- Result: Galwegians Firsts 26 - Cashel 19
- Venue: Cashel RFC on Sat Sep 16th 2017
- Competition: AIL Division 2A
Galwegians got their Division 2A campaign off to a winning start with a hard-fought but thoroughly deserved win away to a dogged Cashel side on Saturday.
Having lost no less than 14 of last year’s senior squad, it was a new-look and youthful Blues side who took on a hardened Cashel outfit coached by former international Denis Leamy. In a typical season-opener, there were errors aplenty early on. Wegians suffered an early set-back when lock Eoin Tarmey was binned as early as the second minute following a forwards scuffle. However the 14 men soon settled into the game. The visitors were playing nearly all the rugby in the opening period, and when restored to their full complement they began to exert control.
Promising out-half Morgan Codyre missed a chance to open the scoring when off target with a penalty on 15 minutes, however the Blues hit the front with the opening try at the end of the first quarter. It came following some patient attacking build-up play, and from a ruck on the 22, lock forward Marty Cummins marked his first appearance in over a year when he gathered the ball at the base, spotted a gap and charged through an open gate to burst over and touch down near the posts. Codyre found his range to open his account and give his side a 7- 0 lead.
The second quarter turned into a high-scoring affair as tries suddenly rained down from nowhere. The hosts soon cancelled out the deficit with their own first try on 25 minutes. It was most opportunistic from scrum-half Josh Pickering who somehow snaffled the ball out of the hands of the unsuspecting Wegians scrum-half Rory Gaffney on the 10m line to scamper clear and score near the corner. Out-half Daragh Lyons, who had earlier scuffed a penalty wide, landed an excellent conversion to tie the game.
The Blues responded well to the set-back and went on the attack right from the restart. Some excellent interplay between forwards and backs took them right up to the line, and Gaffney made amends by diving over near the posts for his side’s second try, Codyre again converting to restore a seven-point margin. However the see-saw nature of this game continued when Wegians soon conceded a needless penalty for being offside ahead of the kicker on their 10m line. This allowed Cashel kick to the corner, and following patient phases, they ground their way to the line resulting in forward Conor Cashman diving over for his side’s second try, with Lyons again converting to level the contest once more.
Wegians had a further opportunity to take the lead but they coughed up an attacking lineout, meaning the sides went in level pegging at the break. This was scant reward for their dominance, and as play resumed and the elements worsened in the second-half, the Blues re-grouped and showed admirable composure to re-assert themselves after Lyons missed an early opportunity to give the hosts a lead for the first time. The Wegians scrum was now gaining a serious upper hand, and Codyre took the opportunity to put his side ahead on 55 minutes with a well-struck penalty.
The hosts then looked set to score a third try only for some desperate Wegians defence forced a knock-on on the line, allowing the visitors to clear their lines. The Blues pack were working overtime, and were dominating now in both the loose and set-piece. This gave Codyre two further penalty chances on 66 and 70 minutes, and he made no mistake to suddenly give his side a nine-point buffer.
However the Blues handed their opponents a lifeline soon after when veteran centre Brian Murphy was binned. Cashel took immediate advantage and having kicked to the corner, more patient attacking play saw them suck in the cover and send substitute Brian Fitzpatrick over in the left corner for a third try. This was unconverted leaving the Blues four points to the good, however moments later, following good work by the pack, Wegians were awarded a penalty on the Cashel 10m line. Codyre stepped up and thumped a magnificent effort into the breeze which sailed between the posts for a seven-point lead.
Cashel threw everything at Wegians in the final moments, and they seriously threatened the line only to be repelled by some determined Wegians defence who just held out for victory. It was a huge morale-booster for the Blues who recorded their first win on the road since March 2015. Coaches Brian McClearn and Gavin Duffy will have been encouraged by much of what they saw, yet have plenty to work on before they face City of Armagh this Saturday at Crowley Park (2.30pm).