- Result: Galwegians Firsts 20 - Buccaneers 17
- Venue: Crowley Park on Sat Apr 14th 2012
- Competition: AIL Division 1B
A last-gasp Conor Muldoon try secured a dramatic victory for Galwegians to give their survival prospects a massive boost in this Ulster Bank League Division 1b derby against local rivals Buccaneers at Crowley Park on Saturday.
The stakes were extremely high for Wegians coming into this game, as they found themselves in a relegation dogfight with UCD & Bruff to avoid the dreaded drop to Division 2 along with the already doomed UCC. The Blues came into this game shorn of confidence and missing some key players, not least injured captain and talisman John Cleary. And in truth a home win seemed a most unlikely outcome for a very long time in this contest.
Overall it was a game lacking in quality, not too surprising with so much at stake, as Buccs also had something to play for with a mathematical possibility of promotion before the game. But whatever about the quality of the fare, drama was almost guaranteed, and indeed this was the third year running that this particular fixture has been settled in the very last minute. And unfortunately the game will be remembered as much for the influential decisions of both the referee and his two assistants who made some crucial calls throughout.
The Blues made a very shaky start and Buccs dominated the opening exchanges, with out-half Jack Carty giving them a 3-0 lead with a 6th minute penalty. The hosts were getting on the wrong side of referee David O’Flynn from early on, although no. 8 Eoin McKeon can consider himself very harshly done by to get binned as early as the 10th minute for what seemed an innocuous incident. And while down to fourteen men, Wegians were made to suffer as they coughed up turnover ball inside their own half, and some quick hands sent Buccs centre Paul Harte clear to score the game’s opening try near the left corner.
Carty’s conversion gave the visitors a 10-0 lead after just 16 minutes, and seemingly in a very commanding position. Things went from bad to worse for Wegians at the start of the second quarter, as blindside flanker Ross Fitzgerald also saw yellow for hands in the ruck. However Carty was off target with his penalty attempt, and despite a mounting first-half penalty count of 8-1 against them within the first half-hour alone, the Blues were somehow able to keep their line intact and prevent Buccs putting any further daylight on the scoreboard.
The first-half was disrupted by a lengthy stoppage to stalwart prop Jamie Stephens who was unfortunately carried off on his last ever appearance for the Blues. However the hosts seemed to regroup better, and they ended the half on the ascendancy. Full-back Tadhg Leader opened their account with a well-struck penalty on 35 minutes. Then some good territory and patient build-up play was rewarded just before the half-time whistle, when scrum-half Dave Moore tapped a quick penalty near the posts. And three phases later centre Brian Murphy somehow barrelled his way over in the right-hand corner for a crucial try, with Leader landing an excellent conversion to level the game at the break.
Although playing against the breeze, Wegians now seemed to have the momentum in their favour, but they were dealt a blow on 45 minutes when a good breakaway move by Buccaneers resulted in centre Harte touching down near the left-hand corner. However despite the intervention of the touch-judge, referee O’Flynn ignored the strong claims of obstruction by the Wegians defence and awarded the try. To rub salt into the Galwegians wounds, Carty landed a peach of a conversion to restore their seven-point lead.
However huge credit must go to the Blues who have shown great inner belief this season at times when they really needed to, and this was another such occasion. They took the game to their opponents, and the pressure told when Buccaneers lock forward James Tormey went into the sin-bin for killing the ball near the line. Captain Brian McClearn opted to kick at goal, and Leader reduced the deficit to 17-13.
With 25 minutes left, it was now all to play for. The game was characterised by Wegians playing most of the rugby, with Buccs soaking up the pressure and half-backs Mark Dolan and Carty using the elements to good effect to clear their lines. With time running out, it looked like Wegians had finally taken the lead when the dynamic prop Ja Naughton gathered a loose ball and dived over near the left-hand corner. But this time referee O’Flynn took the advice of his other assistant and disallowed the try for an off-the-ball tackle.
But just when it seemed the chance was gone, the Blues never-say-die spirit finally came good in the very last play of the game. Inspirational scrum-half Dave Moore made a half-break which sent winger Ronan Burke clear, and although Brian Murphy almost finished the move himself, the Blues pack arrived to camp on the goal-line. And following a series of pick-and-goes, hooker Conor Muldoon managed to cross the whitewash amidst a forest of bodies. But there was still time for more drama, as the unsighted referee went to consult one final time with his assistant.Fortunately for the Blues, this time the try was awarded, and Leader’s conversion was the last kick of the game, signalling much jubilation amongst the home team and fans.
While still not certain of safety, Wegian now lie a crucial four points ahead of second-from-bottom UCD with the final round of matches this weekend. A losing bonus point away to mid-table Ballynahinch would suffice for Wegians, while UCD host in-form and promotion-chasing Dungannon. And Bruff are also not out of danger as they lie two points adrift of Wegians, but they host mid-table Buccaneers. So it will all come down to the final day’s play.