- Result: Galwegians Firsts 16 - Naas 27
- Venue: Crowley Park on Sat Apr 15th 2017
- Competition: AIL Division 1B
- Match photos
Galwegians’ hugely disappointing All-Ireland League campaign came to a rather ignominious end when they were roundly beaten by their visitors Naas, who in the process secured second place with the victory and earn themselves a home semi-final in the promotion play-offs.
The Blues came into this game knowing that nothing less than a win would save them from the drop, and they were also counting on UL Bohs to do them a favour against Dolphin, so the motivational stakes could not have been higher.
Wegians started nervously, and it was the Kildaremen who dominated the opening quarter, threatening the Wegians line on several occasions. However for all their dominance, the Blues defence held sway and kept their line intact.
Wegians got a boost when an intercept by centre Rory Parata on his 10m line saw him race clear into opposition territory, and his clever kick ahead just eluded winger Alan McMahon. However Parata was impeded on his run which gave a chance for a shot on goal, and out-half Morgan Codyre made no mistake from in front of the posts to give the hosts a 3-0 lead.
With the aid of a stiff cross-breeze, the visitors kept up the pressure, and they finally managed to breech the Wegians rearguard just on the half-hour mark. It looked like Wegians would initially deal with an attacking threat, but when the ball went loose, Naas hooker Warren Larkin found himself unmarked with the line at his mercy and he dived over for the game’s opening score. Cillian Dempsey scuffed the simple conversion to leave it at 5-3.
Shortly afterwards a great hit by Parata on his opposite number Fionn Carr led to a penalty opportunity. Codyre again took full advantage to restore his side’s lead by the narrowest of margins at 6-5.
Arguably the turning point of the game came right on the stroke of half-time. With Wegians prop Martin Fox in the sin-bin, the ever-threatening Carr went on a sortee down the right flank. The ex-Connacht man easily brushed off three attempted tackles before feeding his winger Ben O’Connor who sauntered over unopposed for the simplest of scores. This time Dempsey converted to give his side a 12-6 lead at the break.
Wegians came out of the traps immediately on the restart, and when they were restored to 15 men with the slight wind advantage at their backs, there were flickers of hope that they could regain their lead. They desperately needed the next score to keep themselves in contention, but the visitors dealt comfortably with the attacking threat and they soon took a stranglehold on the game, working their way back upfield.
On 48 minutes Dempsey slotted a penalty to nudge them nine points clear, and the game was effectively decided two minutes later when they landed the killer blow. With the hosts trying to force the game, a loose attempted offload by Parata was gobbled up the opposition, and winger Peter Howard was sent clear to race over for his side’s third try. Dempsey again converted and suddenly the visitors were sixteen points clear and virtually out of sight.
At this point Wegians’ morale visibly crumbled and their indiscipline came back to haunt them, including a second reversed penalty in consecutive home games for punches thrown in a melee. Any remote chance of a comeback was ended when an aimless cross-kick from within our 22 was gratefully fielded by Naas full-back Fionn Higgins who raced home into the corner to seal his side’s bonus try.
At this point the visitors emptied the bench as injuries were taking their toll. The Blues at least kept going and Parata, who never stopped trying, finally got some reward from a kick and chase on 72 minutes to score a try in the left-corner.
Then almost right form the restart, left-wing Adam Leavy scampered clear down the exposed left wing to score a second try. Neither were converted and although the visitors were now out on their feet, it proved too little, too late for Wegians. Their season was summed up with a late 5m lineout was coughed up, and the hosts cleared their lines.
It was a bitterly disappointing end to the season for the Blues.
Pound for pound in terms of playing strength, they had little to fear from the competition in this campaign. However, the most frustrating aspect was that no less than eight times during the season they squandered second-half winning positions. And an astonishing haul of fourteen bonus points ultimately proved worthless as they could only muster three wins out of eighteen. It will lead to much soul-searching in the close-season as they have to dust themselves down and prepare for life in Division 2A next year.