- Result: Galwegians Firsts 16 - Nenagh Ormond 14
- Venue: Crowley Park on Fri Feb 9th 2018
- Competition: AIL Division 2A
If a week is a long time in politics, it can sometimes feel like an eternity in sport. Within the space of six days, Galwegians, who had been on a winless run of ten games, have suddenly won two games on the bounce to haul themselves off the bottom of the table. And they did it the hard way, leaving it to the very last play of the game before overcoming third-placed Nenagh under lights at Crowley Park on Friday night.
Having seen off fellow strugglers Greystones the previous weekend, the Blues came into this game with a pep in their step. However they were without their regular midfield partnership Brian Murphy and Dave Clarke, and they almost got off to a disastrous start in the opening seconds when Nenagh winger Nicky Irwin latched onto a kick and chase, and seemed certain to score but for a last-gasp ankle tap from full-back Hugh Lane. However the visitors did take the lead in the second minute with a penalty from their prolific full-back Clayton Stewart.
Despite playing into a stiff breeze on a bitterly cold evening, Wegians were giving as good as they got against a side who put over 50 points on them in November in the corresponding away fixture. They were competing well at the breakdown where referee John Carvill was regularly pinging the visitors, and in the 12th minute they drew level when out-half Morgan Codyre split the posts with a well-struck penalty from near the 22m line.
Nenagh hit the front again at the end of the first quarter, when winger Irwin finished off a sustained period of pressure to dot down in the right corner, although there was more than a hint of obstruction in the build-up. Stewart was off target with the difficult conversion, although he landed a second penalty minutes later to stretch his side’s lead to 11-3.
However the young Wegians were undaunted and continued to compete well. They were boosted by the return from injury of captain Anthony Ryan following a lengthy lay-off, and they had a particularly dominant scrum which was causing havoc for the visiting pack. It led to another penalty shot for Codyre, and the talented former Jes schoolboy struck it well, enjoying more than a slide of luck though as the ball rebounded off the post and inched over the crossbar to reduce the margin to 11-6. The Blues then had to sustain more intense pressure, but some excellent disciplined defence saw them keep their line intact before the half-time break.
Wegians then had the strong breeze at their backs in the second-half. Shortly after the restart the ref dished out yellow cards to Wegians veteran John Cleary and Nenagh’s captain John Healy for an off-the-ball scuffle. When the game settled down again, Codyre was soon given another chance to go for the posts, and he struck it perfectly from 42 metres out to reduce the gap to just two points. It was short-lived however, as the Co. Tipp side immediately went on the attack and won a penalty of their own, with Stewart hitting the target from in front of the posts to restore a five-point lead.
Wegians then attempted to use the elements to establish territory, and after the hour mark they had an excellent chance when awarded a 5m scrum. However the visitors made a couple of changes to their front-row, including springing ex-Wegian Conor Muldoon from the bench, and it told as they suddenly gained the upper hand to repel the attack. Codyre had another chance to land a long-range penalty but for once he was off target. With their scrum now dominant in particular, the visitors seemed to have a real pep in their step entering the final ten minutes. In contrast the hosts were tiring and struggling to make an impact, however to their credit they never gave up the fight.
They got their just reward right at the death, when a clever chip over the cover from Hugh Lane forced the visitors into conceding a 5m scrum deep into stoppage time. Following three scrum resets, a series of pick and go’s saw the Blues patiently suck in the Nenagh defence before they ran out of numbers, with Paul Hackett eventually crashing over near the posts for the all-important try. This levelled the game, and Codyre then kept his nerve and made no mistake with the conversion to give his side the lead for the first time in the contest. The timing could not have been more perfect, as referee Carvill then immediately blew full-time, sending the home players and fans into raptures.
While bitterly disappointed with the outcome, the visitors had no complaints, with Muldoon conceding that the young Wegians side had showed great determination and had improved immeasurably since their last outing less than three months previous.
This victory moves Wegians off the bottom spot, which is now occupied by local rivals Corinthians. It gives the Blues real momentum heading into the final five game rounds of the League campaign. Next up is an away trip to Belfast this Saturday (Feb. 17th), where they will face a Queens University side who have lost their last six League outings to see them slide dangerously close to the foot of the League table.