- Result: Galwegians Firsts 24 - Old Belvedere 32
- Venue: Crowley Park on Sat Mar 5th 2016
- Competition: AIL Division 1A
Galwegians suffered a gut-wrenching and most frustrating defeat at home to Old Belvedere on Saturday in what was a serious dent to their hopes of avoiding the relegation battle. It was a bitter pill to swallow for Wegians who looked in control for so much of this contest, only to be ruthlessly punished for switching off at key periods of the game by their lethal opponents, for whom ex Connacht player and Galway native Danny Riordan played a leading role.
Belvo won the toss and opted to play with the stiff first-half breeze. Despite losing their flanker Karl Miller to an unfortunate first-minute injury, the Dubliners held a definite advantage in the scrum. However they were second best in every other department as the Blues dominated in an excellent opening quarter display. They took the lead on 7 minutes, when a scything break from halfway by John Cleary split the Belvo defence open, and centre Api Phewhairangi finished in the corner for an excellent try. Out-half Shane O’Leary landed an excellent conversion out wide for a 7-0 lead.
The Wegians backline was looking menacing and moments later it looked like a case of déjà-vu when a break by full-back Ciaran Gaffney was finished off by Phewhairangi in the same corner, only for a forward pass to be correctly called by referee Frank Murphy. The Blues could have easily added to their tally as they continued to play all the rugby, however the visitors stemmed the tide and opened their account in the 23rd minute. It came from full-back Riordan who collected a loose clearance kick, before putting in a deft chip over the covering defence and winning the race to the ball for a superb individual score.
The Blues came back on the attack again, but when they were turned over on their opponents 22 on the half-hour mark, it allowed the visitors to hack clear with the aid of the strong breeze and force Cleary to concede a lineout close-in. There was a large element of fortune for the visitors when Wegians’s Marty Cummins intercepted the lineout, but the alert Belvo hooker Ed Rossiter latched onto the lucky bounce to dive over in the corner and put his side in front for the first time.
Wegians were stunned by this, and before half-time they conceded a third try as the visitors wrestled control of the game, with their captain and back-row Jonathan Slattery getting over on the tail of a driving maul in the corner. Out-half Willie Staunton nailed the conversion this time for a 17-7 advantage. However Wegians had the final say in the half when centre Brian Murphy landed a close-range drop-goal to reduce the arrears to 17-10 at the break.
The visitors made the brighter start to the second-half, and within four minutes they had a bonus point in the bag when Slattery powered over from close range to extend the margin to 22-10. However there was still plenty time for the hosts to get back into the game, and they gave themselves a lifeline on 52 minutes when an excellent flowing attack from within their own half was finished off in superb style by ex Belvo winger Cormac Brennan, who dummied two former Connacht players in Riordan and Aidan Wynne before crossing the whitewash. O’Leary added another excellent conversion from out wide, and at 22-17 it was very much game on.
With the momentum now behind them, Wegians went on the immediate attack again. It looked a matter of time before they would score as they laid siege to the line. The turning point of the game came just after the hour mark when scrum-half Barry Lee looked like he levelled the game when he dived over from the base of a ruck in the right-hand corner. However referee Murphy crucially overruled his assistant and awarded a defending scrum instead. Moments later a relieved Belvo turned over possession near their line. And once again it was Riordan who was the thorn in the hosts’ side.
A blind-side break from inside his 22 saw the full-back find his winger Simon Killeen, and although the supporting flanker Michael Oyuga was held up short, numbers out wide saw centre Wynne dive over near the right to extend their lead to ten points. Almost from the restart, it was that man Riordan who again did the damage, making a break through the middle before feeding lock Jack Kelly who dived over near the posts and give his side a 15-point lead.
Credit the Blues who never gave up, and pressure was rewarded when prop Jason East drove over from close-range in the 75th minute for a third try, with O’Leary again converting. With driving rain now hammering down, the Blues threw the kitchen sink at their opponents. They had a late chance to salvage a bonus point with a penalty 25 metres out, but opted to go for the corner. Unfortunately it proved the wrong call as their attack was held up, allowing the visitors to clear and end the contest.
The Blues will wonder long and hard how they allowed their opponents back into this contest and ended up empty-handed. Their misery was compounded when news filtered through of relegation play-off rivals Terenure‘s bonus victory over Lansdowne which sees the Dublin 6W outfit leapfrog the Blues to eighth position.
This sets up a mouth-watering clash for Wegians’ next home game, when they host ‘Nure at Crowley Park on Saturday April 2nd in what will be a must-win clash in their bid to avoid a relegation play-off.
Ciaran Gaffney; John Cleary; Api Phewhairangi, Brian Murphy, Cormac Brennan; Shane O’Leary, Barry Lee; Ja Naughton (captain), Jack Dinneen, Jason East; Marty Cummins, Dave Nolan; Marc Kelly, Josh Pim, Anthony Ryan.
Subs: Matthew Burke, Patrick Curran, Matthew Towey, Aidan Moynihan, Adam Leavy.