- Result: Galwegians Firsts 11 - Banbridge 7
- Venue: Banbridge RFC on Sat Jan 4th 2014
- Competition: AIL Division 2A
Galwegians went top of Ulster Bank League Division 2a when they won a hard-fought encounter away to Ulster side Banbridge in this re-arranged fixture on Saturday.
Wegians came in to this game in superb form on the back of six straight victories in the UBL, and they were boosted by their recent Senior Cup Final win over Corinthians last Saturday at Crowley Park. Although fielding a strong side, they were up against a resurgent Banbridge, who recovered from a dreadful start to their League campaign with two impressive wins in their last two games against fellow Ulster sides Ballymena and Rainey Old Boys.
Both sides had early chances to score but were unable to breach the rearguard, with Wegians losing a strike against the head when a 5 metre scrum seemed set to give them the breakthrough. However they were in top in the opening exchanges and took the lead on 10 minutes when the home defence drifted offside defending their line, out-half Ross Shaughnessy slotted over the resulting penalty.
The Blues were playing most of the rugby in the opening period, dominating up front although they were struggling out of touch. However they deservedly stretched their lead at the end of the first quarter following an excellent blockdown by lock forward Anthony Ryan on the Banbridge 22, and the alert Wegians captain Brian McClearn fed Shaughnessy who dived over for the opening try. However the relatively easy conversion was missed to leave it 8-0.
The hosts nearly scored when they attacked down the right-wing straight from the restart, but last-gasp Wegians defence held their line intact and the home side were penalised for not releasing. The game then became a very scrappy affair littered with mistakes, with the visitors coughing up a lot of ball and ceding the advantage to their hosts with some elementary errors. Banbridge wasted two good chances to narrow the deficit before the break with two very kickable penalties, but their first-choice kicker Shandon Scott was off target both times.
In the second-half the hosts started brightly and early pressure was rewarded when a chip through by full-back was touched down by winger Hugo Harbison, which was converted by Adam Docherty to reduce the gap to a single point. Wegians had lost their rhythm at this stage and were being continuously penalised for playing the ball on the ground, which eventually led to the sin-binning of Shaughnessy. Banbridge had another very kickable penalty which would have given them the lead, but this time Docherty was wide of the posts. However with the extra man advantage they proceeded to set up camp in the Wegians 22. Yet for all their huff and puff, they were unable to breach a dogged and determined Wegians defensive line.
An excellent clearance 22 drop-out from centre Rory Parata eventually lifted the siege for the Blues, and when back to 15 men they suddenly regained control and dominated both the possession and territory stakes, threatening the try-line on several occasions. Full-back John Cleary was narrowly wide with a penalty effort on 65 minutes, but with a few minutes to go, substitute out-half Ciaran Gaffney split the posts with a well-struck penalty after the hosts were forced offside. This gave the Blues a 4-point cushion, and they closed the game out in impressive fashion by holding a high defensive line and denying their hosts any opportunity to snatch victory.
And so Wegians have catapulted themselves to the top of the League, as this was the only fixture played in Division 2a this weekend. Next up for the Blues is a trip away to struggling bottom-placed Bruff this Saturday, where they will be looking to make it a seventh straight League win to maintain their promotion challenge.