- Result: Galwegians Firsts 9 - Buccaneers 8
- Venue: Dubarry Park on Sat Feb 7th 2009
- Competition: AIL Division 1
A last-minute penalty from Rob O’Beirn saw Galwegians snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in their AIB Division 1 Connacht derby at Dubarry Park on Saturday.
This match was re-arranged after the initial fixture was abandoned three weeks ago when storm-force winds blew the crossbar down early in that encounter. And with the IRFU decreeing that the game be re-played on the same day as Ireland entertained France in the 6 Nations at Croke Park, there was a predictably sparse attendance in Athlone to see Connacht’s two leading clubs go head to head. In truth it was very poor fare on offer as neither side came anything close to producing their best. However there was little to choose between them on the scoreboard, which at least ensured there was a tight and dramatic finish for the hard-core faithful who showed up.
Wegians played with the aid of a diagonal breeze in the first-half blowing towards the clubhouse end, and they used it to confine the Buccs to their own half for almost the entire opening 40 minutes. They took the lead with an 8th minute penalty from Rob O’Beirn, but the young full-back missed an easy opportunity to double the Blues’ lead on 15 minutes when he hooked his effort wide from in front of the posts.
Wegians were dominating in almost all aspects of play, with a much superior scrum and lording possession and territory. But they never got into any sort of groove and they continued to frustrate with a succession of unforced errors, knock-on’s and missed-placed passes. Combined with some poor decision-making, this meant that, for all their dominance, they rarely threatened the Buccaneers try-line. O’Beirn did find his range again on the half-hour mark when he landed a second penalty from midway between the posts and the touchline to double their advantage. But the Blues were unable to add to their tally before the half-time break, and a six-point lead scarcely looked sufficient at this juncture.
With the wind now at their backs, Buccs started with intent in the second-half, but they spurned their first real attacking opportunity having brought play deep into Wegians territory immediately after the re-start. And in truth the visitors were dealing comfortably with anything the Buccs threw at them. The home side have relied on a dominant forward pack in recent years, but they were unable to assert themselves upfront against their visitors which essentially denied them a proper platform of attack.
But with the play mostly confined to the Wegians' half, the inevitable penalty opportunities arose, although Buccs had to wait until the 60th minute before they had their first shot at goal. It came when Ulster referee Richard Kerr penalised Galwegians at a scrum set-piece, and centre Alan Gaughan duly slotted the penalty from 30 metres out in front of the posts. Buoyed by this, the home side upped the ante and when Wegians strayed offside a few minutes later, Gaughan had an opportunity to level the match from almost exactly the same spot. But this time his effort struck the post and rebounded into play, and Wegians no. 8 Liam Casserly gathered and charged forward to avert the danger.
However it proved a temporary reprieve as Buccs scented blood, and prompted by scrum-half Conor O’Loughlin, who faced his fellow Connacht reserve Kieran Campbell, a sustained period of pressure had ‘Wegians on the rack. And when Buccs opted to run a close-range penalty on 70 minutes, the pressure told as they sucked in the cover, allowing centre Danny Riordan to dive over in the left-hand corner for the game’s only try.
Crucially Gaughan missed the tricky conversion attempt, which left the margin at only two points, and this set-up a nail-biting finish. The winning score originated from a break-out deep in Galwegians’ territory, when flanker Liam Scahill fed winger John Cleary who broke free and placed an intelligent kick down the tramlines which forced a line-out inside the Buccs 22. And when ‘Wegians managed to turnover the line-out, it set up the attacking opportunity which led to the home side conceding a penalty on the right. And under intense pressure and into the teeth of the diagonal breeze, O’Beirn kept his cool to slot the winner between the sticks.
However Buccs nearly stole it at the death when another senseless Wegians’ knock-on saw them concede a close-in scrum. But Buccs’ out-half Simon Rolleston saw his drop-goal attempt charged down, and moments later referee Kerr blew for full-time to ensure the local bragging rights go to Glenina for this season.
Next up for Wegians is a home fixture in the AIB Cup quarter-final against Ulster Division 2 outfit Ballynahinch on Saturday Feb. 14th.