- Result: Galwegians Firsts 25 - Old Wesley 35
- Venue: Donnybrook on Sat Oct 29th 2016
- Competition: AIL Division 1B
Galwegians suffered another intensely frustrating afternoon on their travels in UBL Division 1b, going down to an Old Wesley side in Donnybrook who overhauled them late on to deny the Blues a first victory on the road.
Galwegians' ten personnel changes from the last round included the return of Connacht Eagles centres Rory Parata and Mitch Lam and fit-again captain Brian Murphy, giving their back-line a serious boost. Despite going behind to an early penalty from Wesley’s Barry McLaughlin, the Blues soon put down a marker as to how the first-half would go. Connacht Academy winger Ed O'Keeffe and senior-capped centre Parata set them on their way with 10th and 15th minute tries out wide. The defending Isaac Leota missed a potential intercept to leave an overlap for O'Keeffe's score in the corner, and then Parata chased down his own grubber kick which wrong-footed McLaughlin to make it 12-3 for the Blues.
The Wesley pack was much bigger, led by Leinster and Ireland hooker Richart Strauss to create a platform for their side. They got a second three-pointer from McLaughlin at the end of the first quarter, coming after 'Wegians skipper Murphy was sin-binned for a tip tackle. Then before long McLaughlin was over the try-line after a good move from a lineout, reducing the gap to a solitary point.
However Wegians went on to dominate the second quarter. They made it 17-11 thanks to Parata's second try as the lively centre profited from an interception, and following Murphy's return from the bin, the Blues went wide off a lineout to send winger Barry Lee through for their bonus point score. Despite missing an earlier effort from the 10m line, a subsequent Conor Lowndes penalty put the Blues 25-11 clear approaching half-time. However a crucial score came just before the break when Wesley scrum-half Ian Cassidy sniped over from a close-in ruck, which McLaughlin converted to reduce the half-time deficit to 25-18.
Wesley's dominance of the scrum continued on the restart, and McLaughlin punished an off-the-ball tackle with three more points, reducing the arrears to just 25-21. Then having withstood some serious pressure and just when it looked like Wegians had weathered the storm, the game turned on an incident in the 65th minute. The Blues were forced to see out the game with 14 players after centre Murphy picked up his second yellow card for needlessly taking McLaughlin out after a kick ahead.
In a double whammy for the visitors, the resulting penalty was sent towards the corner, and replacement David Henshaw peeled off the maul for a key seven-pointer. This put the hosts in front for the first time since the tenth minute.
Wesley were never really troubled after that, the 'Wegians defence doing well to hold up another couple of mauls. The hosts made the game safe when they seized on some chaotic play by Wegians when trying to force the game with some loose play, leading to Kiwi centre Leota making an intercept to run in the bonus point try.
So having led for almost an hour of the game, and with a bonus point in the bag after barely half an hour, the Blues went home with just one point instead of what looked like being five. And to add insult to injury they allowed their hosts bag a bonus win of their own.
This result sees 'Wegians slide down to eight in the table, and a crucial next match sees them host Ulster side Ballynahinch at Crowley Park on Saturday (2.30pm kick-off). A win is vital in their attempt to get back into the mid-table safety zone and free from danger.