- Result: Galwegians Firsts 31 - Malahide 19
- Venue: Crowley Park on Sat Nov 9th 2019
- Competition: AIL Division 2B
Galwegians ended their three-game losing streak in style with an excellent bonus point win at home to Malahide RFC at Crowley Park on Saturday in Round 5 of the Energia AIL Division 2B.
Having come close the previous week away to Blackrock, there was a sense that the Blues were regaining their mojo and they came into this game in confident mood. Yet for all that, they got off to a terrible start to gift their opponents two tries in the opening quarter, so that had to do it the hard way.
Malahide had a powerful scrum which was causing trouble early on, and they hit the front as early as the fourth minute. They caught the home defence napping from their first meaningful attack, with the ball sped wide to winger Gary Robb who had acres of space to dive over in the right corner for the opening try. Wegians had a chance to level soon afterwards when the pack were pummelling the Malahide line, only for an accidental offside to undo what looked like a certain score.
Things got worse for the hosts minutes later when the visitors grabbed their second try. It was another soft score for the Blues to concede, as they left the base of a ruck unguarded when weighing up their attacking options on the 22. Malahide’s lively no. 8 Brendan Guilfoyle helped himself and ran 60 yards upfield before being hauled down in the 22. But the damage was done, and the visiting pack picked and jammed before prop Reece O’Connell grounded the ball over the line. Centre Adam Kennedy added the extras to put his side 12-0 to the good with less than 15 minutes on the clock.
However Wegians refused to panic, and they quickly got back into the game and opened their account. When a clearance kick was charged down following the restart, it set up an attacking lineout. This time the Blues kept their composure to grind their way forward, with the returning Mikey O’Donnell on hand to grab his sixth try of the season. Out-half Ewan Strang judged the wind perfectly to land the conversion and reduce the margin to 12-7.
The North Dubliners were still looking threatening and dominating at scrum time, and when they opted for a scrum penalty on the half-hour mark, they again crossed the whitewash out wide on the right, only to be pulled back for a forward pass. This was a real let-off for the Blues and it proved a turning point, as from the resulting scrum, Wegians finally got a shove on and won a penalty of their own. This created another penalty near halfway, and despite the tricky breeze, Strang struck an excellent kick to narrow the margin to 12-10, which was how it ended at the break.
The Blues were growing into the game and were now commanding the set-piece, where returning prop Conor Kyne’s half-time introduction was having a noticeable impact in the scrums. A steady lineout was also providing the platform, and on 50 minutes the Blues hit the front for the first time with a magnificent try. When the ball was spun wide near halfway, the impressive no. 8 Kieran Downey threw a beautiful dummy and worked space for his outside numbers. Young full-back Conor O’Shaughnessy showed a maturity beyond his years to find Ryan Lomas on his inside shoulder, and the tight-head prop burst over the line to touch down near the posts for a brilliant team score. Strang made no mistake with the conversion to nudge his side 17-12 ahead.
The visitors upped the ante as they attempted to wrestle back control, and the introduction of Ireland 7’s star Mick McGrath from the bench added impetus to their attack. But they could find no way past a determined and resolute Wegians defence who were continuing to force errors off their opponents. The Blues then struck a decisive blow in the 69th minute when a smart counter-attack fed sub winger Hugh Lane. The pacy winger had the vision to chip over his marker, outpace the cover defence and show deft footwork to dribble the ball over the line before grounding for an excellent individual try. Strang landed the extras for good measure, and suddenly Wegians were double scores at 24-12.
Malahide had to go for it, but they could find no way past their hosts whose confidence was visibly growing. With time running out, it was Wegians who went on the offensive. This time they launched an attack down the right, and flying winger Sanz Sibande was give just enough space to elude his marker and race down the touchline and cross the whitewash, diving under the posts to seal the bonus fourth try. Strang landing his fifth kick from six attempts for good measure.
Malahide did manage one late score when substitute backrow Sean Halligan crossed for a third try, which Kennedy converted. But it proved no more than a consolation for the visitors, as time ran out and Wegians held on for a thoroughly deserved victory.
Next up for the Blues is a home tie against Connacht neighbours Ballina on Saturday at Crowley Park, kick-off 2.30pm. Originally down as an away fixture, this was switched to allow for an AIL and Connacht Senior Cup double-header.