- Result: Galwegians U16 20 - Corinthians 11
- Venue: Sportsground on Sun Apr 23rd 2017
- Competition: Connacht U16 Cup
Galwegians completed a memorable League and Cup double when they overcame their arch rivals Corinthians in a pulsating Final at the Sportsground on Sunday.
Played as part of a triple-bill underage Finals, Wegians started with the aid of a stiff first-half breeze blowing towards the College Road end. In otherwise perfect conditions for rugby, with so much at stake both sides understandably made nervy starts, and two early penalties from Wegians’ full-back Daniel Reddan and Corinthians centre Diarmuid Kilcommins saw the sides level at 3-3 after barely ten minutes.
The Blues went on to dominate territory for the remainder of the half, largely setting up camp inside their opponents’ 22. However they were finding possession harder to come by, and were coughing up too many penalties, allowing Corinthians to relieve the pressure. For all that, Wegians did have their scoring chances, and on two occasions they were on the try-line but the final pass seemed to elude them. They were also struggling to create space as a well-marshalled Corinthian defence held them at bay until the half-time break.
The Cloonacauneen youngsters re-started the second-half with intent, using the elements to set up camp deep in Wegians territory. The Blues were defending comfortably, however their passing was at times too forced and disjointed, leading to some knock-ons and spilt ball which gave their opponents an attacking platform.
On 43 minutes Corinthians took advantage of their dominance, and their hard-working pack won a penalty in front of the posts after the Blues infringed at the breakdown. Kilcommins duly slotted the kick for a 6-3 lead. At this point it was hard to see past a Corinthian victory as they were playing a clever territorial game, with almost the entire third quarter having been confined to the Wegians 22. Shortly afterwards Kilcommins tried his luck from long-distance out wide following another penalty, however his ambitious effort fell short of the posts.
The next passage of play was the turning point of the contest. Wegians ran the ball from under the posts trucking it up at first, and with passes suddenly beginning to stick, the ball found its way to Jack Power. Still inside his 22, the outside centre sold a neat dummy to his opposite number and then put on the afterburners to surge past the cover defence, ignoring two colleagues outside him to cut a swathe through the middle with a devastating display of pace and strength to dive under the posts. It was a try worthy of the occasion, and Shane O’Donnell kicked the convert and suddenly the Blues were 10-6 to the good.
This was a real momentum-changer as the Glenina outfit visibly grew in confidence, while on the contrary it seemed to take the wind out of Corinthians, whose defence had been impenetrable up until that point. The hard-working Blues forwards were now being rewarded with penalties suddenly going their way, and a solid set-piece suddenly gave them the foothold that they needed. Five minutes later Reddan landed a monster penalty into the teeth of the breeze to stretch their advantage to 13-6.
The game was made safe right from the restart when Corinthians attempted to go down the blindside. However a super catch from Wegians captain Conor O’Shaughnessy allowed him break a first-up tackle and he created space for his left-wing Tyrone Ezegou who simply sped down the flank, outpacing the despairing cover for a second magnificent Galwegians try. Reddan landed the extras to seal the deal for the Blues.
While seemingly no way back and with time almost up, in fairness Corinthians never gave up the fight, and deep into stoppage time Kilcommins crossed wide on the right to give his side a deserved try. Although the conversion attempt was wide, it proved immaterial as the full-time whistle sounded, leading to a hard-warned nine-point winning margin for the Glenina boys.
The game was a credit to both teams, but it is the Blue side of the city who are kingpins of this season’s Connacht U-16 campaign. Connacht Branch President Pat Piggott then presented medals to both sides, before handing over the trophy to Wegians captain O’Shaughnessy amidst jubilant scenes from the Wegians players, coaches and supporters alike.