- Result: Galwegians Firsts 10 - Garryowen 6
- Venue: Dooradoyle on Sat Dec 6th 2014
- Competition: AIL Division 1B
Galwegians ended the first half of their UBL Division 1b campaign by claiming another notable scalp when overcoming a strong Garryowen team at a rain-sodden Dooradoyle on Saturday.
It was third hosting first in the Division 1b match of the day, but the damp and wintry conditions did not allow for the high-scoring spectacle which some had hoped for. An early head injury to Brian Murphy unsettled Galwegians’ rhythm, with the former Connacht centre removed from play as a precautionary measure in the 5th minute. After a cagey opening by both sides, Garryowen took a 13th minute lead thanks to a penalty from out-half Jamie Gavin, following a strong scrummage from the home pack near the visitors 22.
Wegians slowly got into the game and went on to dominate the second quarter. A classy line-break from inside-centre Gary O'Brien almost created the opening try, only for the final pass not going to hand. Nonetheless this set up a good spell of pressure for the Blues, but they failed to take advantage, spurning several scoring opportunities in the process. Although the play was almost exclusively in the Garryowen half and often inside their 22m line, some poor decision-making and sloppy handling, admittedly not helped by the weather, meant that the visitors went into the break scoreless and trailing 3-0.
This game was effectively decided in the opening ten minutes of the second-half. Wegians coach Matt Brown seems to be making a habit of getting his message across during half-time team-talks, and so it proved again on Saturday. The Blues came out of the traps and deservedly pulled level in the 44th minute courtesy of a well-struck long range penalty by full-back John Cleary. With the floodlights turned on and the rain unrelenting, the mood of the home support darkened further when full-back and Ireland Under-20 international Alex Wooton was sent off for foul play by ref Oisin Quinn after extensive consultation with his touch-judge.
Wegians smelt blood and within minutes they took the lead for the first time. It followed a perfectly judged box-kick by scrum-half Barry Lee which forced the hosts to concede a 5m line-out. And following a clean take by Brian McClearn, a textbook driving maul saw in-form prop Doron McHugh get on the end of it to dive over for his third try of this campaign. Cleary added the extras to put the visitors 10-3 to the good.
With half-an-hour remaining, having lost their lead and finding themselves a man down, things did not look good for Garryowen at this point. However credit to the hosts who responded very well to the setback. They took the game to Wegians and Gavin landed his second penalty just after the hour mark following some sustained pressure which forced Wegians to drift offside. This reduced the lead to 10-6, and shortly afterwards the visitors lost the influential McClearn to the sin-bin, which gave the Limerickmen an extra spring in their step with parity of numbers restored for at least ten minutes.
This led to a predictable onslaught from the hosts which tested the resolve and discipline of Wegians, but not for the first time this season their gritty and determined defence held out admirably. There were some crucial turnovers both at set-piece and open play to relieve the pressure. And much like Wegians’ experience in the first-half, this time it was Garryowen who were unable to make their territorial dominance and possession pay. With time running out, they were forced to run a couple of late penalties in their attempt to bridge the four-point deficit, only to find no way through a solid wall of defence.
The final whistle sounded deep into stoppage time to signal jubilant scenes from the Wegians players and travelling support. This victory keeps the Blues seven points clear of second-placed Ballymena, and also stretches the lead over their third-placed opponents to eleven points at the half-way stage of the season. It also marked a memorable Limerick away double over two ex-AIL champions in the shape of Shannon and Garryowen.
Next up for Matt Brown’s charges is another crucial away trip on December 20th, this time to face an in-form Dublin University at College Park.
Replacements: C Conroy, R Shaughnessy, P Hackett, P O’Donnell, P McCreanor.