- Result: Galwegians Firsts 18 - UL Bohemians 15
- Venue: Thomond Park on Sat Jan 10th 2015
- Competition: AIL Division 1B
Galwegians got back to winning ways when they won a tense encounter away to UL Bohs on the Thomond Park back-pitch on Saturday. And they did it the hard way, showing great character and no little discipline to overturn a first-half deficit against a dogged and determined home side.
Both side came into this game in a poor run of form, with the Blues suffering back to back defeats either side of the Christmas break to see their lead at the summit of Division 1b whittled down to a single point. Playing with the aid of a stiff first-half breeze, Wegians started with intent and took an early lead with a penalty from full-back John Cleary in the 3rd minute. However instead of settling them down, the Blues seemed to be continuing their recent poor form with a ragged display littered by basic errors.
This lifted the hosts who immediately took the game to their opponents, opting for an effective running game playing into the elements. Inspired by full-back Mossie Lawler and scrum-half Craig Miller, they were soon causing problems for the Blues who were missing too many first-time tackles for comfort. Having spurned two gilt-edged try-scoring opportunities, it was no surprise when Bohs took the lead on 17 minutes with the first try of the game. Following a period of sustained pressure, their outstanding no. 8, Munster Academy member Jack O’Donoghue burst clear from a maul on the 22 to power his way over the line. Out-half Shane Airey struck a good conversion for a 7-3 lead.
Wegians were using the breeze effectively to secure territory and they had some good chances to put points on the board, only to be very wasteful from set-pieces, when no less than three attacking line-outs and a 5m scrum in short succession came to nothing. This lifted the spirits of the home side who worked their way out of trouble, and on the half-hour mark they went further in front with a second try. Again it was that man O’Donoghue who picked and went from a ruck on his own 10 m line and charged through the middle unopposed. Although he was hauled down just short of the line, the damage was done and winger Darragh Moroney was on hand to scamper over the line.
Although Airey was wide with the conversion, this gave the hosts a commanding 12-3 lead despite playing against the elements. Wegians needed an immediate response, and this is exactly what transpired. Winger Matt Dever, who was a very late call-up, reclaimed the restart, and then some swift hands and a superb line taken by Cleary saw him send winger Jerome Harrimate clear to touch down near the right for a magnificent try. Cleary then landed an excellent conversion to reduce the margin to 12-10 and hand the Blues a lifeline. The visitors still had opportunities to take advantage of the elements and take a first-half lead, but were unable to add to their tally.
Blues head coach Matt Brown and his assistant John Muldoon had words with their charges during the break, and not for the first time this season it seemed to have an effect. After surviving an early scare when Bohs almost scored straight from the restart, Wegians soon settled down and gained a stranglehold in the pack. They were also quite fortunate that the wind died down considerably, negating any serious advantage for Bohs in this half.
The visitors had chances to take the lead but Cleary and young out-half Aidan Moynihan were off target with penalty attempts. However the pressure being exerted by the forwards was taking its toll, and referee Stuart Gaffikin eventually lost patience with the hosts, reaching for his pocket to bin O’Donoghue. It was one of the game’s key moments, as the Blues kicked for the corner to try make full advantage of the talisman’s absence. Their boldness paid off, and in the 57th minute they rounded off a quite superb passage of play, when prop Doron McHugh burrowed his way over after thirteen phases for his side’s second try. Although unconverted, crucially this gave the Blues a three-point lead.
The hosts responded well though as the pendulum swung back momentarily in their favour, and within ten minutes they were on level terms when sub Robbie Bourke found his range from the 10m line, after the normally reliable Airey was off target moments earlier. With the game delicately poised entering the final stages, it was a case of who wanted it more. And having been found wanting in their previous two outings, the Blues rediscovered their self-belief and managed to dig deep to eek out a deserved win.
The decisive score came after yet another scrum penalty, where the Blues’ forward strength in depth was underlined by young front-row players Conor Kyne and Ciaran Gavin who both distinguished themselves with important contributions from the bench in the second-half. This gave another substitute Conor Lowndes the opportunity, and the Connacht U-20 star kept his nerve to split the posts from the right.
This prompted an inevitable siege by Bohs in the closing stages as they came in search of a late win. They came desperately close, with first Airey charging down only to fumble near the line. Then when they did manage to cross the whitewash, they were held up by a determined and resolute Wegians defence who literally threw their bodies on the line. And although having to play out the final few minutes without the influential Ja Naughton and Brian McClearn, the Blues defended admirably, and fittingly the game ended with another scrum penalty for Wegians.
It was tough on Bohs who gave everything but lost out on what looked a very winnable game, but Wegians are back to winning ways with confidence and self-belief restored. This victory keeps them at the summit of Division 1b, one point clear of nearest chasers Garryowen. There follows a three-week break before League action returns, when Wegians host Buccaneers in an eagerly awaited Friday night derby under lights at Crowley Park on Friday Jan. 30th.
C Lowndes, D Clarke, P Finn, C Gavin, C Kyne.