- Result: Galwegians Firsts 30 - Garryowen 17
- Venue: Crowley Park on Sat Feb 20th 2016
- Competition: AIL Division 1A
Galwegians produced one of their best performances of the season to overcome play-off contenders Garryowen at Crowley Park on Saturday. This was a badly-needed win for Matt Brown’s charges, and they certainly delivered under pressure to end a four-game losing streak in the League.
The game was played on soft ground following some heavy overnight downpour, but fortunately the rain held off for almost the entire game. Wegians started with intent and they had the first opportunity to put points on the board when awarded a 6th minute penalty, but out-half Shane O’Leary‘s difficult attempt was dragged wide by the strong breeze. The Blues continued to dominate the opening exchanges, and they deservedly hit the front in the 11th minute. It followed some free-flowing build-up play which saw centre Api Phewhairangi make a break before setting up no. 8 Anthony Ryan, who dived over near the right corner flag for the opening try for a 5-0 lead.
The visitors reduced the margin before the first quarter was up when a third consecutive scrum penalty was awarded by referee Sean Gallagher, and scrum-half Neil Cronin took advantage to split the posts to cut the gap to 5-3. However it was short-lived as the Blues scored almost straight from the restart. When the Limerickmen spilled the kick-off, the Blues attacked from deep, and some more excellent back play created the opportunity for winger John Cleary, and the Wellpark flyer finished in the right-corner again for his side’s second try. This time O’Leary judged the difficult wind to perfection to tag on the conversion and put his side 12-3 to the good.
Despite struggling in the scrums where the visitors continued to hold the ascendancy, Wegians were dominant in every other aspect of play, really taking the game to their opponents. They managed to score try number three within the half-hour when their excellent hooker Jack Dinneen dismissed out-half Andrew O’Byrne with a clever hand-off which saw him power over from the 22-metre line in very impressive style. O'Leary converted and with the pressure unrelenting, the out-half also landed a drop goal to give his side a commanding 22-3 lead.
This was no more than Wegians deserved, but in first-half stoppage time they allowed the visitors back in to it when they failed to deal with a speculative up and under. This allowed Garryowen break down the right and an inside pass fed out-half O'Byrne who dived over near the posts, with Cronin converting to reduce the half-time deficit to 22-10.
Wegians then brought on replacement prop Jason East at the break which steadied the scrum somewhat, and some excellent kicking from hand by O’Leary, who was having a fine game at 10, saw them dominate territory, albeit without ever really threatening to add to their scoring tally. Garryowen patiently started to work their way back into the contest, and when a good penalty kick set up an attacking lineout in the Wegians 22, a clean lineout take by Aaron McCloskey set up a driving maul, and Connacht sub prop JP Cooney got on the end of it to score his sides second try on the hour mark. Cronin landed an excellent conversion, and at 22-17 suddenly it was very much game on.
However back came 'Wegians who again showed admirable resolve, and they seized the initiative to make the game safe. They grabbed their bonus point score within five minutes as Cleary grabbed his second consecutive brace at home to Garryowen, following his memorable double in last season’s Division 1b League decider, this time finishing off a tremendous break by his wing colleague Adam Leavy to dive over near the left-corner flag. Although he missed another difficult conversion, O'Leary made certain of the win with his second drop-goal in the 74th minute to put further daylight between the sides. The Limerickmen tried hard to gain a consolation bonus point at least, but some excellent and committed Wegians defence kept the door slammed shut.
Thus was a vital win for the Blues, who are now two points clear of second-from-bottom Terenure who managed a surprise win away to UCD on Friday night. Next up for the Blues is a tricky away assignment to play-off contenders Lansdowne at the Aviva back pitch on Saturday where the Blues will seek to complete a memorable double after their very impressive win against the same opposition back in October.
Ciaran Gaffney; John Cleary; Api Phewhairangi, Brian Murphy, Adam Leavy; Shane O’Leary, Barry Lee; Ja Naughton (capt.), Jack Dinneen, Doron McHugh; Marty Cummins, Dave Nolan; Matt Towey, Paul Hackett, Anthony Ryan.
Subs: Jason East, Juan Anaya, Ronan Moore, Aidan Moynihan, Alan McMahon.