- Result: Galwegians Firsts 50 - Cashel 15
- Venue: Crowley Park on Sat Apr 14th 2018
- Competition: AIL Division 2A
Galwegians saved their best of the season for the very last, when they put in a stunning seven-try performance to dismantle a promotion-chasing Cashel side on Saturday, and in the process confirm their survival from relegation in ULB Division 2A.
At the start of play, Wegians were facing the mathematical prospect of automatic relegation, while their visitors were sitting pretty in third place and seemingly assured of a play-off place. However the gulf between these teams in the League table was unrecognisable on the field of play, as the Blues simply took them apart from start to finish. And while they may have enjoyed their share of luck throughout the game, they were not one bit flattered by the winning margin.
Wegians captain Anthony Ryan won the toss and opted to play with the aid of a very strong breeze blowing down towards the clubhouse end. They wasted no time in taking advantage, scoring two early tries to put down a firm marker. The first came as early as the fourth minute when veteran full-back John Cleary made a break from deep, before feeding scrum-half Richie Fahey who sent Bryan Dixon clear. The left-wing seemed destined to score before just being held up in the corner, but patience was rewarded when lock Matt Towey barged over moments later for the opening try. Out-half Morgan Codyre made light of the swirling breeze to add the conversion.
Shortly after the restart it got even better for Wegians when a hesitant Cashel defence failed to deal with a speculative garryowen. The Blues did not need a second invitation, and moments later scrum-half Richie Fahey made a snipe and reached for the line, referee Brian MacNeice awarding the try after consulting with the touch-judge. Codyre again added the extras, and the Blues now had an early 14-0 lead with less than seven minutes on the clock.
Cashel soon settled down and their big pack began to assert themselves. They dominated the remainder of the opening quarter, and they got their reward when lock Richard Moran dived over from a ruck near the right corner for an unconverted try. The Tipperary men continued to pressurise, but a superb clearance kick down the tramlines from Cleary on the half-hour saw the wind carry the ball fully seventy metres before trundling into touch inside the Cashel 22. The heretofore rock solid Cashel lineout was suddenly pilfered by the Blues, and having forced an offside, Codyre once again split the posts to stretch their lead to 17-5.
Wegians survived a scare before the break when Cashel wing-forward Tommy Anglim raced clear down the left, only to be hauled down by Wegians Ciaran Wilson. Then following turnover ball, Wegians struck a decisive blow coming up to half-time. An excellent kick to the corner by centre Brian Murphy was perfectly judged,. When the visitors again failed to secure lineout possession and knocked on, a 5m scrum gave Wegians an attacking platform. Murphy took full advantage, taking crash ball from Fahey to dive under the posts for a crucial third try. Codyre’s simple conversion gave his side a morale-boosting 19-point lead at the break.
The strength of the wind meant that this game was far from done, and with the Wegians coaching staff keeping one eye on other results in the League, it was still in the melting pot. On 47 minutes the visitors narrowed the gap when they scored their second try. It came from a lineout maul, and although initially it looked like the Blues had repelled the attack, flanker Anglim appeared out of nowhere to cut through a gap and dive over near the right. Out-half Daragh Lyons badly scuffed the conversion to leave the margin 24-10.
Any hopes of a comeback by the visitors were soon dashed when Wegians bagged the vital fourth bonus point try. It followed some excellent continuity play up the right wing, with props Jason East and Conor Kyne particularly prominent. The talented young no. 8 Michael O’Donnell then fed a beautiful pop pass to Codyre, who took a sumptuous line to scythe through the cover before diving under the posts. His conversion gave the Blues a decisive 21-point lead with less than half an hour remaining.
Cashel, who needed just a single point to ensure their play-off spot, gave themselves faint hope of keeping in touch when they punished some soft defending minutes later, with Lyons getting the touchdown out on the left. However the normally reliable kicker was having an off day with the boot and he again missed the target, leaving his side with a 16-point deficit to make up.
The final 25 minutes turned out to be one-way traffic as Wegians produced some sparkling rugby to run riot. Despite playing into the strong breeze, the home pack had by now seriously gained the upper hand both in the tight and the loose. The Blues always looked to have the more potent backline, and this was emphasised shortly after the hour mark when veteran Cleary, who recently came out of retirement, rolled back the years with a simply magnificent solo try. From his own 10m line, he went on a trademark dazzling run, breaking six tackles and selling two sweet dummies before racing clear to score near the right.
It was really game over at this point, but the young Blues side displayed a killer instinct as they turned on the style in the final quarter. Soon afterwards there was some fantasy rugby played down the right, and although winger Rory Gaffney was stopped just short, the outstanding Conor Kyne darted over near the posts for try number six.
The visitors still went in search of their bonus point, but they could find no way past a resolute Blues defence. There was still time for a seventh Wegians try when another slick backline move saw Cleary feed sub Hugh Lane who scampered home down the left. Codyre brought his personal haul for the day to twenty points with his conversion, bringing his side’s total up to fifty. Try as they might, the visitors were unable to secure a vital fourth try, and this was crucially to cost them their place in the play-offs.
It was an outstanding performance by this young Blues side who displayed their true potential. Results elsewhere meant that they overhauled Greystones to survive the relegation play-offs. This completed a truly remarkable end of season turnaround. Having looked dead and buried two months ago at the foot of the table, the Blues went on to win five of their last seven games, including four vital bonus points.