- Result: Galwegians Firsts 15 - Ballymena 17
- Venue: Crowley Park on Sat Mar 4th 2006
- Competition: AIL Division 1
For the second game running, Galwegians lost to Ulster opposition in the AIL by a two-point margin when they went down against Ballymena on Saturday at Crowley Park. However a late rally including another injury-time try yielded what could yet prove to be a vital bonus point.
Playing with a first-half breeze, Galwegians passed up a very kickable penalty opportunity after 5 minutes when they went for the line-out option, only to be penalised from the resulting maul. Despite losing promising underage flanker Liam Casserly to injury after scarcely 10 seconds of the game, Wegians had the upper hand up front, but all they could show for it was an 18th minute penalty from Brendon Bartley. Indeed the visitors showed some glimpses of their dangerous and more talented backline on occasion, with some threatening excursions into opposition territory.
The Ulstermen would have been content to go into the break at 3-0 down, but they got a welcome bonus in stoppage time with a sucker punch score. A hopeful clearance kick caught converted Galwegians winger Ivan Muldoon isolated in the left corner, and when penalised for not releasing, Ballymena’s former Irish international out-half Paddy Wallace tapped quickly 5 metres out and dived in for a killer try.
Playing into the breeze in the second-half, the home side however responded well to this setback, and they had a chance to regain the lead on 45 minutes, but Bartley’s penalty effort overcompensated for the cross-wind and drifted left of the posts. The remainder of the half followed a predictable pattern, with the home pack dominating their opposite numbers, defending well, forcing several turnovers and gaining some hard yards, with captain Ambrose Conboy and his back-row Mike Swift particularly prominent. But the visitors were able to soak up the pressure and rely on the boot of out-half Wallace and centre Dirkie Strydom to use the wind and regularly clear their lines.
The game was effectively decided in a two minute spell in the final quarter. On 67 minutes a well-worked backline move saw Ballymena winger Peter Budina cross in the left corner for an unconverted try. Then when the Galwegians’ restart fell short, Wallace kicked deep to the corner, and when the home side failed to secure their line-out, Ballymena centre Jimmy McGruggan easily finished a move under the posts for a third try, this time Wallace converting for a 17-3 lead.
It looked all ends up for Wegians at this stage, but coach Paul Young has clearly instilled a never-say-die spirit in his team, and they somehow managed to retrieve something from the game. In fairness the visitors opened the door to them when two of their forwards, flanker Michael McComish and lock Ian Cadwell, were sin-binned within a minute of each other. An Ivan Muldoon try from a line-out maul on 76 minutes gave them hope, although Bartley was wide with the difficult conversion to leave them nine points in arrears.
But in the dying moments of the game, more pressure from Wegians resulted in Mike Swift barging over the line for a second try, and for what could prove to be a vital bonus point in the battle to avoid the drop to Division 2. Unfortunately Bartley’s excellent conversion proved to be academic as Munster referee Trevor Collins promptly blew up to end the contest. Wegians have three remaining Division 1 games, including a crucial derby away to Buccaneers on March 25th.