Towards a century at the heart of Connacht rugby

Firsts 26 – Belfast Harlequins 20

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Match Result

  • Result: Galwegians Firsts 26 - Belfast Harlequins 20
  • Venue: Crowley Park on Sat Dec 7th 2019
  • Competition: AIL Division 2B

Match Report

Galwegians made it four wins on the trot in the Energia AIL Division 2b when they came away with a third successive home bonus point win against Belfast Harlequins. However they were made to work hard for it against the Ulstermen who proved to be very tough opponents, and whose lowly league position belies their real strength.

Playing with the aid of a very strong first-half breeze and in their uncustomary away black jerseys, Wegians soon set about dominating the opening exchanges. New Aussie out-half Will Goddard was anxious to impress on his debut, but he was short of the target with an early third minute penalty effort from near halfway. However the visitors were unable to get out of their 22 with Wegians keeping them pinned, and it was a matter of time before the hosts opened their account. It came on 10 minutes when a well-judged chip through from Goddard was latched onto by Diarmuid Kilgallen, and the impressive outside centre grounded the ball just inside the dead-ball line for the opening try.

Goddard added the extras for a 7-0 lead, and it was all Wegians in the opening quarter. When Sanz Sibande claimed the restart he went on a darting weaving run to again cause damage, and the visitors were sucking diesel. By the 17thminute the hosts doubled their lead with try number two. A block down almost led to a try for the returning lock Matt Towey, but from the resulting 5m scrum, a series of pick and goes was finished off in style by inside centre Tommy Downes who took a beautiful line to crash through the middle and dot down under the posts.

Goddard again added the extras and Wegians were looking comfortable at 14-0. Any thoughts of running away with a win were soon dispelled however when a lapse in concentration saw the hosts spill the restart. From the resulting set-piece, Harlequins worked their way upfield and scored from their first meaningful attack, with back-row Jona Siri going over near the right-hand corner for an unconverted try.

Despite throwing themselves a lifeline, the Ulstermen did themselves no favours by getting on the wrong side of referee Barry Moloney. A deliberate knock-on by prop James Harrison and a late hit by flanker Daryl Marshall saw them binned in quick succession, handing their hosts a two-man advantage. Goddard was again off target with another long-range effort near the left touchline, but on the half-hour mark Wegians made it count. A well-worked lineout maul was cleverly finished off by the free-scoring Mikey O’Donnell who peeled off the blindside to ground the ball near the right corner. Goddard landed an excellent conversion to stretch the lead to 21-5.

Wegians looked like kicking on at this point, but instead they handed their opponents another route back into the game. When captain Marty Cummins was binned shortly afterwards, it invited more pressure from Quins who laid siege to the line. Just when it looked like the hosts had weathered the storm and won a defending scrum, all the hard work came undone when a strike against the head saw Quins score all too easily, with Marshall touching down near the posts, fresh from his stint in the bin. An easy conversion from Coby Miln made it a nine-point game at the break, and with the wind unrelenting, suddenly the second-half looked a lot more daunting for Wegians.

Quins went for the jugular straight from the restart, and in the 43rd minute they spurned a penalty under the posts by taking a quick tapped pen. However it backfired as some stoic Wegians defence held them out. The visitors then managed a succession of errors, including a penalty to the corner going dead, a miscued lineout and a kickable penalty sent wide. However the hosts were struggling to get out of their 22, and when a poor 22m restart in the 53rdminute gave the visitors an attacking platform, full-back and captain Mark Glover crossed in the left-hand corner for a third try. Although the conversion was missed, it was now a four-point game with Quins seemingly in pole position.

Wegians showed great character and a great break out of his own half from Towey created a great attacking opportunity which almost paid dividends. This seemed to restore self-belief, and they struck a telling blow just on the hour mark. It came from another charge down by O’Donnell which set up an attack in the corner, where Kilgallen was on hand to finish off for his second and crucially his side’s fourth bonus try. An impossible conversion into the wind meant the gap was back to nine points.

Quins threw everything at their hosts in the final quarter, only to meet an excellent resolute home defence. A powerful Galwegian scrum was also yielding a succession of welcome penalties to relieve the pressure which was frustrating the visitors. With the game deep in stoppage time, Quins won a final penalty on the 10m line. They opted to kick at goal and this time Miln found his range to shave the inside of the post, and earn his side what was a richly deserved bonus point.

This hard-earned victory means that Andrew Browne’s Wegians have taken 19 points out of the last 20 on offer, which has moved them into joint fourth position. One of the other teams on the same points tally is Wanderers, and this is who the Blues will face next this coming Saturday Dec.14th when they travel to Dublin to take on their D4 opponents on the AVIVA back pitch.

Players

15. Conor O’Shaughnessy, 14. Sandile Sibande, 13. Diarmuid Kilgallen, 12. Tommy Downes, 11. Sean O’Sullivan, 10. Will Goddard, 9. Rory Gaffney, 1. Conor Kyne, 2. Christy Reilly, 3. Ryan Lomas, 4. Matt Towey, 5. Marty Cummins (Captain), 6. Josh Dunne, 7. Michael O’Donnell, 8. Kieran Downey. Subs: Andrew Paton, Shane Ryan, Ciaran Wilson, Dylan Hamill, Eamonn Dowling

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