- Result: Galwegians Firsts 23 - UCC 16
- Venue: Crowley Park on Sat Jan 25th 2014
- Competition: AIL Division 2A
Galwegians cemented their position at the top of Division 2a but only after a hard-fought victory at home to a plucky and resolute UCC side at Crowley Park on Saturday. The Blues came into this game on the back of a seven-game winning streak in the League and also with a 100% home record with four bonus point wins at Crowley Park to date. However they were given their sternest test yet at home by the Cork students who pushed them all the way.
Boosted by the return of Connacht senior and academy players from last weekend, Wegians fielded a near full-strength team. Although a vicious bitter crosswind made playing conditions hazardous, the Blues very much held the upper hand in the first quarter, and they went into an early 6-0 lead courtesy of two well-struck penalties by Darragh Leader in the opening 15 minutes. This actually transpired to be the winning of the game, as the two sides went on to cancel each other out over the remainder of the contest.
The game was settling into a predictable pattern with the powerful Wegians pack dominating in the tight, and the students looking to run the ball at every opportunity. However the hosts were unable to capitalise any further on their early territorial dominance, with the visitors defending well and disrupting the home lineout, where captain Brian Quill was a constant menace throughout. Any thoughts which Wegians might have had of strolling to another comfortable home victory were well and truly dispelled on the half-hour mark, when Leader had a clearance kick inside his 22 blocked down by UCC out-half Sean Og Murphy. The no. 10 easily won the race to dive on the ball and score the opening try of the game, which he converted to suddenly put the visitors into a surprise 7-6 lead.
This rattled Wegians and put a pep in the step of the students, and when referee Michael Black penalised the Blues for going over the top shortly afterwards, Murphy landed an excellent penalty to stretch UCC’s advantage to four points. However the Blues showed great character to steady the ship and regroup. They went on the attack from the restart which forced a penalty, and Leader made it three from three by splitting the posts from 30 metres out and reducing the margin again to a single point. The hosts then struck a killer blow on the stroke of half-time, when scrum-half Barry Lee made an excellent break near the 10 metre line to pierce the home defence before feeding his supporting inside-centre Brian Murphy who dived under the posts for an excellent try. Leader added the extras to give Wegians a deserved 16-10 half-time lead.
Conditions remained just as difficult for both sides in the second-half, but the plucky students started much the better and looked more threatening in the third quarter. Murphy missed a very kickable penalty on 50 minutes, and the visitors looked set to score a second try on the hour when a magnificent maul marched the Blues backwards fully 30 metres. However prop Peter McCabe got white line fever, peeling away before being penalised, much to the relief no doubt of his brother and Galwegians no. 8 Dan McCabe.
Both sides then defended well for the most part with scoring opportunities very limited, with Murphy in particular putting in some trademark tackles for the Blues. The next score was always going to be crucial, and when Wegians eventually began to exert some territorial dominance entering the final ten minutes, a close-range penalty gave Leader the chance to give them a nine-point cushion but he scuffed his effort badly wide. However it proved a blessing in disguise as the Blues went straight on the attack from the resulting 22 metre drop-out. Their marauding pack went marching towards the UCC line before sub scrum-half Caolin Blade saw a gap and sniped over under the posts to score his fourth try of the campaign. Leader converted to put Wegians a somewhat flattering thirteen points to the good.
However the Blues switched off when they coughed up ball from the restart, allowing the students to mount an attack, which ended with out-half Murphy feeding his full-back Tom O’Hare who dived over near the posts for an immediate riposte. Murphy’s simple conversion restored the six-point deficit, and once again it was game on. This made for a very nervy final five minutes for Wegians as the students threw the proverbial kitchen sink at them, and though they came close in the final move of the match, they were unable to breach a determined Blues defence who held out for a crucial victory.
This win puts Wegians eight points clear of third placed Ballymena, and sets them up nicely for their next game when they travel to Dublin to face a struggling Seapoint this Saturday Feb. 1st, where the Blues will be looking for revenge after suffering a shock home defeat last season.