Towards a century at the heart of Connacht rugby

Mens Firsts 20 – Ballina 14

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Match Result

  • Result: Galwegians Firsts 20 - Ballina 14
  • Venue: Heffernan Park on Sat Apr 9th 2022
  • Competition: AIL Division 2B

Match Report

Galwegians finished their Energia AIL Division 2B campaign on a relative high with an impressive and thoroughly deserved win over their hosts, provincial rivals and fellow strugglers Ballina on the 4G pitch in Heffernan Park on Saturday.

With the final League standings already settled, there was nothing much at stake here beyond a morale-boosting victory to take into the fast-approaching relegation play-offs between these two sides.

The hosts made the livelier start and came close to scoring in the first two minutes when a breakout down the right led to a 5m penalty. And having opted to scrum it, the Mayomen spun it wide, but were denied by a well read Matt Dever interception which relieved the pressure. Wegians then went on the attack and they took the lead on 10 minutes when Dever finished off a patient multi-phase attack to cross on the left.

The try was unconverted putting the Blues 5-0 to the good, however it was a short-lived lead. Barely three minutes later another Ballina attack sucked in the defence out wide, and scrum-half Cian Quinn spotted a gap down the left to scamper home and dive near the posts for his side’s opening try. Full-back Darragh Whyte added the extras to put his side 7-5 in front.

However the Blues responded well and they started to dominate possession and territory. They were rewarded at the end of the first quarter when some more good interchange between forwards and backs punched holes, with out-half Mickey Murphy binned for a deliberate knock-on when Dever’s inside pass looked like finding his skipper Kieran Downey. From the resulting penalty, prop Finn Wright eventually burrowed his way through a forest of bodies to reach the line for his side’s second unconverted try.

In the second quarter Wegians grew in confidence, dealing comfortably with any attacking threat. In truth they looked the likelier to score, and after the half-hour mark Ben McGuinness thought he had grabbed a third try when diving for the line off a tapped penalty, only for referee Kevin Coffee to judge a last-gasp knock-on. However the hosts were unable to exit, and right on the stroke of half-time the Blues struck a decisive blow with their third try. It came from a solid lineout platform near the 22, and when centre Rob Deacy found space out wide, he found full-back Conor O’Shaughnessy on his inside shoulder to take the scoring pass and dive over near the posts. Scrum-half Kelvin Langan landed the conversion, and the Blues were good value for their 17-7 lead at the break.

The third quarter was less eventful with chances at a premium, which suited the visitors as they had no need to force the game at this point. Their set-piece remained solid and their defence rarely looked under threat. The game seemed to be petering out with a comfortable away win in sight, but with five minutes remaining Ballina eventually mustered an attack which punched holes in the Wegians defence. Captain Luke Sweeney was on hand to finish off a move under the posts for a converted try which seemed to set up a grandstand finish.

However Wegians won a penalty straight from the restart when the hosts were penalised for holding on at the breakdown, and Langan coolly slotted over an excellent penalty from the left to put the Blues 6 points clear. They sensibly managed out the game deep in opposition territory to ensure there was no late dramatics, and so the points went back to Galway.

And so completed the first instalment of a bizarre end of season triple-bill. But this result counts for nought on the scoreboard, as both sides have to face off in a home & away relegation play-off. Wegians go first in Crowley Park on Saturday April 23rd, before they make the return leg to Heffernan Park on Saturday 30th to see who can earn the right to remain in Division 2B next season.

Players

Conor O’Shaughnessy, Matt Dever, Shayne Bolton, Rob Deacy, Evan Brady; Adam Cunningham, Kelvin Langan; Shane Ryan, Nicky Lawless, Finn Wright; Niall Murphy, Eoin Tarmey; Jack Winters, Ben McGuinness, Kieran Downey (Captain). Subs: Conor Kyne, Conor Joyce, Mick McColgan, Jerry Durkan, John Kennedy.

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