- Result: Galwegians Firsts 16 - St Marys 22
- Venue: Templeville Road on Sat Oct 21st 2006
- Competition: AIL Division 1
Galwegians came back down to earth with a bump when they lost their first away fixture in disappointing fashion to St. Mary’s on Saturday. In the end the Blues had to be content with a losing bonus point which does keep them in the top half of the table.
Wegians went into this game joint-top after demolishing Belfast Harlequins the previous week, but coach Paul Young will not have been impressed with this display which was frustrating in many aspects. There is no question but that the home team deserved the points, but Wegians will know that they could have done so much better, especially having blown a ten-point advantage in the opening quarter. And while they nearly snatched victory at the death when camped on the opposition line, the reality is they failed to take their chances.
Playing with the breeze in the opening period, ex-St. Mary’s winger Conor McPhillips came back to haunt his former team-mates when he maintained his impressive start to the season for his new club with the opening score. The flying winger was on hand to collect a cross-kick from out-half Paddy O’Toole in the 12th minute and catch out the home defence for the opening try, with O’Toole converting for a 7-0 lead. Then when centre Nick Wakley dropped a long-range goal 3 minutes later it seemed like the Blues were on their way to a second victory.
Unfortunately it proved a false dawn as they let the visitors come back in the game. Wegians kicked away far too much possession all day, when ball retention seemed the more obvious tactic. In contrast the home team had their tactics right on the day, and their pack seemed hungrier, especially at the breakdown.
Following a sustained period of pressure, Mary’s opened their account with a penalty from Irish U-21 out-half John Sexton. Then just after the half-hour mark St. Mary’s deservedly drew level when centre Philip Brophy crossed for a try under the posts, with Sexton adding the easy two-pointer to make it 10-all. And despite playing into the breeze, the home side’s dominance was reflected on the scoreboard when another penalty from Sexton gave them the lead just before half-time.
Things got worse for Wegians when flanker Brendan O’Connor was sin-binned in the 42nd minute and a third Sexton penalty stretched their lead to 16-10. However Wegians rallied a little and minutes later Paddy O’Toole cancelled out strike with a penalty of his own after the home defence had strayed off-side. The game seemed finely balanced at this point, but a turning point came on the hour mark when Wegians’ hooker Conor Muldoon overcooked a line-out throw inside the Mary’s half, and what started as a good attacking opportunity almost led to the concession of a second try, but the visitors were fortunate to get away with only conceding a penalty, with Sexton again obliging with the boot for 19-13.
Wegians then switched full-back Peter Durcan into the no. 10 position to try to alter things, but it had limited impact overall. The talented Mary’s out-half Sexton then dropped a goal in the 67th minute to bring his personal haul to 17 points, and seemingly make the game safe for the home team. However Wegians were given a lifeline moments later awarded a penalty, and O’Toole was able to reduce the gap to 22-16. This set up a grandstand finish, and although Wegians had the territory and the platform to gain the winning score, poor decision-making proved their undoing and the home team deservedly held on to bag the four points.
Wegians will hopefully learn from this, as they will know that a much-improved performance will be needed when they take on the unbeaten defending champions Shannon on Saturday at Crowley Park (2.30pm kick-off).