- Result: Galwegians Firsts 3 - Shannon 18
- Venue: Crowley Park on Sat Jan 3rd 2015
- Competition: AIL Division 1B
Galwegians’ early-season form appears to have suddenly deserted them, as they suffered a third straight defeat and their second in UBL Division 1b at home to a fired-up Shannon on Saturday.
The Blues came into this game determined to get back to winning ways after the Christmas break, but it was another bad day at the office, as they never got going against their determined visitors. Shannon started the brighter and took an early lead courtesy of a 2nd minute penalty from out-half Tadhg Bennett. However Wegians were soon on level terms when their first incursion into opposition territory led to a 30m penalty which was slotted over by full-back John Cleary.
The Blues were getting on the wrong side of referee Will O’Connor who was blowing them off the pitch at the breakdown, and with the first quarter barely up, O’Connor lost patience and binned Wegians tight-head prop Doran McHugh. Shannon opted for a 5m scrum penalty but the Blues turned it over and relieved the pressure, although Bennett soon restored a 3-point lead with his second penalty.
Wegians were struggling to find any rhythm, although they were somewhat unlucky not to grab the opening try when returning centre Brian Murphy burst through the middle, only to be pulled back for a forward pass. The turning point of the game came on the half-hour mark when the Blues were camped deep in opposition territory and looking set to add to their scoring tally. When Shannon had forwards Lee Nicholas and replacement prop Kevin Griffin binned in short succession, Wegians unsurprisingly opted for a succession of 5m scrum penalties. At one stage a penalty try looked a formality, only for no. 8 Anthony Ryan to pick and go too soon. And from the next scrum play, the seven-man Shannon scrum somehow dug deep and turned the ball over to relieve the pressure.
It was a game-changing moment, and it got even better for the visitors on the stroke of half-time. With the Wegians lineout misfiring, the visitors stole lineout ball near the Wegians 22, and although they had just 13 men on the pitch, they still found numbers out wide, and Shannon left-wing David O’Donovan was sent over for the opening try of the game, giving them an 11-3 lead at the break.
The Blues came out fighting at the start of the second-half, but they wasted an immediate opportunity when a 5m lineout was again coughed up allowing Shannon to clear their lines. Clearly missed a 30m penalty shortly afterwards, and the confidence appeared to visibly drain out of the home side who had been free-scoring in the first half of the season.
With their numbers restored to parity, Shannon were simply hungrier and more determined, with out-half Bennett dictating play and putting in some good relieving kicks. In contrast the Blues looked leaden-footed and rudderless. Too many basic errors, missed tackles, poor execution and overall game management meant they simply couldn’t gain a foothold. In contrast Shannon belied their lowly League position and visibly grew in confidence as the game progressed, determined to concede nothing to their hosts.
With the Blues forcing the game, Shannon were picking off a few intercepts, and one counterattack nearly led to a second try for O’Donovan, only to be held up by an excellent covering tackle by Cleary. Although Wegians won a penalty off the resulting scrum, they were playing at the wrong end of the pitch, and finding it hard to gain any momentum. Second-row Marty Cummins almost created a scoring chance late on before being judged foot in touch, but truth be told it was an all too rare attack.
With the game entering its final phase, the hunger and determination of the visitors shone through, and in stoppage time they got their just rewards when full-back Stephen Fitzgerald was sent clear on the right, and he sauntered in unopposed by a Wegians defence who looked like they had simply given up the fight. Sub Ronan McKenna’s easy conversion put them out of reach, and soon afterwards referee O’Connor signalled full-time to put the Blues out of their misery and signal a vital morale-boosting victory for the Limerickmen who desperately needed the points in their battle against relegation.
And so it was another bad day at the office for the Blues, however they still remain top of the table, although their previous nine-point lead has now been reduced to a solitary point over Ballymena, and just two clear of third-placed Garryowen. Next up for the Blues is an away trip to face another Limerick side, struggling UL Bohs next Saturday, where Matt Brown’s men will look to get back in the saddle and re-kindle their promotion ambitions.
J Cleary; C Conroy, B Murphy, G O’Brien, J Harrimate; R Shaughnessy, B Lee; J Naughton (capt.), J Dinneen, D.McHugh; B.McClearn, M.Cummins; A Browne, P Hackett, A Ryan.
Replacements: Caolin Blade, Aidan Moynihan, Paddy Finn, Ciaran Gavin, Kurtis Kyne