- Result: Galwegians Firsts 25 - Ballymena 17
- Venue: Eaton Park on Sat Feb 21st 2015
- Competition: AIL Division 1B
Galwegians produced their best performance of the season when they defeated fellow promotion-chasers Ballymena away on Saturday to strike a decisive blow in the season run-in and protect their lead at the summit of UBL Division 1b. And they did it the hard way, coming from behind no less than three times to grind out a magnificent bonus point victory in a pulsating seven-try contest at Eaton Park.
The Blues started with intent and out-half Aidan Moynihan gave them an early 3-0 lead with a well-taken drop-goal after good work from centre Brian Murphy. However hosts Ballymena were very much up for this one, and they soon went in front when right-wing Jordan Foster finished off a move by diving over in the corner for the first try of the game. But it proved a short-lived lead, as Wegians made a clear statement of intent with a rapid response when Murphy finished off a move in the corner to restore a 3-point margin for the visitors.
However Wegians had lost two of their front-row by the time the first quarter was up, when prop Doron McHugh and hooker Ciaran Gavin were both forced to retire with arm injuries. Subs Kurtis Kyne and Ross Fitzgerald, who was making his return to the first team after a lengthy absence, were forced on early. The hosts smelt blood and went on the offensive, laying siege to the Wegians line. It paid off just before the half-hour when they regained the advantage after prop Dave Ryan crossed the whitewash for his side’s second try.
Out-half Richie McMaster converted to give the Ulstermen a 12-8 lead, however not for the first time it was short-lived, as the Blues came back in style. Their second try was arguably the best of the day, when centre Rory Parata beat the on-rushing defence, and went on to have a hand in all six phases before diving over for a magnificent score. Although again unconverted, this put Wegians’ noses in front 13-12 at half-time.
The game was delicately poised at this stage. The wet conditions seemed to suit Ballymena who were dominating overall, but Wegians were far more clinical and looking very dangerous in open space. The hosts immediately took the game to Wegians upon the restart by camping on their line, and only some desperate defence kept them at bay, with the outstanding Parata making one vital steal near his line to earn his side a relieving penalty.
On 46 minutes referee Brian McNeice eventually lost patience with Wegians and binned no. 8 Matt Towey. Cue another onslaught from the hosts, however some magnificent defence from the Blues, particularly the tight five, saw them protect their lead while a man down. However the see-saw nature of this contest continued when Ballymena regained the lead just before the hour-mark. Just when it seemed that Wegians were frustrating their hosts and forcing them into scrappy play, a speculative cross-kick by McMaster was latched onto by winger Johnny Rosborough. The substitute showed good soccer skills to dribble and touch down over the line, giving his side a 17-13 lead.
However once again Wegians refused to read the script, and they proved their grit and determination to respond in the best possible manner. Barely five minutes later they went back in front when a solid maul laid the platform, and full-back John Cleary finished off a well-worked backline move to score out wide, nudging his team 18-17 in front.
This instilled greater belief in the visitors and seemed to deflate the hosts facing into the final quarter. Wegians definitely looked the likelier to score next, and they thought they had scored a fourth try in the last ten minutes when sub Gary O’Brien appeared to catch Ballymena full-back Sean Taylor napping when he touched down in-goal, but referee McNeice, who seemed a long way from view, ruled no try.
However it mattered not, as moments later Moynihan cut through the middle in determined fashion to dive over for the all-important bonus try, and his conversion gave the Blues a vital eight-point cushion. They closed the game out comfortably to deny their hosts even a consolation losing bonus. It was tough on the Ulstermen who contributed to a superb game of rugby, but there was no denying that the better side won. Wegians displayed a cutting edge and determination which earned them the spoils and gain revenge for their heart-stopping last-gasp defeat at home to Ballymena last October.
This win stretches Wegians lead at the top of the table to two points over second-placed Garryowen, and seven clear of third-placed Trinity with four games to go.
Next up for the Blues is an enticing derby fixture at home to city rivals Corinthians this Friday night under lights at Crowley Park.
Replacements:, C Blade, G O’Brien, E Tarmey, R Fitzgerald, K Kyne.