- Result: Galwegians Firsts 7 - Dungannon 7
- Venue: Crowley Park on Sat Feb 15th 2020
- Competition: AIL Division 2B
Galwegians ended their losing streak when they shared the spoils with Dungannon in this Energia AIL Division 2B League game which was played in torrid conditions at Crowley Park on Saturday.
Having lost their previous three games to heavy defeats, Wegians needed a performance to steady the ship and start reclaiming some League points to halt their slide down the table. In many ways this was a perfect opportunity for Wegians to do so against the Ulstermen who lie second from bottom. However, although the Blues won comfortably away to the same opposition 19-0 in November, ‘Gannon came into this match in good form with six points from their last two outings.
The torrential weather and rain-sodden pitch was always going to make this a very difficult game for both sides, and Wegians were dealt an early blow by the loss of prop Conor Kyne who was injured in the pre-match warm-up. Dungannon had the advantage of the stiff breeze in the first-half, and they had an early opportunity to make the breakthrough, only for some good Wegians defence to keep them at bay.
The visitors were using the elements wisely by pinning Wegians deep in their own half, and despite some good ball retention the Blues were unable to break out of their 22. This invited pressure from the visitors, and with handling extremely difficult, they took advantage by opening the score in the 16th minute. When the normally composed full-back Conor Shaughnessy knocked on inside the 22, the visitors attacked off the scrum and forced a penalty for offside. Then from a quick tap and go on the 5m line, the impressive no. 8 James McMahon barrelled his way over for a well-taken try. Full-back Jordy McIlwaine struck a good conversion to put his side 7-0 to the good.
However McMahon was forced to depart the fray with a shoulder injury soon after, and for the remainder of the half Wegians defended with real grit, keeping handling errors to a minimum despite the challenges faced by the elements. Their lineout functioned very well too and they largely kept the visitors at bay until the break, with hooker Christy Reilly making one vital turnover just on halftime to thwart a dangerous attack.
Wegians went on the attack early in the second half but they failed to convert an early chance when Gannon cleared their lines. With the rain then coming to an unexpected halt, the visitors started defending very comfortably and were looking the likelier side to score, making a succession of incursions into their opponent’s half. They had a chance to stretch their lead when awarded a 50th minute penalty, but scrum-half John Russell was just wide with his ambitious long-range effort.
It took an hour for the Blues to get on the scoreboard, and it followed an excellent lineout maul which drove the Gannon pack fully 25 yards back to their own line. Although stopped just short, the visitors struggled to clear their lines and when penalised moments later, Wegians opted for a scrum 5. A powerful shunt saw them heading for the line and with the opposition scrum buckling under the pressure, referee Padraig Reidy had no hesitation in running under the posts to award a penalty try.
This levelled the game, and it set up an interesting final quarter. Both teams went for it, but neither were able to make the breakthrough, with the elements and disciplined defence on both sides getting in the way. When the referee blew the full-time whistle, both mud-caked teams were barely distinguishable from each other. Both sides will feel this was one that got away, but it was probably a fair result as neither team really deserved to lose.
This result means that Wegians remain fourth from bottom and ten points clear of Dungannon who are in the relegation play-off place. Next up for the Blues is another vital game away this Saturday, when they travel to face bottom of the table Ballina.