- Result: Galwegians Firsts 34 - Belfast Harlequins 36
- Venue: Deramore Park on Sat Mar 28th 2015
- Competition: AIL Division 1B
Galwegians have been knocked off top spot of UBL Division 1b for the first time all season after an incredible match away to Belfast Harlequins in their penultimate League fixture on Saturday. In an 11-try thriller, the Blues almost staged a dramatic comeback in a match that truly gave added meaning to the phrase “a game of two halves”.
Playing against a very stiff first-half breeze, Wegians made a dream start, scoring an excellent try after exactly one minute of play. Having fielded the home team’s kick-off, the Blues put the ball through no less than ten pairs of hands, moving left and then right before ace full-back John Cleary scorched over on the right for a stunning opening try, giving his side an early 5-0 lead.
However the hosts gradually settled and didn’t take long to take advantage of the elements. They scored with their first meaningful attack when prop Mark McGrath crashed over after 8 minutes, with Michael Heaney converting to nudge his side in front. Shortly afterwards the hosts bagged a second try when hooker Tom Fraser finished a well-drilled lineout maul, with Heaney again adding the extras to make it 14-5.
The Quins half-backs Heaney and Mark Kettyle were wisely using the elements to keep the Blues pinned deep in their territory. The hungry home pack were making hay, capitalising on some defensive errors, and with Wegians’ influential lock Brian McClearn in the sin-bin for a high tackle, early in the second quarter no. 8 Frank Taggart burst over for a third try which Heaney again converted.
Although they tried to play their way back into the game, Wegians simply couldn’t manage to break out of their own half. When Cleary was also binned by referee Olly Hodges for deliberate interference, there was a certain inevitability about the Quins’ bonus try which came on 35 minutes courtesy of another forward, flanker Sean Reidy. The Blues’ plight went from bad to worse when their hosts scored a fifth try almost from the restart, with winger Mark Glover finishing an overlap to dot down this time. Heaney’s conversion seemingly put them out of sight at 33-5 at half-time.
Not for the first time this season, Wegians’ coach Matt Brown had stern words for his charges during the break. With the strong breeze at their back, they had nothing to lose and took the game right to their opponents. Within two minutes of the restart they were back in business, with some excellent hands sending centre Brian Murphy over, with out-half Aidan Moynihan converting to reduce the margin to 33-12. Heaney then landed the only penalty of the game soon after when Blues prop Doran McHugh was pinged for a high tackle, making it treble scores at 36-12. However this was to be their last score.
Despite being under constant pressure, the hosts managed to keep their line intact for the remainder of the third quarter. It looked a hopeless cause for Wegians when winger Colin Conroy got re-carded for a high tackle shortly after the hour mark. However with Cleary back in the game, the veteran soon make his mark when he stole ball from a ruck on his own 22, and dashed 75 metres unopposed to score a remarkable individual try near the right corner. This really fuelled belief in the Glenina men, and moments later a great break by winger Matt Dever was finished in the corner this time by no. 8 Anthony Ryan for a crucial bonus try.
With the hosts now out on their feet and their heads dropping, Wegians went on to completely dominate their opponents for the remainder of the contest. Despite their numerical disadvantage they looked like scoring at will at this stage, and with ten minutes remaining Murphy finished off good work by centre partner Parata for a fifth try in the corner. Barely five minutes later and the Shrule man sealed his hat-trick, when this time he got on the end of a strong Moynihan break for Wegians’s sixth try of the game. Moynihan finally found his range in the difficult breeze to add on the conversion, and suddenly there were only two points in it.
Incredibly the Blues still had chances to win it. Moynihan was just wide with a long-range penalty near the touchline, and right up to the final whistle the visitors looked capable of snatching a dramatic victory, only for time to eventually run out for a relieved home side.
This result still leaves the Blues in charge of their own destiny, as their final game is a winner-takes-all contest against new League leaders Garryowen on Saturday April 11th (kick-off 2.30pm).
Replacements: B Lee, G O’Brien, P Finn, C Kyne, J Dinneen.