- Result: Galwegians Firsts 24 - Lansdowne 30
- Venue: Aviva Back pitch on Sat Feb 27th 2016
- Competition: AIL Division 1A
Galwegians secured what could prove to be two vital bonus points when they went down to Lansdowne at the Aviva back pitch in Dublin last Saturday in a seven-try thriller. However it could have been so much better for the Blues, as for much of this game it looked like they would come home with the spoils, only to succumb to a late rally which secured victory for the hosts.
The perfect dry conditions, 3g artificial pitch and the attacking style of both teams combined to serve up a highly entertaining contest. The Blues hit the front as early as the fifth minute when a skip pass from centre Api Phewhairangi fed in-form winger John Cleary, and the speedster evaded two tackles to dive over for his sixth try in as many games. Despite gaining yardage towards the posts, out-half Aidan Moynihan was unable to add the conversion giving Wegians a 5-0 advantage.
In a sign of things to come, the lead was short-lived as the hosts hit the front within a matter of minutes. It followed quick thinking from Lansdowne scrum-half Adam Griggs who tapped a penalty inside the 22, catching the Wegians defence off guard before feeding his out-half and captain Scott Deasy who darted over at the posts for his side’s opening try. The Corkman tagged on the simple conversion for a 7-5 lead. However Wegians regained the lead by the end of the first quarter. It followed a strong bout of pressure on the hosts’ line, and when scrum-half Barry Lee fed Cleary from the base of an attacking scrum, the Wellpark flyer cut back inside to wrongfoot the defence. This set up the chance for back-row Marc Kelly who finished near the right-hand corner for a second unconverted try.
Deasy levelled matters on the half-hour mark with a close-range penalty following a scrum infringement to make it 10-all. However the Blues were running the ball at every opportunity, and they regained the lead yet again on 37 minutes with try number three. This time it was a brilliant individual effort from Phewhairangi, who showed great footwork to evade no less than four tackles and slalom his way through the Lansdowne defence from the 22m line for a sublime score. This time Moynihan added the extras.
However just as it looked like the Blues would take a deserved lead into the break, the hosts struck back on the stroke of half-time. Following another strong scrum set-piece, once again it was that man Deasy, who sold a dummy to his opposite number Moynihan before touching down under the posts for his second try. Another simple conversion took his side’s and his own personal haul to 17 points to level the game for the second time.
In the second-half both sides continued to attack. The hosts applied serious pressure early on, only to be met with a solid wall of defence from the Blues. Then a stunning breakaway by Cleary from inside his own 22 almost put Wegians in front again, only for some desperate from the hosts to protect their line. Lansdowne did regain the lead for the second time in the contest on the hour mark when referee Eddie Hogan-O’Connell pinged Wegians for not rolling away, with Deasy bagging his second penalty.
However the see-saw nature of this absorbing contest continued into the final quarter. On 67 minutes the Blues regained the lead for the fourth time no less, when a well-worked lineout maul saw the hosts collapse it near their line, and referee Hogan-O’Connell awarded a penalty try which Moynihan converted for a 24-20 lead. This also led to the sin-binning of Lansdowne second-row Phil Donnellan, and Wegians looked in good shape to kick on and seal what would have been a vital bonus point win.
However the hosts simply refused to lie down, and the lead changed hands for an astonishing seventh time late on when Lansdowne’s no. 8 Ross Deacon finished off from close-range to dive over near the posts, with Deasy again converting for a 3-point lead. Moynihan soon had a chance to tie the game but he misjudged the difficult wind and sent his penalty effort wide of the posts. Instead it was Deasy who had the final say when he landed a long-range effort in the final minute to complete a 25-point personal haul and secure a vital win for his play-off chasing team.
For Wegians it was a case of what might have been, and they may rue letting their opponents back into this game at several stages. Then again, two losing points could prove extremely vital in their bid to avoid the relegation zone, as they managed to pull four points clear of second-from-bottom Terenure who came away empty-handed from Garryowen last weekend. Next up for Wegians is a crucial home game on Saturday (2.30 kick-off) against Old Belvedere.
Ciaran Gaffney; John Cleary; Api Phewhairangi, Brian Murphy, Adam Leavy; Aidan Moynihan, Barry Lee; Jason East, Patrick Curran, Doron McHugh; Marty Cummins, Dave Nolan; Marc Kelly, Josh Pim, Anthony Ryan.
Subs: Ja Naughton, Paul O’Donnell, Matthew Towey, Ed O’Keeffe, Cormac Brennan