- Result: Galwegians Firsts 31 - Belfast Harlequins 19
- Venue: Crowley Park on Sat Nov 22nd 2014
- Competition: AIL Division 1B
Galwegians consolidated their position at the summit of Division 1b with what was ultimately a comprehensive bonus point victory at Crowley Park on Saturday. For the second consecutive week, they made hard work of seeing off another Belfast side, this time Belfast Harlequins who currently occupy bottom spot in the table. Indeed Quins had to face a second consecutive trip to Galway having been away to Corinthians the previous week, and they will not be sorry to see the back of Galway, once more returning empty-handed.
Wegiasn coach Matt Brown opted to rest some of his backline regulars including the influential John Cleary, Brian Murphy and Gary O’Brien, with Rory Parata returning from injury to make his first UBL appearance since the opening game against Trinity. The Blues started the better and looked the more likely to score, but full-back Ciaran Gaffney was off target with a long-range early penalty attempt.
However the visitors strengthed their side from last week with some Ulster squad members in their side, including lock Neil McComb and centre Michael Allen. And having weathered the early onslaught from their hosts, they eventually settled and took the lead in the 10th minute with their first meaningful attack of the game. Some poor handling by Wegians in their opponents’ half saw possession turned over, and following a good counter-attack, Quins full-back David McMaster was sent clear to touch down on the left, with out-half Mark Best converting for a 7-0 lead
This seemed to stun Wegians who failed to heed the warning signs, and before the first quarter was even up, things went from bad to worse for the hosts. Some sloppy possession play once again cost them in midfield, and an excellent cross-kick by Best was fielded by right-wing Mark Glover, who evaded the attentions of two Wegians defenders all to easily to charge down the touchline and dive over near the right corner for a second try.
Although the conversion was wide, a shock seemed well on the cards as the bottom-placed side held a 12-0 lead over the League leaders. However Wegians have proven resilience and character, having already overcome 22-0 and 10-0 deficits against local rivals Buccaneers and Corinthians in this year’s campaign. They finally aroused from their slumber and upped the intensity in the second quarter. They went on the offensive again and played a territorial game, and the pressure finally paid off when the recalled left-wing Matt Dever showed up on his opposite wing to collect a scoring pass and diver over for his side’s opening try, which was unconverted.
This energised the Blues, and with self-belief restored a second try was soon to follow. Their dominant scrum was creating the platform and beginning to yield penalties. And following an excellent line-kick deep to the corner, a well-worked lineout maul resulted in lock Marty Cummins diving over for his first senior try for Wegians. Gaffney was again wide with the conversion, giving the visitors a slender 12-10 lead at half-time.
Wegians’ coaches Matt Brown and John Muldoon clearly had strong words with their charges at the break, as the Blues seriously upped the tempo in the second-half. They immediately took the game to their opponents, and following some patient build-up play, a great break from prop Doron McHugh and a deft offload fed the supporting Cummins who dived over near the posts for his second try. Gaffney finally found his range with the conversion, and the Blues had their noses in front for the first time in the game at 17-12.
It was a lead they would never relinquish, as they went on to completely dominate the third quarter. Their pack was now clearly in the ascendancy creating further opportunities for their potent backline, and just after the hour mark, an excellent break from deep by centre Jerome Harrimate brought play right up to the try-line. With the defensive cover sucked in, a few phases later Wegians substitute out-half Aidan Moynihan scampered over near the opposite corner to secure the bonus fourth try. The youngster then landed an excellent conversion himself to give the Blues a 12-point lead.
The visitors were not done however, and they responded well going in search of something, only to meet a stern and resolute Blues defence who stoutly held their line and discipline. The game was made safe on 73 minutes when another excellent break from deep, this time by scrum-half Caolin Blade, saw him come within inches of scoring. But the damage was done and Moynihan was once again the beneficiary as he cut through a gap in impressive and determined fashion to dive over for try number five, which he duly converted bringing his personal haul to 14 points.
The visitors did manage to get on the scoreboard late on when Michael Allen crossed for their third try, which Best converted to reduce the gap to 31-19. But it proved to be merely a consolation score as time ran out in their search of salvaging something from the game.
This victory keeps Wegians at the summit of Division 1b, seven points clear of their nearest rivals Ballymena. Their next contest will be a fascinating encounter when they face third-placed Garryowen away in Dooradoyle on Saturday December 6th.
C Gaffney; C Conroy, J Harrimate, R Parata, M Dever; R Shaughnessy, B Lee; J Naughton (capt.), J Dinneen, D.McHugh; B.McClearn, M.Cummins; M Towey, J Pimm, A Ryan.
Replacements: K Kyne, C Gavin, R Moore, B Lee, A Moynihan.