- Result: Galwegians Firsts 13 - Young Munster 29
- Venue: Tom Clifford Park on Sat Feb 13th 2016
- Competition: AIL Division 1A
Galwegians’ poor away form continued as they suffered a demoralising heavy defeat away to high-riding Young Munster at a rain-sodden Tom Clifford Park in Limerick on Saturday.
This was a re-arranged fixture which had been postponed from early December, and it afforded the hosts a chance to gain revenge for their narrow defeat at Crowley Park in early January. And they duly did so as they blew away their visitors with a dominant second-half performance.
An incessant overnight downpour made for hazardous conditions, but despite the very soft ground, former Connacht scrum-half and referee Frank Murphy passed the pitch playable in the morning. Wegians were missing four of their starting pack from the previous week’s close encounter with leaders UCD, although they were boosted by the return of one of their most talented homegrown products in no. 8 and Connacht squad member Sean O’Brien.
The cookies struck first blood as early as the sixth minute. When a loose clearance kick was intercepted by the Munsters midfield, Wegians were expecting an advantage to be called back by referee Murphy. However none was forthcoming, and the hosts took full advantage to attack up the left, with out-half Gearoid Lyons crossing near the left corner to give his side an early 5-0 lead.
The Blues responded well to the setback as they set about getting back into the game. Some early promise was rewarded on 15 minutes when a superb lineout maul saw them march the home pack fully 30 metres backwards, before O’Brien eventually muscled his way over from close-range to level the game. However despite the atrocious conditions, out-half Aidan Moynihan missed the fairly straightforward conversion which would have given his side a morale-boosting lead.
Wegians went on to dominate the remainder of the half, and for long periods they were in the ascendancy and spending more time in opposition territory. However crucially they were unable to capitalise on this. A key turning point of the game came on the half-hour mark when the Blues had an attacking lineout near the 5m line. With a secure set-piece and hooker Jack Dinneen regularly finding his target, Wegians looked set to create another maul score a second try from a lineout.
Despite a clean take, some excellent defence from the cookies saw them sack the lineout and turn over possession. A huge clearance kick created an attacking platform, and in what was only their second attack of the game, they showed a ruthless streak when they crossed the whitewash for a second time, with Adam Kennedy claiming the touchdown. Lyons converted this time for what was arguably a fourteen-point swing within the space of a minute.
Despite suffering this setback, Wegians again showed heart and endeavour in responding quickly. Some good work by the alert Ed O’Keeffe saw him latch on to Moynihan’s restart, and the former Young Munster winger’s foray led to a penalty, which Moynihan struck perfectly to reduce the margin to 12-8. This was how it ended at half-time, and truth be told it was a poor return for Wegians who really should have taken the lead into the break.
However the second-half was very disappointing for the visitors. Munsters took advantage of a visit to the dressing-room and a change in jerseys to come out a different side. The cookies took the game to Wegians right from the off, and on 46 minutes Lyons stretched their lead to 15-8 with a simple penalty from in front. The Blues were struggling to cope with their hosts’ increased intensity in the ever-worsening mudbath conditions, and the game was effectively put beyond them on the hour mark. Sloppy defending and hesitancy in their 22 was punished by a hungrier Munsters pack who gobbled up possession, and when they spun it wide an overlap put David O’Mahony over near the right corner for a third try. Lyons landed a magnificent touchline kick for an unassailable 22-8 lead.
For all that the Blues kept going, with Dinneen, O’Brien and captain Ja Naughton gamely trying to take the ball on with some carries, but the conditions rendered it practically impossible to protect possession. Although they lost scrum-half Abrie Griesel due to an unfortunate 70th minute injury, there was something inevitable about the hosts gaining a bonus point win. With some fresh impetus added to their attack by coach David Corkery, a late surge led to a succession of penalties under the posts. Deep into stoppage time the visibly exhausted Wegians pack were unable to stop the cookies scrum grinding forward, with Kennedy claiming his second touchdown for the all-important bonus point.
Wegians did manage a late riposte when Api Pewhairangi made a fine individual break to dive over on the left for the final act of the game. But for the Blues it was very much a case of too little, too late in what was a miserable afternoon. They will have to put it quickly behind them as their next encounter is at home to another Limerick side, Garryowen at Crowley Park on Saturday 20th Feb (2.30pm kick-off). The Blues desperately need to get back to winning ways in their bid to steer clear of the relegation zone.
John Cleary; Api Phewhairangi, Cormac Brennan, Brian Murphy, Ed O’Keeffe; Aidan Moynihan, Barry Lee; Ja Naughton (capt.), Jack Dinneen, Doron McHugh; Anthony Ryan, Marty Cummins; Paul Hackett, Ronan Moore, Sean O’Brien.
Subs: Jason East, Matthew Burke, David O’Connor, Adam Leavy, Alan McMahon