- Result: Galwegians Firsts 12 - Buccaneers 26
- Venue: Dubarry Park on Sat Mar 25th 2006
- Competition: AIL Division 1
Galwegians suffered a most frustrating defeat away to Buccaneers in a crucial All Ireland League Division 1 derby in Athlone on Saturday. In the end it was all too easy for the Buccs, with Wegians having flattered to deceive when they went into the second-half only 13-12 behind and appearing to have the beating of their opponents.
Wegians made a nervy start and almost conceded a try in the first minute when out-half Peter Durcan's kick was charged down by Buccaneers prop Michael Diffley, only for the latter to knock-on with the line at his mercy. Playing with the aid of a slight breeze in driving rain, the home side did go in front on 10 minutes when their prolific full-back Tom Cregan kicked a penalty from in front of the posts.
However Wegians soon got into their stride, and two minutes later they took the lead from their first real attack. Prop Ross Davies made a great burst through the middle, and from the resulting scrum, their no. 9 Tom Tierney sold a dummy to slip under the posts for the opening try, which was converted by full-back Brendon Bartley for a 7-3 lead. Buccaneers then came back more into the game and narrowed the deficit to a single point with a drop-goal by out-half Geraoid O'Grady on 18 minutes.
Bartley should have restored Wegians' advantage soon after but missed a kickable penalty from in front of the posts. And the home side then regained the lead on 25 minutes with the best try of the game following a scintillating break from the base of a scrum by man of the match Mark Bruce. The scrum-half showed great pace and vision before sending a perfect scoring pass to right-wing Sean Brady who scored on the right, with Cregan converting for a 13-7 lead.
However the visitors gained the upper hand in the second quarter, with their forward pack dominating the opposition in the loose and set-piece. And they were rewarded with their second try which came on the stroke of half-time. Following a superb penalty kick to touch from Peter Durcan, Wegians' lock Mike Swift took clean line-out ball, and a trademark rolling maul was finished off by prop Denis O'Brien who grounded the ball just over the line. Bartley was unlucky with the difficult conversion which sailed fractionally to the left of the posts, so it was the home side who held a one-point lead at the interval.
At this point Wegians had every chance to come away with a surprise win, but the second-half was a thoroughly forgettable and frustrating affair for the Blues. Two minutes after the restart the Buccs stretched their lead to four points with another Cregan penalty. Then the pivotal moment of the match happened on 48 minutes when Wegians won a penalty in front of their posts, only to have it promptly reversed for retaliation by Swift, with the influential Connacht forward earning a yellow card for his indiscipline. Cregan tapped over to stretch the lead to seven, and with Swift in the bin, the 7-man Galwegian pack were feeling the strain with Buccaneers cranking up the heat.
The visitors never fully recovered from this setback, and with Connacht squad member Conor O'Loughlin now orchestrating proceedings from scrum-half, having come off the bench after the break, it was all Buccaneers as they set up camp in the Galwegians 22. Indeed the home side spurned several try-scoring chances before their relentless pressure eventually led to the decisive second try on 70 minutes, when captain and hooker Gareth Halligan crossed in the left corner, with Cregan again tagging on the points to make it 26-12.
Wegians' only meaningful response was a late break by Brendon Bartley which yielded a penalty, but the visitor's second-half performance was summed up when centre Brian Murphy sliced his kick for touch over the dead-ball line, ensuring that the Blues returned home empty-handed. They now have two extremely tough League games remaining against play-off contenders Cork Con (home) and Clontarf (away).