- Result: Galwegians Firsts 20 - Blackrock 30
- Venue: Blackrock RFC on Sat Sep 29th 2018
- Competition: AIL Division 2A
Galwegians got their AIL campaign off to a frustrating start when they emerged with nothing to show for their efforts after a highly entertaining game at Blackrock on Saturday. For long periods Wegians looked the better team, but they were punished for some errors as their more clinical hosts made the most of the opportunities which came their way.
Playing with the aid of a fresh westerly breeze, the Blues got off to a perfect start with an early try from Dave Clarke. Following some good continuity after an attacking lineout, the inside centre finished well, and Morgan Codyre converted to make it 7-0. Wegians were well on top in the opening exchanges, and Codyre stretched their lead to 10-0 on 15 minutes with a well-struck penalty after an earlier long-range attempt fell short.
The first portent of things to come came straight from the restart. When the ball was knocked on, this gave Rock their first attacking platform, and moments later their out-half Peter Quirke danced through some soft defence to open his side’s account with their opening try, although he badly pulled the conversion to leave it 10-5.
Wegians immediately went on the offensive again, and moments later there was a passage of play which neatly summarised the difference between the sides on the day. When the visitors were awarded another penalty near the left, a perfectly placed line-kick from Codyre gave his side an attacking 5m lineout. And although they secured possession, they were unable to execute, coughing up a penalty in the process. In contrast Rock worked their way up the field, and within two minutes they engineered an attacking lineout of their own, resulting in a try for captain and lock Hugh Doyle from a textbook maul in the left corner.
Quirke missed another conversion into the breeze, but Rock coach and former Wegian and Connacht player Mick Carroll would have been well pleased to see his side on level terms having soaked up much of the early pressure in the opening quarter. Wegians pressed on and they did manufacture more scoring opportunities, only for knock-ons and misplaced passes costing them on more than one occasion. When Rock flanker Alan Francis was binned on the half-hour for a no arms tackle, Codyre did manage to tag on another penalty for a 13-10 lead, but this is how it stayed at half-time.
It was a poor return for the visitors’ dominance, and 10 minutes after the restart Rock out-half Quirke found his range with an excellent long-range effort in front of the posts to level the game again. Wegians were still looking threatening and on 54 minutes they finally made it count with an excellent second try. After some superb work and interchange of passing on the left, once again it was Clarke who finished off after being put clear on the right with the home defence sucked in. Codyre landed another good conversion, and suddenly Wegians were in the box seat 20-13 to the good.
However this was as good as it got for Wegians. Referee Richie Horgan was pinging both sides in the scrum all afternoon, and unfortunately for the Blues he awarded a direct penalty to the hosts on the hour mark. They went down the line, and moments later Quirke sold a dummy on the left to bag his brace of tries. For good measure he converted to draw the sides level for the third time in this contest.
The game was very much in the melting pot heading into the final quarter, and Wegians were dominating possession and territory. Hooker Christy Reilly seemed unlucky to be penalised near the line after an excellent break by centre Adi Donovan. However the turning point came on 70 minutes when Wegians’ debutant AIL winger Sean O’Sullivan was very harshly sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on, despite clearly tackling his opposite number with both arms. In fairness to the hosts, they took full advantage and after another clean lineout take, they worked space to score in the unguarded corner and take a 25-20 lead.
For all that, the Blues still had a great chance to level or win it, as they had two 5m lineouts entering stoppage time, with the hosts reduced to 14 men. at the end. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be as Rock defended their line and turned it over. Then to rub salt into the wounds, as Wegians tried to force it in stoppage time, a short 22 drop-out backfired as they coughed up possession, resulting in a final score for the hosts to deny Wegians even a consolation bonus point.
It was a tough lesson for this young Wegians side, but their hosts’ ability to take their scoring chances was the crucial difference. However there were plenty positives for head coach Brian McClearn to take from this, Next Saturday the Blues have a chance to get off the mark when they take on UL Bohs at Crowley Park.