- Result: Galwegians Firsts 18 - Buccaneers 18
- Venue: Crowley Park on Sat Dec 9th 2006
- Competition: AIL Division 1
Galwegians and Buccaneers played out an exciting draw in a tense and nail-biting derby at Crowley Park on Saturday. Both sides will feel they let a win slip from their grasp; Wegians for not having made the game safe by half-time having utterly dominated the opening exchanges, and Buccs for not stealing it at the death with a storming finish.
The first-half was almost all Galwegians, particularly the opening quarter. The home pack clearly had the upper hand early on, and the backs looked like having the space to make it pay. But for all that their first score was a penalty from Nick Wakely after ten minutes, the Welsh centre having missed an earlier effort further out in the second minute. Then the home side spurned a couple of genuine opportunities before finally scoring the first try of the game on 19 minutes, when quick thinking by out-half Paddy O’Toole saw him send a reverse pass to scrum-half Luke Stringer who dived in near the left corner. Wakely’s conversion was unlucky to drift to the right of the posts, leaving it 8-0 to the home side.
Crucially however Galwegians could not build on their lead, with the backline lacking fluency and some wrong options frustrating the strike runners out wide, not to mention the home fans. Having uncharacteristically missed an earlier penalty, Buccs full-back Tom Cregan did open their account in the 21st minute after Wegians captain Ambrose Conboy was pinged for offside in front of the posts. Then on the half-hour mark, a loose kick from Luke Stringer was punished when Buccs launched a promising counter-attack, resulting in Wegians U-20 flanker John Mullen being binned for killing the ball. Cregan reduced arrears to 8-6, and the 14-man Blues were happy to go into the break clinging on to their lead.
In the second-half Wegians re-asserted themselves in the third quarter, with O’Toole and Wakely launching some excellent line-kicks to set up attacking opportunities. Having returned from the bin at the start of the second-half, the unfortunate Mullen lasted a mere 7 more minutes before being stretchered off, when he was replaced by the tenacious but lighter Aaron McGettigan. Wegians appeared to strike a decisive blow on 54 minutes when O’Toole launched a speculative kick towards the 22m. line. Buccs’ left-wing Simon Rolleston made a hash of his attempted catch, and the in-form Wegians winger John Cleary was alive to the danger to kick and chase to score a most opportunistic second try. O’Toole struck an excellent convert to stretch the lead to 15-6.
However the final 25 minutes belonged almost exclusively to Buccaneers, whose pack suddenly seized the upper hand. The Wegians’ set-piece was suddenly coming under serious pressure, and on 64 minutes some neat hands from centre Alex Hayman deceived the Wegians midfield defence as full-back Cregan broke through to score under the posts, which he converted to bring the score back 15-13.
It was now game on, but two minutes later Buccs were penalised on halfway, and following backchat the penalty was brought up to their 10 metre line, which allowed substitute Galwegians out-half Peter Durcan, fresh off the bench, to launch a magnificent penalty between the sticks and extend the lead to 18-13. But this merely signalled an all-out assault from Buccaneers, and following a bout of intense pressure, they finally breached the Galwegians rearguard in the 78th minute when lock Dave Kelly finished off a line-put maul for the equalising try. Cregan’s conversion out wide was unlucky to rebound off the post to leave the sides level. Buccs still had one final chance to steal all four points, but the Wegians defence held out to ensure it was honours even on this occasion.