- Result: Galwegians Firsts 20 - Buccaneers 22
- Venue: Crowley Park on Sun Sep 19th 2021
- Competition: Connacht Senior League
Second half tries from Mark Earle and Angelo Johnston proved just insufficient for Galwegians to topple AIL 2A outfit Buccaneers in the final round of the Connacht League, with Rory O’Connor notching two tries of his own for the visitors.
Last week’s reverse at the hands of Ballina left a sting in the tail, but ‘Wegians bottled that frustration early on, with several big hits in ‘D in the opening stages. As Buccs chased a try, they were denied on multiple occasions, eventually settling for a shot at goal inside the ’22 to open the scoring.
A solid set piece from Buccs gave them a slight advantage in terms of territory, and a kick in behind yielded a 5m scrum a few minutes later. A large pack held the upper hand, and a fourth scrum inevitably led to a penalty try to leave it 0-10 on 23 minutes. To rub salt into the wounds, Gary Lally was also yellow carded.
Galwegians’ response was a statement, and it resembled the attitude Ja Naughton’s men deployed all day. A great chase off the restart eventually led to a penalty 20 metres out, and the exceptional Mark Earle made no mistake to split the posts.
From there the half grew more even in terms of possession, with the backs getting involved for both sides as the rain held off. There were to be no more scores before half time however, leaving seven in it at the break. As ‘Wegians switched ends, the elements changed too. Good line-speed from the home side led to another penalty, again converted by Earle.
The exit strategy was poor off the resulting kick off, with an attempted clearance kick charged down. Buccs went wide, with O’Connor breaking the line that was desperately scrambling across before dotting down. Four minutes later he was celebrating his second, reacting fastest to a perfectly weighted grubber from his winger.
Sean Mannion, son of former Ireland international Noel, pulled his second conversion, but it seemed like game over at that stage, with second-row Ben McGuinness picking up ‘Wegians second yellow card. But that was to be the end of Buccs scoring. The home side kept it tight with the rain unrelenting, and centre Earle proved the beneficiary of good work by the pack when space opened up out wide.
He added not only a conversion, but also hope and conviction into Galwegians’ play. The defence remained hugely physical, and a misplaced pass on 78 minutes was impressively scooped up by hooker Angelo Johnston. He showed a nice turn of pace to bundle over, and Earle converted again to bring his tally to 15 points.
More importantly it was a 2-point game. Unfortunately, that was also how it finished.
In a game of inches, a kick in behind hit the corner flag and remained in play only to be gathered by the most grateful of Buccs’ hands. Possession led to a penalty, and the ball was hoofed out to secure victory for the favourites.
Plenty to work on, but plenty to take out of a massive performance. A rematch with Ballina now awaits in the opening weekend of the AIL Division 2B in the first week of October.