- Result: Galwegians Firsts 16 - Ballynahinch 33
- Venue: Ballymacarn Park on Sat Jan 9th 2016
- Competition: AIL Division 1A
Galwegians’ woeful away form continued when they were soundly beaten by bottom-of-the-table side Ballynahinch at Ballymacarn Park on Saturday.
After a deluge of rain in the morning, the ground was heavy as the game kicked off in dry conditions. Both sides traded early penalties in the opening minutes, with Hinch’s Chris Quinn and Wegians’ Shane O’Leary both landing early penalties following offside infringements. Both sides were struggling to get into a rhythm early on, although the hosts thought they scored the opening try on 13 minutes through winger Aaron Cairns, only to be ruled out for a forward pass. Quinn did put his side ahead again shortly afterwards following a scrum penalty, but O’Leary again restored parity at the end of the first quarter.
The Ulstermen were looking more likely to score in the second quarter, with out-half Sam Windsor in control of his backline and gaining smart territory. Quinn put the home side back into the lead on 33 minutes as a desperate Wegians defence tried to fend off some intense pressure. Then just before half-time ‘Hinch flanker Paul Pritchard was binned following a tussle with Wegians’ lock David Nolan. However O’Leary was off target this time with the long-range attempt at the posts, leaving the home side 9-6 in front at half-time.
Wegians knew they had to up their game in the second-half, but instead it was their opponents who went on to assert themselves. The Blues were unable to make their extra man advantage count, and when captain Ja Naughton was then binned on 45 minutes, the momentum very firmly swung over to the Mournemen.
Although Quinn missed the resulting penalty attempt, it proved a blessing in disguise, as straight from the restart some good hands from the Hinch backline saw centre Robin Harte make a great break before feeding scrum-half Blane McIlroy for the opening try. Quinn added the easy conversion this time, and with the pressure now telling on the visitors, he soon tagged on his fourth penalty of the day on 51 minutes following a collapsed maul to give his side a commanding 19-6 lead.
In fairness to the Blues, with Naughton back on the pitch they rallied and produced their best spell of the game. Their pressure was rewarded towards the end of the third quarter when a period of excellent play led to a try from flanker Marc Kelly, his third in two games. O’Leary missed the extras but at 19-11 behind, it was now very much game on.
The next score was always going to prove vital, and unfortunately for the Blues it was their hosts who wrestled back the initiative. With 15 minutes to play, Hinch out-half Sam Windsor placed a clever kick in behind the Wegians defence for his winger and Irish 7s star Aaron Cairns to gather and step inside to beat his marker and score his side’s second try. Quinn’s conversion gave them a vital 15-point buffer with the game well into the final quarter.
Then as thick fog started descending from the Mourne mountains, the result was put beyond any doubt when Hinch’s impressive back-row and Ulster squad member Conor Joyce crashed over the line for a third try, suddenly making it treble scores at 33-11.
Although now a beaten docket, at least Wegians rallied near the end and deprived their hosts of what could have been a valuable bonus point. And with the final play of the game, the Blues got a consolation score through veteran and record try-scorer John Cleary. Thus the game ended bizarrely in the exact same 33-16 scoreline in favour of the home side as when these two sides met recently in November in Crowley Park. Albeit on that occasion Wegians did manage to secure a vital bonus point by running in five tries.
In an even more bizarre twist of fate, both sides will meet for the third time in just seven weeks when they face off again this weekend in the semi-final of the Bateman All Ireland Cup. However Wegians will be hoping that home form will again count as the game goes ahead at Crowley Park, with a slightly earlier kick-off time of 2pm.
1. Jarleth Naughton (Capt.), 2. Jack Dinneen, 3. Jason East, 4. Martin Cummins, 5 David Nolan, 6. Marc Kelly, 7. Paul Hackett, 8. Anthony Ryan, 9. Barry Lee, 10. Shane O'Leary, 11. Ed O’Keeffe, 12. Brian Murphy, 13. Cormac Brennan, 14. John Cleary, 15. Ciaran Gaffney
SUBS: 16. Juan Anaya, 17. Doron McHugh, 18. Matt Towey, 19. Aiden Moynihan, 20. Api Phewhairangi