- Result: Galwegians Firsts 5 - Shannon 16
- Venue: Shannon RFC on Sat Jan 26th 2008
- Competition: AIL Division 1
Galwegians battled bravely but ultimately came away empty-handed as eight-time AIL champions Shannon prevailed in this Division One clash at Coonagh on Saturday.
Despite the dry weather, the sodden pitch and stiff breeze made playing conditions difficult. And although they had the wind at their backs in the opening half, Wegians failed to assert any real dominance and capitalise. Shannon fielded a very strong pack, including the Munster trio, lock Donnacha Ryan, international back-row Alan Quinlan and the new Ireland squad member, prop Tony Buckley. Indeed the hosts looked the more likely to score as some patient and cohesive forward play punched holes up the middle as they went through the phases and created scoring opportunities. But a dogged and determined Galwegians defence helped force errors which meant they kept the try-line intact.
When they did have possession Wegians struggled to gain any continuity, again coughing up a lot of line-out ball, meaning incursions into the Shannon half were limited. And the hosts took the lead just before the half-hour mark when Wegians prop Ronan Loughney was penalised at a ruck on the 22. Shannon veteran Andrew Thompson made no mistake from in front of the posts for a 3-0 lead.
This appeared to instil some urgency into Wegians, and a few minutes later they stunned their hosts when they went into the lead courtesy of an excellent try from only their second real attack of note. When Wegians spread the ball across the backline inside their own half, there appeared to be no apparent danger until inside centre Tim Fletcher skipped a tackle and was suddenly racing clear through the middle. And he trusted himself as his pace took him right up to the line where he dived over in the right-hand corner. And following lengthy consultation with his touch-judge, referee Alain Rolland eventually awarded the try. Full-back Liam Bibo was unlucky with a near-impossible conversion attempt.
This is how it stayed at half-time, and with the elements in their favour, Shannon predictably came all out at the start of the second-half. Yet despite dominating possession and territory, they simply met more resolute Galwegian defence as the Blues continued to repel everything they could throw at them. But the relentless Shannon driving mauls, crash balls and pick and go’s eventually took their toll, and they regained the lead on 55 minutes when substitute flanker Colm McMahon, on the field for a mere few seconds, crashed over in the right-hand corner for an unconverted try and an 8-5 lead.
Shannon then went for the jugular, and three minutes later a second penalty from Thompson stretched their advantage to 11-5. With the penalties beginning to mount, Wegians flanker Martin Webdale went into the sin-bin soon after. And when prop Buckley made another charge up the middle on 64 minutes, the Shannon pack almost got in again on the right. But no matter, as a switch play resulting in a skipped pass from Thompson saw winger Stephen Kelly diving over in the left corner for an 11-point winning margin.
This was how it stayed at the end, but Wegians almost snatched a vital bonus point with a late breakaway from behind their own line, when breaks from flanker Ivan Muldoon and sub prop Brian McGovern brought play up to halfway. And when winger Pate Tuilevaka sold a dummy the try looked on, but the Fijian chose the wrong option for the final pass. And although awarded an attacking scrum under the posts, it came to nothing and the chance went abegging.
Galwegians are now too close to the drop zone for comfort, six points clear of safety with five matches remaining. Next up for the Blues in the AIL is a vital home game against Blackrock on Saturday Feb. 16th.