is all about the players,” he issued.

“This will enable them to see the standard required to make the Leinster Youths squad and they will all have things they have to work on.”

MIDLANDS: Dean Broderick (Midland Warriors); Sean Brennan, Conor Moore (both Mullingar), Simon Drea, Jack Burns; Jack Bates, Peter Feeley (all Tullamore); James Buckley (Midland Warriors), David O’Rourke (Tullamore), Paulie Farrell (Mullingar); Ciaran Crowley (Tullamore), Patrick Dooley (Birr); Jack Boyan (Mullingar), Sam Mills (Longford), Daragh Brennan (Tullamore).

Replacements Used: Eoin Powell-Murtagh (Longford), Jack Hanlon (Edenderry), Tom Sveinty (Mullingar), John Colgan (Tullamore), Ciaran McKenna (Mullingar), Rory Allen (Edenderry).

NORTH MIDLANDS: Jake Darcy; PJ Larkin (both Portlaoise), Conor Kelly (Athy), Lachlann Cawley (Naas), Ola McCullough (North Kildare); James Harris (Athy), Max Gaynor (Newbridge); Jake Andrews (Portlaoise), David Moore (North Kildare), Killian McHugh (Portarlington); Nathan Yap (Clane), Sean Peters (Portlaoise); Padraic Cullen (Naas), Ruari Scully, James Walsh (both Athy).

Replacements Used: George Cosgrove (Naas), Oisin Bannon (Cill Dara), Jamie Baldwin (Portlaoise), Sean Lavin (North Kildare), Jude Kehoe (Naas), Chris Sheils, Glenn Carter (both North Kildare), Conor Ragget (Portlaoise).

Sportsfile – Leinster Rugby’s official photo suppliers – were in attendance at the game in Energia Park and a full gallery of images is available to view HERE. 

At Energia Park – MIDLANDS 17 (S Brennan, R Allen, J Colgan try each; C McKenna con); NORTH MIDLANDS 5 (C Kelly try).