- Result: Galwegians Firsts 20 - Nenagh Ormond 12
- Venue: Crowley Park on Sat Dec 15th 2018
- Competition: AIL Division 2A
It had to come, and finally it has happened! After eight straight losses, Galwegians managed their first win of the season at home to Nenagh Ormond on Saturday, and it was hard earned as they were made to fight every inch of the way.
Marooned at the bottom of the table before kick-off, this was a must-win game for Brian McClearn’s side against the team immediately above them in the table, albeit with an eleven-point difference. But the young Wegians delivered in impressive fashion with a defiant and dogged display.
Playing against a strong swirling first-half breeze, Wegians were edging the opening salvos, and they were rewarded for their dominance when they scored the opening try as early as the seventh minute. It was the best score of the game and it followed some patient probing play by both forwards and backs. When centre Brian Murphy sent winger Sean O’Sullivan clear into space, he found the supporting prop Ryan Lomas, who cleverly drew the covering tackle before finding scrum-half Barry Lee on his inside shoulder. The Headford man marked his recent return to first-team action by grounding the ball near the left corner. Although Ewan Strang was wide with the difficult conversion, this was the perfect tonic for Wegians side who needed an early confidence boost.
When Wegians failed to secure the restart, this allowed the visitors settle into their stride and set up a platform for their big forward pack to rumble forwards. Centre Alex Ropeti had a chance to soon open their account with a straightforward penalty, only to push his effort wide. However it worked to their advantage as Wegians were unable to clear their lines, and shortly afterwards prop Fergal Brislane barrelled his way over following a succession of pick and drives. Ropeti was wide with the conversion to leave it 5-5 coming up at the end of the first quarter.
On 28 minutes, the Blues hit the front again when Nenagh were penalised for off-side, and winger Ewan Strang landed the close-in kick to put his side 8-5 to the good. Wegians had by now gained the upper hand. When out-half Dave Clarke found a great touchfinder on 35 minutes, it set up another attacking platform, and sub prop Conor Kyne seemed to score their second try when grounding the ball on the line, only for referee Owen Watson to be unsighted. However when Nenagh flanker Evan Murphy was binned for a deliberate knock-on from the resulting play, this gave Wegians and Kyne a second bite at the cherry. And following a quickly taken penalty 5 metres out, the big Moycullen man simply charged through the Nenagh pack like a rampaging bull. This time referee Watson had no hesitation in awarding the try, which was unconverted for a 13-5 lead.
This looked like a comfortable and deserved lead for the Blues approaching half-time, however another failure to secure the restart ensured they had to endure a tense few moments before the break with the visitors camped on their line. However a superb defensive effort saw them thwart a late flurry of scrums to hold onto their 8-point lead at the break.
With the swirling wind now behind their backs and the rain beginning to intensify, the Blues looked well placed to kick on. However credit to the visitors who refused to read that script. They brought on some key impact subs, not least prop Johnny Hayes and their forward-based game saw them dominating the early exchanges. On 52 minutes they were awarded a penalty try when the Blues were unable to deal with a 5m scrum shove, and at 13-12 it was now very much game on.
The visitors kept up the pressure and they had their hosts pinned deep in their half for a lengthy period. Having absorbed serious pressure, out-half Clarke eventually cleared his lines with an excellent kick to take play up to halfway. When Nenagh were unable to secure their lineout, the Blues took full advantage on 71 minutes. After a series of forward surges and some excellent handling brought play into the visitors 22, flanker Ronan ‘Chief’ Moore finished well near the right to score a vital third try. Strang’s conversion started well before drifting towards the left-hand post, and although the touch-judges initially signalled it wide, referee Watson made the right call and signalled it good, giving the hosts a crucial 8-point cushion.
Cue the inevitable Nenagh onslaught as they went in search of a late a bonus point. With the light fading fast, Wegians had to dig deep and survive another late scare with 14 men in the final minutes, after debutante centre Tommy Downes was binned. As at the end of the first-half, some brave and determined defence saw them resist another Nenagh 5m scrum to hold their line, before referee Watson blew for full-time. This signalled jubilation from the home team and supporters, and crucially it reduces the margin at the bottom from eleven points to seven, opening up a chink of light in their fight against the drop.
This marks the end of the first-half of the season, and next up for the Blues is the return fixture when they make the trip to Tipperary on 19thJanuary, in what will be another must-win game for both sides.