- Result: Galwegians Firsts 22 - UL Bohemians 24
- Venue: Crowley Park on Sat Jan 7th 2012
- Competition: AIL Division 1B
Galwegians squandered a glorious opportunity to secure their fourth successive victory in the Ulster Bank Division 1b on Saturday when they somehow managed to lose this game against UL Bohs. The bare facts of this game are that, with less than half an hour gone, the Blues held a 22-3 lead, having scored three tries to nil. And yet the visitors went away with the spoils, and deservedly so.
Playing in relatively mild conditions for early January, with a cross-wind not really favouring either side, both sides traded early penalties with Ireland U-21 rivals Tadhg Leader and JJ Hanrahan each opening their account within the first five minutes. But the remainder of the opening half hour belonged totally to Wegians who put in a near perfect performance. In the eighth minute, debutant back-row TJ Anderson should have scored an opening try when put clear by Conor Muldoon. But when the Blues turned over the first scrum of the day following Bohs’ own put-in, their pack soon set about dismantling the opposition scrum. And following three successive scrum penalties near the visitors try-line and three collapses by the Bohs front-row, Ulster referee Stuart Gaffikin awarded a 12th minute penalty try.
Leader landed the easy conversion to make it 10-3, and just after the first quarter, the promising out-half aimed a perfect cross-kick which was fielded by full-back John Cleary near the visitors try-line. And although wrapped by his tackler, a sublime offload by Cleary fed centre Colin Conroy who darted over near the right-hand corner for his first try of the season. Five minutes later and the hosts had their third try, when Cleary was fed possession inside the opposition half, and went on a trademark weaving run which left the Bohs defence for dead before diving over under the posts.
Leader’s simple conversion put the Blues nineteen points clear, and with their pack utterly dominating proceedings and the backs looking very dangerous, a bonus point win looked only a matter of time at this stage. However the visitors failed to read the script, and Hanrahan pegged back the deficit with two quick penalties just after the half-hour mark to give them a chink of light. The visitors suddenly found their rhythm and ended the opening half in the ascendancy, almost scoring a try before the half-time whistle, only to knock-on near the line.
The half-time team-talk seemed to come at a perfect time for the Blues to re-group and re-assert their dominance, but inexplicably they failed to heed the warnings and there followed what can only be described as a complete implosion in the second-half. Bohs resumed where they left off, making some astute substitutions both upfront and in the backline. Hanrahan was wide with both a drop-goal and a penalty attempt on 45 minutes, but two minutes later he reduced arrears to 22-12 when Wegians’ blindside flanker Anderson was sin-binned for persistent fouling, referee Gaffikin getting impatient with the hosts conceding a sixth successive penalty.
The momentum had by now completely swung to the visitors, and it was no surprise when they scored the next try. An excellent break by no. 8 Sean Rennison from near halfway had the Blues defence in all sorts of trouble. Then a sweet cross-kick by Hanrahan, which was uncannily similar to Leader’s first–half effort, was fielded by sub full-back Ben Martin. Although he appeared held up by ‘Wegians winger Barry Lee, the referee controversially changed his mind after consulting with his assistant and awarded the try. Hanrahan’s crucial conversion meant it was now game on at 22-19.
‘Wegians inability to get back into the game is nothing short of inexplicable, for despite some tactical changes at half-time and in the second-half, they were suddenly being completely routed by the same side who they had so utterly dominated in the opening half-hour. The students pack was now bossing affairs and their backline were looking the more threatening. Indeed Wegians failed to get any foothold in the second-half whatsoever and never once came within a whisker of eeking out any scoring opportunity.
It was no surprise when Bohs scored their second try and took the lead forthe first time on 67 minutes, a scenario which had earlier seemed unthinkable. Following a simple lineout maul, they sucked in the cover near the centre, before a skip pass fed hooker Sean Henry who scored in the right-hand corner. A shell-shocked Blues simply never recovered and all the final play was in the Galwegians’ half. ‘Wegians Coach Colm Rigney will take no consolation whatsoever from the fact that his side held on for a losing bonus point. This was very much a case of four points lost, and quite how this game slipped from their grasp will no doubt be the subject of much internal debate at Crowley Park this week.
Next up for the Blues in Division 1b is a crunch away tie on Friday night under lights at Dubarry Park against rival Buccaneers, in what is now doubling up as a Connacht Senior Cup final for the right to play Garryowen in the semi-final of the Bateman Cup.