- Result: Galwegians Firsts 33 - Ballynahinch 16
- Venue: Crowley Park on Sat Nov 28th 2015
- Competition: AIL Division 1A
Galwegians got back to winning ways with a much-needed bonus point victory against bottom-of-the table visitors Ballynahinch at a blustery Crowley Park on Saturday.
This was a must-win game for both sides, and the hosts had the advantage of a strong first-half breeze. Both sides had early penalty opportunities to open their account, but kickers Shane O’Leary for Wegians and Christopher Quinn for Hinch misjudged the breeze with their first attempts at the posts. Despite playing into the elements, it was the Ulstermen who made the brighter start and they took the lead in the ninth minute when flanker Peter Brown burst through the cover to saunter over for the game’s opening try. Quinn had no problems with the swirling breeze this time to tag on the conversion.
The lead proved short-lived as Wegians responded well. Four minutes later a blind-side break by scrum-half Caolin Blade near halfway brought play right up to the line, and following a few pick and go’s, centre Brian Murphy dived over near the posts for his side’s first try. O’Leary added the extras to level the game. However Hinch took up where they left off and resumed their attack. By the end of the first quarter they were back in front, with two penalties from Quinn putting them 13-7 to the good, as Wegians were falling foul of referee Eddie Hogan-O’Connell.
The Blues needed to keep the scoreboard ticking over, and their potent backline always looked the more likely to cause damage. They struck again on 25 minutes following an excellent penalty touch-finder, when quick line-out ball saw it sped wide for O’Leary to take a great line and crash through the centre and score under the posts. His simple conversion put the Blues ahead for the first time.
Despite this setback the visitors continued to dominate the remainder of the half with their pack in the ascendancy. However the game swung on two key moments either side of half-time. With Hinch pressing on the Wegians line, they were awarded a very kickable penalty in the 39th minute, but opted to go for the scrum where they fancied their chances of gaining a seven-pointer. And despite missing their influential lock Dave Nolan in the blood bin, a magnificent defensive scrum from the Blues saw them win a relieving penalty.
Better still for the hosts, following another excellent touch-finder, that man Blade once again went on a mazy sniping run to pierce the defensive rearguard, before finishing off good work from his supporting pack to dive over for try number three. O’Leary’s conversion gave the Blues a morale-boosting eight-point lead at the break.
Hinch set about taking immediate advantage of the elements upon the restart, and when they had secured an attacking 5m lineout after two minutes, a rolling maul try looked inevitable. However they met some heroic Wegians defence, who not only stood their ground but shoved their opponents 10 meters back, securing a penalty in the process. It was a significant statement of intent from the hosts.
Quinn did slot another penalty in the 45th minute to reduce the arrears to five points, but it proved a false dawn in terms of a comeback. Despite the torrid conditions, the Blues went on to wrestle the initiative away from the Mournemen and completely dominated the remainder of the game. With nearly all the play in opposition territory, the clinching bonus try came on the hour mark, when a trademark break by veteran back John Cleary created an overlap and a sweet pass fed his full-back Ciaran Gaffney who dived over near the left corner for another excellent score. O’Leary judged his conversion perfectly into the wind to put daylight between the sides.
The visitors tried gallantly to get back into the game, and although Wegians saw two forwards binned late on, first hooker Juan Anaya and then substitute flanker Paul Hackett, Hinch were unable to make any further inroads on the scoreboard. Instead it was Wegians who had the final say, with their backline yet again doing the damage. This time Gaffney turned provider when a deft little grubber put O’Leary over on the left for his second and his side’s fifth try of the game. This may have put some gloss on the final scoreline, but there was no doubting the hosts’ superiority and fully deserving of their victory.
Wegians remain second from bottom after this result, but they have significantly reduced the gap in their attempt to haul in the mid-table teams. They are just a solitary point behind Cork Con and a mere two points behind sixth-placed Terenure. Next up for the Blues is another vital game, this time away to mid-table Young Munster at Tom Clifford Park on Saturday.