- Result: Galwegians Firsts 22 - Ballymena 27
- Venue: Crowley Park on Sat Feb 11th 2012
- Competition: AIL Division 1B
A dramatic finale which saw no less than three injury-time scores denied Galwegians what would have been a well-deserved share of the spoils against high-flying Ballymena, who regained the Des Dempsey Memorial Cup at Crowley Park on Saturday.
The visitors got off to a perfect start when a backline move caught the Wegians defence off guard in the first minute, as winger Caolann Fitzpatrick went over for a soft opening try, which was converted by Luke Marshall. Although missing their two most influential players in captain John Cleary and Ivan Muldoon to injury, the Blues reacted well to the early setback and soon went on the offensive. An excellent break by stand-in full-back Tadhg Leader had the Braidmen on the back foot, and in the 10th minute scrum-half Dave Moore finished off excellent work by his pack to dart over near the posts. Out-half Matt Jarvis converted to level matters.
Wegians were dominating upfront in particular, and their superior possession was rewarded on 25 minutes when more forward pressure near the line led to a near identical second try, with number 8 Dermot Murphy claiming the touchdown this time. Jarvis’s conversion was controversially judged wide by referee Kevin Beggs and his two assistants, much to the bewilderment of Jarvis and the home team and fans. However the hosts were good value for their 12-7 lead, and this is how it remained at the break.
Wegians also started the second-half in the ascendancy, but crucially failed to build on their lead despite lording both possession and territory. And they paid dearly for it when the Ulster side went on their first counter-attack on 50 minutes, with centre Ali Frazer finishing near the right-hand corner for an equalising try. Marshall was wide with his conversion attempt, leaving the game perfectly poised at 12-all entering the final quarter.
There were signs of the visitors starting to gain the upper hand, and Wegians were getting increasingly on the wrong side of referee Beggs, especially at the breakdown. The next score would prove crucial, and it came for the visitors on 70 minutes when full-back Roger McBurney finished off a period of sustained pressure near the posts for a third Ballymena try. Marshall landed the easy conversion, and 5 minutes later a very soft penalty conceded by Wegians under their posts gave him the chance to stretch their lead to ten points.
However the ebb and flow nature of this contest was far from over, and a pulsating finish was in store. The Blues again responded well in adversity, and with full-time seemingly up, Jarvis landed an excellent penalty to reduce the gap to seven points and bring them into bonus point territory. Then almost straight from the restart a rejuvenated Blues again went upfield, and following a succession of phases near the try-line, quick ball saw winger Matthew Dever dive over near the left-hand corner for a superb try. Jarvis then struck a perfect conversion from out wide to incredibly level the match once again.
But there was still time left on the clock and there was to be one cruel final twist for Wegians. Having safely secured possession from the restart, they tried to go in search of victory from deep inside their 22, rather than take the draw. And it cost them dearly, as they were turned over and the visitors pounced down the blindside allowing substitute John Andrew scamper over for the winning try, and bagging a bonus point to boot. The Ulstermen could hardly believe their luck, and it was a harsh lesson for a gutsy Wegians side who were superior for so much of the contest.
Next up for the Blues is an away fixture to another Ulster side Dungannon on Saturday Feb. 18th.