- Result: Galwegians Firsts 10 - Wanderers 29
- Venue: Crowley Park on Sat Jan 11th 2020
- Competition: AIL Division 2B
Galwegians opened up 2020 with their first home game in the return series of their Energia AIL Division 2B campaign, where unfortunately they suffered a second consecutive defeat at the hands of D4 side Wanderers at a blustery Crowley Park on Saturday.
Having gone down to a heavy defeat in their last outing away to the same opponents in December, Wegians were determined to put up a better show and despite playing into a very stiff first-half breeze, they started with real intent. An early attacking phase almost led to an early try, only to be stopped just short. But from the resulting penalty under the posts, Rory Gaffney took the three points on offer. Unfortunately Wegians were dealt a blow when both Gaffney, who started at out-half, and debutant flanker Lucas Culliton were forced to depart with injuries with less than ten minutes gone on the clock.
Wanderers gradually came into it and made use of the elements to set up territory. They levelled on 15 minutes when out-half Conor Byrne kicked a penalty after the Blues were pinged at the breakdown following a lineout turnover. This gave the visitors some momentum, and they took the lead at the end of the first quarter with the game’s opening try. It came after they exposed a lapse in concentration and some poor Wegians defence, as an attack up the short side saw scrum-half Conor McQuaid easily finish under the posts. Byrne converted to give his side a 10-3 lead.
Wegians continued to take the fight to their opponents and indeed had another great chance to score following a series of pick and jams on the Wanderers try-line, only to knock on at the crucial moment. For all that they were comfortably competing, especially upfront where they had a definite edge at scrum-time. However the game was effectively decided in a five minute period before the break when the visitors scored two tries, ironically both off scrums. On 32 minutes a lightning break from halfway by the impressive McQuaid saw him scythe through the midfield before setting up winger Mikey Russell with an easy run-in for try number two, which Byrne again converted.
The killer score came just before the break, and it had a hint of controversy about it. When a strong Wegians scrum on their 22 saw them shunt the visitors back a good five metres, referee Tommy O'Donoghue seemed poised to award them a penalty with the whistle to his mouth. However when the ball squirted out from the side of the scrum, McQuaid helped himself and darted over unopposed in the corner. Following consultation with his touch-judge, the try was awarded. This gave the visitors a comfortable 22-3 half-time lead.
A clearly frustrated Wegians tried to get back into the game, and while they continued to dominate upfront with Wanderers consistently penalised at the breakdown, the hosts were struggling for continuity and seemingly unable to capitalise on possession or the elements at their back to create territorial dominance. With the hour mark approaching they did manufacture an excellent rolling maul off a lineout which marched 20 metres forward before coming undone on the try-line.
They were handed a lifeline on 64 minutes when referee O’Donoghue binned Wanderers lock Mark O’Reilly. And following a kick to the corner, this time a series of pick and jams was finished off by centre Danny Faulkner who bundled over under the sticks. Substitute out-half Dylan Hamill converted and suddenly Wegians were within a sniff of gaining something at 10-22 down.
Unfortunately that was as good as it got, as the Blues were unable to make any further impression. It was the visitors who finished the stronger side, and when restored to their full complement, they made it count in the 75th minute when they opted for a scrum penalty under the posts. Following a solid set-piece, no. 8 Paddy Mallon gathered from the base and charged over for the bonus try.
Thus ended a frustrating day’s work for the Blues who were left to rue not taking their chances despite lengthy periods of possession. But their opponents were far more clinical and this was the real difference over the two games, which saw Wanderers take the maximum ten points on offer with the Blues ending up empty-handed.
This loss sees the Blues slip to seventh in the table, although still just eight points off the top four. Next up for Wegians is an away trip up North when they take on Belfast Harlequins who they defeated at home in early December.