- Result: Galwegians Firsts 18 - Corinthians 10
- Venue: Cloonacauneen on Fri Nov 7th 2014
- Competition: AIL Division 1B
Galwegians confirmed their position as the local kingpins of Connacht rugby when they deservedly saw off the challenge of pretenders and local rivals Corinthians at Cloonacauneen under lights on Friday night.
The Blues came into this game as favourites on the back of a fourth successive Connacht Senior League defence and topping UBL Division 1b. However last week they lost their unbeaten run under new coach Matt Brown in a last-gasp defeat to Ballymena, whereas Corinthians put their stuttering start to their season behind them with a confidence-boosting win away to Buccaneers.
That confidence seemed to imbue the hosts from the off, as they took the game immediately to the Glenina outfit. Backed with the aid of a strong breeze blowing down towards the Tuam end, they took an early lead through a Conor Murphy penalty for 3-0. However there were ominous signs for the hosts as the visitors put the squeeze on at the first scrum, resulting in ref Dave Connolly penalising the home pack. In an error-strewn opening, scoring chances were limited. Wegians were clearly dominating the set-piece, where their captain Ja Naughton, returning from injury after a month-long absence, proved instrumental with his presence.
Despite playing against the wind, Wegians were dominating possession, however some mishandling and some poor line-kicking was costing them territory. Just after the first quarter, a loose pass was intercepted near his own 22 by Corinthians lock Ultan Dillane who burst clear to set up a counter-attack. Although the initial attack was repelled, the damage was done and soon afterwards centre Dave Panter ignored a 2-man overlap to scythe through the cover and score a try midway out the left-hand side. Murphy converted to put the hosts 10-0 in front.
This was a real sucker-punch for Wegians, but to their credit they regrouped and continued to dominate the remainder of the half. Their scrum and dominant pack continued to yield penalties, leading to the binning of flanker Mark Kelly before half-time. Out-half Dave Clarke was replaced by Ross Shaughnessy, marking his return for the first team since starring in his side’s Connacht Senior League win at the same venue last August. However Shox missed two difficult penalties just before half-time to leave the margin 10-0 at the break.
Wegians wasted no time in taking advantage of the elements after the restart. They went immediately on the offensive, and on 45 minutes they finished off a sustained period of pressure when a short-side break saw scrum-half Barry Lee feed full-back John Cleary, and a quite magnificent offload in the tackle fed winger Colin Conroy who dived over in the corner. Shaughnessy was wide with the difficult conversion, but two minutes later he landed a penalty to reduce the gap to 10-8.
Although the Corinthians scrum improved immeasurably, the hosts seemed powerless to prevent ‘Wegians dominating territory, where scrum-half Lee was putting in some excellent box-kicks to keep the hosts pinned deep in their territory. Corinthians were continuing to cough up penalties and referee Connolly binned two both full-back Darin Classens and prop Jamie Dever in the second-half. The pressure had to tell, and Shaughnessy struck an excellent second penalty from the right just after the hour-mark to finally put the Blues in front.
It was no surprise when they crossed for the killer score on 69 minutes. It followed another concerted period of pressure on the hosts’ line, when centre Brian Murphy burst through the central defence, evading three tackles to ground the ball at the posts. Shaughnessy converted for an 8-point cushion.
All Corintihans could muster in response was one late attack from deep which took play into the Wegians’ 22, but when their scrum was turned over by the Blues, their chance was gone. And soon afterwards, referee Connolly signaled full-time, to the relief of the visitors and the acute disappointment of the hosts.
This win put ‘Wegians back at the summit of Division 1b, where they remain following the defeat of Ballymena at home to Malone the following day. This Saturday the Blues face another stern test of their promotion credentials when Malone face a second consecutive away trip to face the leaders of Division 1b, only this time it will be a longer trip down to Crowley Park is 2.30 pm Saturday.
Replacements used: Craig Hansberry, Colin Rafferty, Donnchadh Phelan, Dave Keogh, Charlie Ryan
Galwegians: John Cleary; Jerome Harrimate, Brian Murphy, Gary O’Brien, Colin Conroy; David Clarke, Barry Lee; Ja Naughton, Jack Dinneen, Doran McHugh; Marty Cummins, Brian McClearn; Matthew Towey, Paul Hackett, Anthony Ryan.
Replacements Used: Ross Shaughnessy, Matt Dever, Ronan Moore, Paul O’Donnell, Paul McCreanor.