- Result: Galwegians Firsts 14 - Dungannon 10
- Venue: Crowley Park on Sat Mar 24th 2007
- Competition: AIL Division 1
A late Kieran Hickman try secured a valuable win for Galwegians to end any lingering relegation scares, while ending Dungannon’s play-off hopes at Crowley Park on Saturday. This was a must-win game for Wegians, and what was particularly satisfying is the manner of victory, as for the first time this season they managed to grind out a win in a hard-fought contest, their three previous wins having been by comfortable bonus point winning margins.
Wegians came into this game on the back of two straight home defeats, so they were unlikely to have a repeat of their 40-3 win over the same opposition in the AIB Cup in January. Played in perfect conditions, from the early stages it always looked like being a close contest. Dungannon had a more secure set-piece, with a very strong scrum causing serious problems for Wegians. But the Blues held sway in the loose where the back-row of Ambrose Conboy and U-20 duo Liam Casserly and debutant Ian Cullinane were particularly effective at the breakdown.
Both defences were holding their ground, and the only real scoring opportunity was spurned by Dungannon’s top-scorer Richie McCarter who hit the post with a 35 metre penalty on 15 minutes. Indeed the game remained scoreless until the 35th minute, but it was the visitors who took the lead with the opening try. It followed a succession of penalties and scrums near the Wegians line, when finally Irish U-20 Thomas Anderson finished off a pushover by grounding the ball over the line.
McCarter’s conversion made it 7-0, and the visitors looked like taking the lead into the break. However Wegians struck a major psychological blow in injury-time when turnover ball near half-way gave Anthony Barrett possession, and a neat inside pass put his centre partner Nick Wakley into space, and the Welshman raced fully 50 metres to outstrip the cover and score in the left-corner for a sucker-punch score. And to rub salt into the wound, the same player landed a magnificent touchline conversion to tie the game at the break.
The second-half was again evenly contested, with neither side seriously threatening the scoreboard. The Galwegians set-piece improved measurably, but it was Dungannon who regained the lead on the hour-mark when McCarter was foot-tripped by Wegians sub Tom Grey, and the full-back struck a great penalty from near halfway to make it 10-7.
But the Blues kept plugging away, and they got the vital breakthrough in the 73rd minute. Once again it came from turnover ball, this time off a Dungannon scrum, and Wegians sub scrum-half Mike Roche, who was barely on the field, launched a blindside break inside his own half. Man of the Match, Galwegians’ U-20 full-back Cormac O’Beirne, came into the line and made a superb break, displaying tremendous awareness of space and some exquisite handling to feed Anthony Barrett, and the centre put winger Kieran Hickman clear, who finished well near the right corner for an excellent try.
Crucially Wakley landed another excellent conversion to give the Blues a four-point cushion. Wegians thought they made the game safe when another excellent breakout by O’Beirne brought play deep into opposition territory, but Wakley was very harshly judged to have knocked the ball on, depriving left-wing Hugh Murphy of the try. Then Wegians had to endure a quite staggering 11 minutes of stoppage time, during which ref Leo McColgan awarded the visitors a succession of what can only be described as highly dubious penalties. But some superb Galwegians defence saw them valiantly hold out and deservedly take the four points, and thus mathematically ensure their safety from relegation.