- Result: Galwegians Firsts 23 - Dolphin 29
- Venue: Crowley Park on Sat Mar 25th 2017
- Competition: AIL Division 1B
Yet again Galwegians suffered another disappointing defeat in Division 1b, but this one will probably rankle more than most. It was not just the manner in which the Blues saw their early dominance overturned, but also the consequences of coming up short against the bottom placed team, thus missing out on a great chance to pull clear of the automatic relegation spot.
Played in glorious warm spring sunshine, things started really well for Wegians who, despite playing into a relatively strong breeze blowing downfield from the clubhouse end, dominated the opposition right from the get-go. They took the lead after a mere six minutes when strong pressure had the visitors defending their line. Following some patient build-up play, no. 8 Eoghan Masterson eventually found some space and dived over near the left corner for the game’s opening try.
Out-half Morgan Codyre slotted an excellent conversion, and minutes later he added a penalty after the Cork side were penalised for offside on their 22. 10-0 to the good, it could have been even more for the Blues, but crucially Dolphin defended a 5 metre lineout maul to avoid conceding a second try.
The visitors eventually used the wind to gain some territory, and just into the second quarter they opened their account through a penalty from veteran out-half Barry Keeshan. They also made two early substitutions in their pack, including club captain John Fitzgerald and John Madigan, and suddenly they gained some dominance in the set-piece. This coincided with Wegians losing their rhythm, and soon a succession of mistakes and unforced errors started to mount.
Keeshan soon landed a second penalty after a needless knock-on led to a scrum, at which the Blues were penalised. This galvanised the visitors, and just before the half-hour mark they scored off their first serious incursion into Wegians territory, when a blindside move led to a well-taken try by winger Gerry Ryan. Keeshan added the extras and for the first time in the game they were in the lead.
Not for the first time this season, Wegians started to get on the wrong side of referee Eddie Hogan-O’Connell, especially at the breakdown. They gifted their opponent two further kickable penalties before half-time, and the prolific Keeshan made no mistake. Almost out of nowhere the Munster men had racked by 19 unanswered points to take a 19-10 lead at the break.
Wegians coach Brian McClearn clearly had words with his side who came out of the traps, and within two minutes Codyre reduced arrears to 19-13 with a simple penalty from in front of the posts. However rather than kick on, the Blues were almost immediately on the back foot again after failing to control the restart. They survived an onslaught on their line after a Dolphin maul was held up, and from the subsequent 5m scrum the visitors were penalised.
However this proved a turning point in the contest, as instead of providing relief to Wegians, they proceeded to press the self-destruct button. Following a punch-up involving both packs, referee Hogan-O’Connell reversed the penalty and sent Wegians lock and Irish U-20 cap Peter Claffey to the sin-bin. So instead of allowing them clear their lines, it handed the initiative right back to their opponents and gave Keeshan the simplest of chances to restore a nine-point margin.
The Cork side then proceeded to make the most of their one-man advantage, when an attack on the right saw them brush off some weak tackling and centre Cian McGovern took an inside pass to run between the posts for his side’s second try. Keeshan’s simple conversion meant that incredibly, the visitors now held a sixteen-point advantage well before the hour-mark had even been reached.
With their full complement then restored, a good break upfield by scrum-half Barry Lee near the hour-mark led to a penalty which Codyre converted. The visitors were starting to tire and when try-scorer McGovern was then binned, the Blues kicked to the corner. Following secure line-out ball, the driving maul was eventually finished off by captain Brian Murphy who burrowed over for his side’s second try. Codyre kept his cool to slot the conversion midway out, and crucially bring his team within bonus point range.
There was still plenty time for Wegians to make a comeback in the final few minutes, and they had their chances including both territory and possession. But their performance was summed up when a last-gasp attacking lineout inside the Dolphin 22 was fumbled, and the visitors gratefully turned over possession and ran down the clock to seal what could be a vital victory.
This result leaves Wegians a solitary point ahead of the Dolphin with just two matches remaining in the battle to avoid relegation. Next up for the Blues is another Cork side, when they travel to face mid-table UCC at the Mardyke on Saturday April 8th, for what is an absolute must-win game.