- Result: Galwegians Firsts 20 - Ballynahinch 7
- Venue: Ballymacarn Park on Sat Feb 18th 2017
- Competition: AIL Division 1B
Galwegians ended a run of three frustrating defeats on the bounce when they finally grabbed their first away win of the Ulster Bank Division 1B campaign, deservedly coming out on top against their hosts Ballinahinch.
The Blues came into this game shorn of six of their starting backline from last week, although they fielded a strong-looking pack. The hosts were also deprived of some of their regular starters through injury, and it was a fairly even contest early on. Playing with the first-half breeze, Hinch looked the more likely to score but handling errors were letting them down with some solid Wegians defence stopping them in their tracks. The Ulstermen would live to regret not taking some shots at goal, particularly twice in the first-half when they opted to go for a seven-pointer, only to be thwarted each time.
The host were not having things all their own way by any means and they did well to hold off a strong 5 minute spell of Wegians’ pressure midway through the half. The game remained scoreless until the 35th minute, when a strong Hinch scrum led to a break by their in-form centre Jordan Grattan, who then fed Ryan Wilson who dotted down near the corner. Justin Rea added an excellent conversion to put his side 7-0 to the good.
However Wegians’ response was top-drawer and they levelled the game shortly after. It came when second-row and Irish U-20 cap Peter Claffey, who is regaining match fitness after a lengthy period of injury, exposed the home defence to charge over for a try. Rookie out-half Morgan Codyre tagged on the conversion to level the contest and give his side a major shot in the arm going into half-time.
Wegians now had the advantage of the wind in the second-half, yet it remained a tight and even contest throughout. Hinch again had their scoring opportunities but were unable to make it count, whereas the Blues made the most of their opportunities. The visitors went in front when ill-discipline from the hosts coughed up a penalty, and Codyre split the posts to make it 10-7. Just after the hour mark Hinch scrum-half Blane McIlroy came within a whisker of levelling the game when his penalty effort from the 10m line hit the post.
This signaled a swing in momentum as the Blues used the wind to go on the attack downfield. On 66 minutes the hosts were penalised for a high tackle, and although a long way out, Codyre nailed a brilliant penalty to put his side 13-7 in front. This galvanised Wegians, and they saw their opportunity to put their opposition to the sword. With just ten minutes remaining, a series of strong drives in the Hinch 22 was finally rewarded when flanker Marc Kelly brushed aside some weak tackling to score a well deserved try under the posts. Codyre’s conversion suddenly had them 20-7 in front.
Cue the inevitable response from Hinch who threw everything at the Wegians defence in their search for at least a consolation bonus score. Despite having a man in the bin, the Blues defended magnificently well to hold their line intact, before referee Eddie Hogan O’Connell blew full-time to give Wegians their first-ever win at Ballymacarn Park and four valuable points.
It was no less than they deserved after some agonising recent losses. The Wegians back row was particularly prominent with Josh Pim and Eoghan Masterson proving their worth at the breakdown. There were also notable performances from Jason East, Aidan Moynihan and the two debut scrum-halfs, Eamonn Dowling and Rory Gaffney.
Although the two sides nearest them, UCC and bottom-placed Dolphin, both won, this win gives the Blues real hope and confidence in their fight to avoid the drop, with Shannon now a mere two points ahead in eighth place.