- Result: Galwegians Firsts 13 - Ballymena 14
- Venue: Eaton Park on Sat Feb 11th 2017
- Competition: AIL Division 1B
Galwegians suffered yet another frustrating defeat on the road at the weekend, this time at the hands of their old rivals Ballymena, when for the second time this season they lost out to the Braidmen by a solitary point.
The hosts played with the advantage of a strong first-half breeze, and they dominated proceedings early on. The Blues were falling foul of referee Shane Kierans regularly, and this afforded Ballymena’s out-half Ritchie McMaster three kickable penalty opportunities, which he duly converted to give his side a deserved 9-0 half-time lead.
The Blues started off better in the second-half, and youngster Morgan Codyre, who was making his first senior appearance at out-half, soon opened their account with a penalty. However indiscipline continued to afflict the visitors, and referee Kierans eventually lost patience with the mounting penalty count, with Codyre being the fall guy sent to the bin. Despite this Wegians were continuing to apply pressure in the opposition half, and when awarded another penalty opportunity, full-back Ciaran Gaffney struck it well to split the posts to reduce the gap to 9-6.
Shortly afterwards the Blues were reduced to 13 men when hooker John Moloney was binned for a no-arms tackle, which clearly didn’t help their cause. The hosts took full advantage, and before the hour mark they mauled their way over from fully 22 metres for an unconverted try and a 14-6 lead.
Wegians responded very well though to this setback, and soon afterwards they struck back with a try of their own. Winger Ed O’Keeffe finished well in the corner, and Codyre, who was just back on the field, landed an excellent touchline conversion to make it a one-point game. This seemed to set up Wegians nicely with the game entering the final quarter, and they went on to almost completely dominate the territorial stakes for the remainder of the contest.
Codyre was very unlucky not to give Wegians the lead when a penalty attempt rebounded off the crossbar, and despite being camped in the opposition 22, they were simply unable to breach the home defence which was put to the pin of their collar. Despite being reduced to 14 men with veteran prop Bryan Young in the bin towards the end, somehow Ballymena managed to shut out the Blues and crucially avoided conceding any penalties despite the pressure of the Wegians forwards. Then the final whistle signaled an end, to the intense disappointment of the Blues. On another day their performance would have been more than enough to grind out a win, but the Blues just cannot buy a win at the moment.
With other results going against them, this loss sees Wegians firmly marooned in second from bottom of the League table, with Dolphin below them. However Brian McClearn’s men simply have to dust themselves down and prepare themselves for another away trip to Ulster next Saturday 18th February. This time they will seek to overturn a November home defeat against Co. Down side Ballinahinch, who suffered a heavy defeat at the weekend away to UCC. One victory could turn the Blues’ season around, and it cannot come quick enough.