Cowboys 14-16 Rhinos
For the first time ever, the West Dublin Rhinos have their hands on silverware (it’s actually crystal) – but it didn’t come easy.
The Rhinos had to battle back from 14 points down against a Craigavon Cowboys team that looked rampant early on.
Receiving the ball, the Cowboys drove through Andy Herron on the ground and he finished his own move after just three minutes. Marty Dixon’s PAT made it 7-0.
The Rhinos offence couldn’t answer immediately, but the D began to get to grips with the Cowboys somewhat, with Adam Skelly, Andy Meehan and Junior Groves all making big plays.
However, it would be the Cowboys who would strike again. This time, Christian Cowan would throw a beautiful rainbow over the coverage of Pat Gahan and Luis Alberto would make a brilliant over the shoulder catch and accelerate to the house.
Backs to the wall, the Rhinos responded. Their next drive would see the offence go the length of the field, with QB and game MVP Paul Richardson lighting up the game with his hard-nosed running, with help from Ian Fanning, Robert Pops Chris Hutchinson and Paddy Roche.
Richardson would finish the drive with a 1-yard run and Paul Hosford’s PAT would cut the deficit to 7.
A huge defensive stand before the break saw the Cowboys forced into a 3rd and 28 situation, with momentum starting to swing before an elongated half time.
After the break, it would be Richardson who got the Rhinos on the board again. His run, sprung by Hutchinson and David Hosford, would see him break away from despairing Cowboys before crossing the goal line. A botched PAT, however, would leave the Rhinos trailing.
As the game ticked down, the Rhinos D stiffened and Barry Bolton, Darragh McDonnell and Nico Marrimpoey ensured the Cowboys impressive running game couldn’t chew up too much time.
That left the Rhinos with the ball and a chance with 5 minutes left. Chewing up ground and getting down to the 11-yard line with 3.15 remaining, the Rhinos had a field goal opportunity.
This time Bolton’s snap, Pops’ hold and Hosford’s kick were all perfect and the short field goal sailed between the posts to give the Castleknock side their first lead of the game.
The Rhinos D still had to defend against a Cowboys O capable of scoring on any play – but it took just one play to do that, with Pat Gahan intercepting Cowan’s pass to give the Rhinos the ball on the Cowboys’ 41.
Richardson would use three downs to gain 10.5 yards and a first down that allowed him kneel out the clock and seal a famous victory.
West Dublin Rhinos – IAFL-1 Champions 2018
(Pics: Nicola Reddy Photography)