- Result: Galwegians Firsts 24 - Dublin University 24
- Venue: Crowley Park on Sun Oct 17th 2004
- Competition: AIL Division 1
Galwegians and Trinity Share Spoils in AIL Opener
Galwegians began their AIL Division 1 campaign by sharing the spoils with newly promoted Dublin University in a thrilling draw on a beautiful autumn day at Crowley Park on Sunday. Both sides have thus protected their unbeaten records for the season, and while this could have gone either way in the end, in truth Wegians were the happier side to hear the final whistle sound from international referee Alan Lewis.
Playing with a stiff breeze in the first-half, Wegians raced into a 6-0 lead in 10 minutes thanks to two perfectly struck penalties from stand-in kicker John Cleary, first-choice kicker Patrick Noble being a late withdrawal before kick-off. However the students, who were making their Division 1 debut, showed they meant business when they scored off their first attack in the 12th minute. Their surprisingly physical pack mauled their way over the line from fully 25 metres, with flanker Eddie Molloy claiming the touchdown and full-back Simon Mitchell converting for a 7-6 lead.
Cleary and Mitchell then swapped penalties, with both sides having try-scoring chances at either end. But Wegians failed to make the most of the strong elements, principally due to a woeful lineout where hooker Henry Bourke had a forgettable day with some aimless darts. This gave the visitors more possession than they possibly bargained for, and it looked ominous for the Blues as they were under the cosh for long spells. However a turning point came on 32 minutes when the students were camped on Wegians’ line, and looking set fair to score, but Wegians’ full-back James Littleton stole possession and galloped the full length of the field before offloading to his supporting back-row Scott Donald who went under the posts for a sucker punch score.
Cleary’s conversion made it 16-10 at half-time, but this still looked an insufficient margin for Galwegians at this point. However the home side started well against the elements in the second-half, and a quick tap penalty by scrum-half Michael Roche almost resulted in a second try. But Trinity soon made good use of the wind and managed to regain a serious territorial foothold. The pressure soon resulted in a try when out-half Donal Crotty seized on some porous midfield defence to dance over under the posts, with Mitchell’s conversion restoring a one-point lead for the visitors.
However Wegians showed a lot of courage, despite struggling in the forward set-pieces, and they battled gamely against the elements. Substitute forward John Muldoon was harshly brought back by referee Lewis when he peeled of a scrum and made for the line, although the visitors were similarly denied later in the game in a near identical move. But when the students were penalised at a ruck just before the hour mark, Cleary struck a beauty into the wind from 35 metres to give Wegians a 19-17 lead.
However it was short-lived, as the students scored their third try almost straight from the restart when another Crotty break unlocked the home defence all too easily, resulting in Canadian international prop Forrest Gainer scoring a third try. Another Mitchell conversion made it 24-19 to Trinity. But the home side refused to lie down, and a scintillating break by Scott Donald from his own line almost led to a second breakaway try. But soon afterwards Galwegians’ best line-out of the day saw a quick clean take by Muldoon, and when scrum-half Roche fed his half-back partner Tom Allen, the no. 10 rounded three defenders from 40 metres out for a magnificent solo try to level matters.
Cleary was unlucky with the conversion, his first and only miss of the day, which set up a nail-biting finish. But the home side still had to endure some heart-stopping moments as some sloppy defence almost cost them dearly. The students were camped on their line for the last three minutes, but some last-gasp gutsy Galwegians defence somehow kept their line intact to ensure they finished with two points. It was hard earned, but in a true mixed-bag performance they have a lot to build on for the season ahead. Garryowen await them next at Dooradoyle next Sunday.