- Result: Galwegians Firsts 5 - Navan 7
- Venue: Crowley Park on Sat Jan 26th 2019
- Competition: AIL Division 2A
Galwegians suffered a heart-breaking defeat at home to Navan at a blustery Crowley Park on Saturday in a game which in truth they deserved to win. However befitting a team struggling at the bottom of the table, lady luck was definitely not on their side, with the bounce of the ball and some key decisions going against them at crucial moments to deny them what could have proved a crucial victory.
The visitors came into this game riding high in third place in the League and were heavily fancied to inflict another defeat on Wegians, however the Blues had other ideas and they set out their stall early on by taking control of proceedings. Playing with the aid of a swirling breeze blowing towards the clubhouse, they dominated both territory and possession. They had the first real chance to put points on the board early doors, but out-half Dave Clarke was off target with a very kickable 25 m penalty, which would ultimately prove costly.
However Wegians kept the pressure on and they deservedly hit the front on 25 minutes. It came from a well-worked try after some sheer graft and spadework from the forwards gave a platform to the backs, with some good hands giving right-wing Sean O’Sullivan some space down the right. The young winger still had work to do, but he evaded a last-ditch tackle to dot down right in the corner. Clarke was desperately unlucky when his near-impossible conversion into the wind rebounded off the post, leaving it 5-0 to the home side.
The visitors eventually began to settle and they were using their burly pack to get into the game and make some hard yards. Penalties were beginning to mount against the hosts, and on 35 minutes referee Ken Imbusch sin-binned Wegians no. 8 Matt Towey for the latest infringement at a maul. Barely 30 seconds later and bizarrely the home side were reduced to 13 men. This time it was another back-row Paul Hackett who was binned, a decision which seemed harsh in the extreme. However despite setting up a promising attack, the visitors botched their line-out, and the Blues were able to defend their line and preserve their lead at half-time.
Navan came out of the blocks in the second-half with the wind at their backs. They soon won another penalty near the 22 off a scrum, but once again they were thwarted at the lineout, with Wegians’ hugely impressive debutant lock Terry Abayoni making an excellent charge 30 metres upfield to relieve some huge pressure before losing possession. Wegians got a major boost when they were soon restored to 15 men without conceding any points, and when Navan butchered what looked a certain try when full-back Paddy Fox failed to get on the end of Sean McEntaggart’s pass, it looked like a major upset could be on the cards.
The Blues continued to defend doggedly and just after the hour they came close to increasing their lead when an impressive maul saw them work their way deep into the Navan 22. This led to a scrum 5 for the hosts, however frustratingly they were penalised for engaging to early. The allowed the visitors to break upfield and it led to the decisive phase of the game. With the clock ticking down into the final ten minutes, they laid siege to the Wegians 22, but some tremendous defence kept them at bay. Referee Imbusch then saw fit to give Wegians their third yellow card in the game when scrum-half Barry Lee was binned for offside.
Just when it looked like their defence was holding out, eventually Navan made their numerical advantage pay and full-back Fox was freed to cross the whitewash under the posts for what was remarkably their first score of the game in the 75th minute. Scrum-half Brian Haugh made no mistake with the conversion to nudge his side ahead.
That looked to be that, however the 14-man Wegians showed incredible heart and bravery to mount one final assault. When awarded a late penalty near halfway at the intervention of the touch-judge, a brilliant break from veteran centre Brian Murphy sent O’Sullivan clear on the 22. The winger looked certain to make the line only for a desperate try-saving tackle by McEntaggart in the 82nd minute to deny him at the corner-flag.
Referee Imbusch then immediately blew for full-time, much to the bewilderment and consternation of the Wegians contingent given the amount of lengthy stoppages during the second-half. However that was that, and the very sporting Navan contingent readily admitted that their win was something akin to a jailbreak.
This was no consolation to the Blues, who just have to dust themselves down and brace themselves for the arrival of runaway League leaders Highfield in three weeks’ time, as they try to bridge the gap at the bottom to closest rivals Blackrock College.
However coach Brian McClearn can take huge heart from this performance which proved they have the talent and wherewithal to make a fist of their fight against relegation.