- Result: Galwegians Firsts 14 - Shannon 15
- Venue: Crowley Park on Sat Oct 28th 2006
- Competition: AIL Division 1
Galwegians suffered an agonising defeat by the narrowest of margins at home to defending Champions and 8-time AIL winners Shannon at Crowley Park on Saturday. It was a case of one that got away, having twice led the visitors before eventually going down 15-14. So the Blues will be kicking themselves, and they will also rue the penalty count of 11-3 against them, which was identical to their first AIL home game against Belfast Harlequins.
The game was played in damp conditions on a sodden pitch, which certainly suited the visitors more than their hosts. However the opening exchanges were keenly contested, with both sides defending stoutly and little quarter asked or given. The Wegians pack stood up to the bulky Shannon pack well, and the game looked being a close contest even at this early stage.
It was the home side who made the breakthrough when they manufactured an excellent 20th minute try. Following a scrum 30 metres out, left-winger Colin Mbongwa came off his wing to combine with centre Nick Wakley before offloading to inside centre Anthony Barrett who dived under the posts for a superb score. Out-half Paddy O’Toole added the points for a 7-0 lead.
While Shannon have lost a number of players during the close season, they still have plenty craft and guile under Mick Galwey’s tutelage, and they used all their experience to claw their way back into the game in the second quarter. Out-half Tadhg Bennett opened their account with a penalty on 29 minutes, and the visitors dominated the remainder of the half by taking control up front. On 35 minutes an incredible 40-metre drive off a line-out almost led to a try, but the damage was done as Wegians were forced to concede a penalty near their line. Then from the resulting 5 metre line-out, hooker Sean Cronin was on hand to finish off a typical Shannon driving maul for the visitor’s opening try, which gave them the lead for the first time. Significantly Bennett landed a good conversion to make it 10-7 at half-time.
In the second-half Galwegians started off full of intent, but they tried to take on the visiting pack too much when, despite the slippery conditions, they had superior backs who had the handling skills and pace to seriously trouble the Shannon backline. The visitors meanwhile played a cuter game, using percentage rugby by popping short passes to their bulky forwards including prop Tony Buckley, lock Donnacha Ryan no. 8 David Quinlan. They then kicked to the corners wisely when the occasion demanded.
However despite conceding most of the territory and possession in the third quarter, Wegians manage to regain the lead on the hour mark with another well-worked score. A blind-side break inside their half created the space for right-winger Kieran Hickman, whose excellent kick and chase to the corner caused panic in the Shannon defence. And although the supporting Wegians full-back Peter Durcan appeared to ground the ball over the line, referee John Carvil awarded a penalty try, presumably for obstruction on Hickman, and Galwegians no. 10 Paddy O’Toole gratefully accepted the easy 2-pointer for a 14-10 lead for the Blues.
The next few minutes underlined the key difference between the sides, with Shannon’s composure Wegians’ lack of concentration and discipline allowing the visitors to regain the lead. Straight form the restart Wegians conceded a penalty, but substitute centre Andrew Thompson’s penalty rebounded off the post. And despite an excellent clearance by Nick Wakley, the Blues were soon to concede yet another penalty which handed the visitors the initiative right back. And from a resulting line-out in the left corner, substitute lock Padraig O’Brien finished off another lineout maul for his side’s second try and a 15-14 lead, with Thompson off target with the difficult conversion. Wegians still had plenty of time to reclaim the lead, but the service from scrum-half Luke Stringer, who did not have one of his better days, was far too slow and laboured from the set-piece, thus denying the talented Wegians backline the time and space to inflict more damage. Yet Wegians almost won it when a charge-down by Paddy O’Toole in the last minute of normal time set up an attacking position, but an off-balance Wakley never got hold of his drop-goal attempt. Then in the very last act of play, Wakley attempted an ambitious penalty from half-way into the breeze, and though he struck it well it was never going to carry the distance, and the visitors were relieved to escape with a win.
Wegians’ next League fixture is what will surely be a vital away match against Ballymena next Saturday (November 4th).