- Result: Galwegians Firsts 13 - St Marys 30
- Venue: Crowley Park on Sat Jan 7th 2006
- Competition: AIL Division 1
Galwegians had a very disappointing start to the New Year when they were well beaten by one of last year’s promoted teams, old rivals St. Mary’s College in Glenina on Saturday.
The home side cannot have too many arguments with the scoreline as the away side were superior in most aspects of play, but most tellingly in the backline where they were a class apart. Although bolstered by the presence of Connacht duo Tom Tierney & Andrew Gallagher, Wegians coach Paul Young was forced into making some radical late changes to his backline, featuring no less than five half-backs. Unfortunately they got off to a terrible start, conceding a try after only three minutes when their defence was sucked in, and when the visitors spread the ball wide, their lock Matt Donnellan cantered over the line unopposed on the left for an unconverted try and a 5-0 lead.
Wegians did manage to score from their first real incursion into opposition territory after 9 minutes through a Brendon Bartley penalty. However St. Mary’s continued to set the pace, with their lively backline looking very threatening on a number of occasions, prompted by a commanding display from their Irish U-21 out-half John Sexton. With only a quarter gone, their continued pressure led to a second try. After Galwegians scrum-half Tom Tierney was sin-binned for killing the ball while defending his line, the visitors opted for a line-out, and they were rewarded when prop Matt Duggan was mauled over on the right, with Sexton landing his conversion this time for a 12-3 lead. Three minutes later the out-half tagged on a simple penalty after the Wegians defence was caught offside.
Galwegians then rallied briefly and their pack, which certainly had the measure of their opponents, finally got some continuity into their play. They were rewarded just before the half-hour when centre Brian Murphy found a good touch from a penalty inside his own half, and an excellent maul from the 22 metre line saw them burrow forward, with winger Hugh Murphy finishing with a well-worked try in the right-hand corner. An excellent conversion from Brendon Bartley reduced the margin to 15-10.
At this stage the home side were right back in the game. Their pack were now getting on top, however they were being penalised far too regularly by the Munster referee, crossing on several occasions in the loose, although they can have legitimate claims to being very harshly treated in the scrums. However the visitors were not complaining as it gave their backs the platform to continue their dominance. And they landed a killer blow right on half-time when Sexton skipped through the weak defensive cover all too easily to score under the posts, converting his own try for a 22-10 lead.
In the second-half Wegians started with a bit more purpose, and an early penalty from Bartley reduced arrears to 22-13. However despite tightening up on their discipline, they were unable to impose themselves sufficiently to seriously threaten the scoreboard. The visitors soaked up some early pressure and relied on man of the match Sexton to either clear his lines with some astute place-kicking, or alternatively bring his backs into play to make in-roads into opposition territory. They contented themselves with a Sexton drop-goal after 70 minutes to restore their 12-point lead, but they did not have to wait too long to secure their bonus point. This came on 75 minutes when substitute winger Karl O’Brien rounded off a period of sustained pressure to finish strongly in the left corner. It proved to be the last score of the game as Wegians were even denied a consolation injury time score when the referee adjudged a knock-on, thus completing a thoroughly miserable day for the Blues.
Wegians now lie third from bottom in the table, perilously close to the relegation zone, so coach Paul Young’s workload does not get any easier. They have three more vital AIL games in January, and next up is the visit of Lansdowne in Glenina on Sunday January 15 (2.30pm kick-off).