- Result: Galwegians Firsts 19 - Clogher Valley 22
- Venue: Crowley Park on Sat Dec 2nd 2023
- Competition: AIL Division 2C
Galwegians suffer their first defeat of the AIL Division 2C season with a 19-22 loss to first-placed Clogher Valley.
It was a game that lived up to the billing as both sides were in the top two of the league before the weekend and they treated the spectators to a spellbinding game of rugby.
Galwegians made just one change to the starting XV with Shane Mallon’s injury bringing Hugh Gavin back into the squad at centre as Darragh Kennedy assumed the full-back position in his absence.
It would be a dream start for Galwegians, scoring the opening try of the afternoon just two minutes in. Some patience in the phases was rewarded as Hugh Gavin bolted past three Clogher Valley players to carry himself over for the opening try of the afternoon. Tiarnan Neville struck the conversion between the posts to give the Blues an early 7-0 lead.
Clogher Valley began to enjoy some possession in Galwegians 22 and started winning penalties. Paul Armstrong took advantage to put three points on the board at the five-minute mark.
Clogher went one better just three minutes later, once again at the hands of Armstrong. Playing the ball out wide enabled Clogher to march towards the 22 again. Armstrong extracted the ball from the ruck and found himself in a pocket of space and burst through the defence to take the lead. He couldn’t repeat the trick off the tee and hit the conversion wide, keeping the game at 8-7 to Clogher.
Clogher continued to extend their advantage with another try. Winning a scrum on the border of Galwegians’ 22, Callum Smyton retrieved the ball at his feet and exploited the space down the right-hand side, just held back by Galwegians’ back-line. Despite Galwegians' best efforts to hold back the attack for a few phases, Smyton found himself in position once again to score Clogher’s second. Armstrong’s conversion made it 15-7.
The pendulum swung back in the favour of Galwegians shortly after, clawing back with a second try at the half-hour mark. Another carry from Hugh Gavin gained Wegians crucial metres inside Clogher’s 22. Gavin offloaded to Finn Tracey who played an opportunist inside pass to Andrew Sherlock and scored the try at the posts. Another clinical conversion from Neville made it a one-point game.
An Armstrong penalty just before half-time had the potential to give Clogher a four-point lead but it went wide of the post. In an extraordinary opening half of rugby, the score remained at 15-14 to the visitors.
It was a disastrous start to the second half for Galwegians, conceding just twenty seconds after the restart. Failing to secure possession from the kick, Jamie Allen slipped past the tackles of the Galwegians players to break away for the third try of the afternoon for Clogher. Armstrong’s penalty added to their tally, giving them a 22-14 lead.
Galwegians never gave Clogher any respite and in the 55th minute, Galwegians scored a third try of their own. With a scrum five metres in front of the posts, Galwegians played the ball wide to the left to Neville. Darragh Kennedy looped in behind Neville and using his centre as a decoy, Neville played Kennedy into open space and dotted into the corner to make 22-19 with 25 minutes to go.
Both sides had their opportunities and indiscipline crept into both teams with a few high tackles, but the referee kept all 30 players on the pitch to keep the game flowing.
Galwegians earned themselves a penalty in front of the posts with just a few minutes on the clock. With three points, they could have levelled the game and ended up with a draw. But perhaps with the bonus point potential in their minds and considering their league position, they opted to go for the corner and go for the win.
However, Clogher Valley’s defence remained bulletproof and secured the turnover to take a massive win in the context of their season, giving them a seven-point lead in the standings. A tough result for Galwegians as their unbeaten streak comes to an end.
Galwegians will make the trip to Omagh Academicals RFC in Tyrone this Saturday, with kick-off at 2.30 p.m.