- Result: Galwegians Firsts 18 - Ballynahinch 33
- Venue: Crowley Park on Sat Oct 1st 2011
- Competition: AIL Division 1B
Galwegians AIL campaign got off to a disastrous start when they were comprehensively beaten by newly promoted Ulster side Ballynahinch at Crowley Park on Saturday. The Blues came into this game on the back of a recently secured Connacht Senior League title and indeed an unbeaten run dating back to February, but their confidence and winning streak deserted them as they were outfoxed by the hungrier visitors who even managed to steal a bonus point at the death.
Playing with the aid of a slight first-half breeze, the Co. Down men took an early lead with a 3rd minute penalty from James Lash, and the out-half doubled their lead to 6-0 with a second penalty on 12 minutes, with the Blues constantly getting on the wrong side of referee Sean Gallagher. However an intercept from Wegians young centre Colin Conroy soon afterwards finally gave the Blues some momentum, and an excellent cross-kick from out-half Tadhg Leader almost put full-back John Cleary over in the corner. But the damage was done as the powerful Galwegian pack made mince meat out of the visiting pack, and three successive scrum collapses by the ‘Hinch pack gave referee Gallagher no option but to award a penalty try.
Leader converted to put Wegians narrowly in front 7-6, but it was short-lived as a basic handling error from the restart gave the visitors a chance to go on the attack again, and Lash soon added his third penalty to put them 9-7 to the good. It got even better for the Mourne men five minutes later when more pressure gave centre James Thompson time and space to set off on a weaving run, and he showed a clean pair of heels to the Blues defence to cross near the right-hand corner for their first try.
Lash missed the difficult conversion to leave the margin 14-7, and while that was forgivable, what was unforgivable from the visiting out-half was being shown a red card barely two minutes later for reckless use of the boot with the visitors again pressing the Wegians line. This handed the initiative back to the hosts, and they looked set to capitalise when they went on the immediate offensive. This led to a penalty for offside in front of the posts which Leader tapped over to reduce arrears to 14-10. However instead of kicking on, some more sloppy play and unforced errors saw Wegians once again hand the initiative right back to their opponents. And ‘Hinch took full advantage to land a telling blow when outside centre Stuart Morrow finished off a backline move on the left-hand side to score his side’s second try, giving them a 19-10 lead at the break.
With an extra man, a dominant set-piece and a slight wind advantage, Wegians were still very much in this contest with the game delicately poised. Leader had an early chance to reduce the arrears with a 10 metre penalty shortly after the restart, but his close effort was judged to have curled just wide of the posts. The Blues never really got their momentum going in the third quarter, and a key moment in the game came near the hour mark when the visitors lost their captain, lock Chris Napier to the sin-bin for a professional foul when defending his line. The Blues not surprisingly opted for another 5 metre scrum against the 13 men, and despite almost getting over from the first shove, the Wegians pack lost concentration and were turned over from the re-set scrum, thus passing up a glorious opportunity.
This deflated the hosts and visibly lifted the visitors, and almost incredulously it was the ‘Hinch who scored next when centre Thompson finished off an attack on 65 minutes with a delightful chip over the cover for a crucial third try. Scrum- half Harry McAleese added the conversion to stretch their lead to what looked an unassailable 26-10. However Wegians gave themselves a chink of light when a show and go by Leader saw the young out-half ground the ball near the posts in the 70th minute, and he converted his own try to reduce the margin again to nine points.
Buoyed by this, Wegians soon had a chance to come within a bonus point but this time Leader pushed a penalty attempt from the 10 metre line wide. Yet there was still time to get something out of the game, and in the final minute the Blues were awarded a succession of penalties near the visitors’ line. But their afternoon was aptly summed up when instead of kicking a penalty to secure the losing bonus point, they opted to run the ball but were intercepted, with ‘Hinch winger Robin Harte running from inside his own half to score a killer bonus fourth try and rub salt into Galwegians wounds.
Next up for Wegians is an away trip to Bruff in Co. Limerick, where they will hope to re-discover their form by securing a repeat of a crucial win in last season’s Division 1b campaign.