- Result: Galwegians Firsts 31 - UCC 14
- Venue: Crowley Park on Sat Sep 24th 2016
- Competition: AIL Division 1B
Galwegians kick-started their Ulster Bank All-Ireland League campaign with a bonus point victory at home to UCC on Saturday.
Having lost their opening UBL fixture away to Naas the previous weekend when they had to settle for a losing bonus point, Wegians needed a victory to make a statement of intent for the season ahead. However they got off to a terrible start as the students raced into a 6-0 lead after only four minutes, when referee Oisin Quinn penalised the Wegians pack at the breakdown twice in quick succession. College winger Kevin O’Keeffe took both opportunities presented to him from close range to tap over the two penalties.
Playing into the strong breeze defending the clubhouse end, it was a nervy error-strewn performance by the Blues early doors with a host of unforced errors. It got worse when they conceded the opening try after 11 minutes. It followed an excellent break by College’s powerhouse lock Darragh Moloney who exploited a weakness in the Blues defence, before sucking in the cover and floating a perfectly timed pass to left-wing Cillian Ansbro who dotted down in the left corner. O’Keeffe was very unlucky as his conversion attempt hit the outside of the post.
It looked like being a long day at the office for the home side, but to their credit their senior players showed great leadership to steady the ship. They soon settled down and by the end of the first quarter they finally opened their account. As they began to stretch the students’ defence with some fluid backline play, recent recruit from Terenure Matthew Byrne took an excellent line to cut inside and dart over for his first try for the Blues on the right. Out-half and assistant player-coach Mitch Lam added a fine conversion to reduce the gap to 11-7.
Wegians’ new head coach Brian McClearn was forced into some early changes as Byrne injured himself in the act of scoring, to be replaced by Alan McMahon, while prop Jason East made way for recent Connacht recruit Conor Carey. However there was little disruption caused to Wegians who seemed to settle down after their confidence-boosting opening score.
Just before the half-hour mark they took the lead with a second try in what was a near replica of the first. This time it was centre Cormac Brennan who sold a beautiful dummy to his opposite number to cross on the right. Lam was off target with this conversion effort to leave his side ahead by the narrowest of margins. The Blues were forced into more re-arrangements when captain Brian Murphy tool a heavy knock and was replaced by Dave Clarke, however they comfortably held out to take their 12-11 lead into half-time.
With the wind at their backs, Wegians wasted no time in stretching their lead after the break. It came from a block down by Lam barely a minute after the restart, and following some patient backline play, hooker Jack Dinneen finished off by powering over for a third try under the posts, with Lam tapping over the extras to make it 19-11. The students kept plugging away and shortly afterwards O’Keeffe reduced the arrears to five points with his third successful penalty. However the Blues continued to dominate and they went on to secure the bonus fourth try just before the hour mark, when sub prop Carey scored on his Wegians debut by using his bulk to force his way over the line.
Credit to the students who took the game to their hosts, and they had opportunities to add to their score and get to within bonus range, only for mistakes to cost them dearly as the Blues defence held their line. A Cork student did manage to get on the scoresheet late on, but ironically it was Wegians’ full-back Aidan Moynihan who made the game safe in the final minute, when some excellent handling resulted in the Macroom native crossing in the right corner.
It was a satisfactory end to his first home UBL game for head coach McClearn, and he will take his side down to Cork with confidence as they face a winless Dolphin in Musgrave Park this Saturday.
Aidan Moynihan; Matthew Byrne, Cormac Brennan, Brian Murphy (captain), Ed O’Keeffe; Mitch Lam, Barry Lee; Jason East, Jack Dinneen, Conan O’Donnell; Eoin Tarmey, Matthew Towey; Paul Hackett, Josh Pim, Anthony Ryan.
Subs: Conor Carey, John Moloney, Ronan Moore, Alan McMahon, Dave Clarke