- Result: Galwegians Firsts 14 - Shannon 17
- Venue: Thomond Park on Sat Jan 28th 2017
- Competition: AIL Division 1B
Galwegians suffered a very disappointing defeat away to Shannon at the Thomond Park back pitch on Saturday in their return to action after a 2-month absence of League competition. Having thumped the 8-time former AIL champions in their last League outing in early December, this was a dramatic turnaround as a rejuvenated and fired-up Shannon claimed the spoils against a rusty-looking Wegians.
The Blues named a strong side, especially upfront where Ronan Loughney, Peter Claffey and Eoghan Masterson all made their club debuts this season, the latter two making welcome returns after lengthy injuries. The visitors had an early chance to take the lead but out-half Aidan Moynihan hooked his penalty attempt wide. The opening exchanges were fairly even, but with the aid of a stiff first-half breeze the hosts soon began to assert themselves. They opened the scoring on 17 minutes through a penalty from their out-half Fionn McGibney after his earlier effort came back off the post.
Shannon started to take advantage as Wegians were getting on the wrong side of referee Eddie Hogan O’Connell, and with flanker Josh Pim in the bin, they took advantage just on the half-hour mark. Following strong pressure from their pack, promising U-20 scrum-half Jack Stafford sniped over from close range for the game’s opening try, which McGibney converted to make it 10-0.
Moynihan had another opportunity to land a penalty soon after the restart but again he pulled it to the left. The rest of the half was frustrating for Wegians, who never really got any momentum going. Indeed they were lucky to avoid going further behind when they resisted another Shannon onslaught on their line just before the break.
Coach Brian McClearn clearly had words with his charges as the visitors started much better in the second-half. Despite the wind suddenly dropping completely, the Blues went on the offensive, and on 49 minutes they deservedly hauled themselves back into the contest. Following a close-range penalty, they opted to take a scrum, and a strong shove and some deft control by Masterson saw them nudge towards the line. It led to a penalty try being awarded, which Moynihan converted to reduce the deficit to 10-7.
At this stage the Blues looked well set to kick on, but it never happened and they struggled for continuity throughout. The set-piece was starting to break down alarmingly, and a lack of primary possession and the narrow pitch which reduced their backline options meant chances were few and far between. Shannon became galvanised and they took their opportunity when Wegians were penalised for a delayed put-in on 70 minutes. It led to an attack close-in, and that man Stafford took a quick tap and go to catch the Blues defence unawares and dive over at the posts for his brace, much to the delight of the home support. McGibney’s conversion restored a 10-point margin.
The Blues had to throw caution to the wind, and a superb chip and chase by outside centre Ciaran Gaffney almost led to a try, but for some last-gasp defending. With time running out, Shannon winger Greg O’Shea was binned, and the Blues finally strung a decent passage of play together to send Moynihan over on the right for their second try, which he duly converted to reduce the gap to just three points. However a knock-on from the restart signalled the end of the contest.
This win moved the hosts off the bottom of the table, but with their losing bonus point, Wegians remain in seventh place, although perilously close to the relegation zone. Next up is a chance to take a local scalp when they host local rivals and table-toppers Buccaneers on Friday night under lights at Crowley Park (7.30pm kick-off).