- Result: Galwegians U18 10 - Corinthians 16
- Venue: Ballinasloe RFC on Sun Dec 12th 2021
- Competition: Connacht U18 League
THE ever legendary rivalry between Corinthians and Galwegians continued on Sunday morning next in Ballinasloe when their U18.5 teams clashed in the Division One League Final.
Even with Connacht in European action that afternoon, a large crowd witnessed a cracking game between two committed sides and what they served up was quality rugby with Corinthians getting the silverware and slight revenge for their meeting three weeks previously when Galwegians won their league meeting 24-23 with a last minute conversion.
Ironically, the performances of both teams should strike fear into the schools of the province as several of these players will be playing together when the schools cups competitions return in January.
In what were challenging underfoot conditions to put it mildly, it was Galwegians who started the better with continuous pressure in the opening seven minutes only to be denied with Alex Burke and Diarmuid Kilraine defending well. Galwegians went for the corner early and it forced Corinthians to defend well. However, that defending though would lead to penalties. One of which was well dispatched by Ryan Roche to give Galwegians the opening score after five minutes.
This seemed to spark Corinthians into action and they responded with an excellent try. It all started with pressure on the restart and a forced lineout inside the ‘Wegians 22. Charlie Leonard’s throw was spot on to Eoin Connolly and from the resulting maul that featured all of the pack, Donnacha Finn touched down. The resulting conversion was from a difficult angle and into the wind but Jack Conway made no mistake to turn a three point deficit into a four point lead.
The momentum had now changed. Straight from the kick off, Gareth Kilkelly and Ryan Gaughan made some big carries, as did hooker Steven Norman, with Corinthians looking dangerous in attack, but Galwegians held firm. However, the penalty count was adding up, and Galwegians Dylan Keane earned the wrath of the referee for persistent offside and received the only yellow card of the game.
Another Conway penalty would extend Corinthians lead but Galwegians were also now in full flow with the game turning into a battle of the centres. Mattie Kennedy and Sean Fox looked dangerous for Corinthians but the same could also be said of Galwegians centres Ryan Roche and Cody Farrell as Galwegians tried to get wide on a few occasions but finding winger Tadhg Joyce and scrum-half Fearghal MacCearra defiant in defence.
Bryan Walsh was now on the field at this stage and he made some good carries and tackles and combined with the pack, caused their opponents trouble when in possession. As the half time whistle approached, Jack Conway would again find his range and at the break, Corinthians would go in 13-3 ahead.
If the first half was exciting, the second bought and sold it. Conway would produce another wonderful kick but Galwegians were determined not to let this one get away from them. Sustained pressure almost produced a try were it not for a brilliant tackle from Ryan Gaughan and at the other end Eoghan Flannery and Luke Dahler almost combined to put the game out of sight but Galwegians held firm.
It was now Galwegians turn to add pressure and they asked a lot of questions of the Corinthians defence. A sniping run from a ruck from replacement scrum-half Alex Gordon evaded the Corinthian cover and he scored under the posts with Roche adding the conversion. With five minutes plus added time remaining, the scene was set for a classic finish to a classic final.
Six points is always a dangerous lead and the memory of their late defeat would spur on Corinthians as they threw caution to the wind and attacked on their own ball. Jack Wise went close, replacements Rory Piggott and Ryan Flynn threw themselves at every moment available and with the game in injury time Corinthians forced a knock on and that would be that.
As usual, it was a titanic battle by these two near neighbours, played in a very sporting manner and both teams deserve great credit for an excellent game. If these teams were to meet in the cup in the spring, it can be assured that another classic will be on the cards.
Thanks to John Mulligan for this match report.