- Result: Galwegians Firsts 22 - Belfast Harlequins 38
- Venue: Belfast Harlequins RFC on Sat Oct 15th 2022
- Competition: AIL Division 2B
Galwegians came away from Belfast with a hard-earned bonus point against high-riding unbeaten Belfast Harlequins at Deramore Park on Saturday.
Having suffered a heavy defeat at home to Corinthians the previous week, coach Brendan Guilfoyle had a lot of work to do to get his young guns motivated for this trip, especially as they were shorn of many of their forwards, with the front row especially badly hit with injuries. They were up against one of the bigger packs in this League in Quins, and it showed early on. The hosts took the lead when after barely 3 minutes on the clock, a good maul followed by some pick and go’s led to prop Stephen Hunter scoring, which out-half Paul Kerr converted for a 7-0 lead.
The home side doubled their lead on 12 minutes through another forwards try. Following a great break by flanker Eddie Gorrod which resulted in a high tackle, the hosts kicked to the corner, and another effective maul produced a try for no. 8 Ross Bingham, which was again converted by Kerr.
Wegians were trying to settle into their stride. But as the game entered the second quarter, the hosts stretched their lead with a third try following a superb switch of play, resulting in a debut try for winger Andy Butler. 19-0 down, the young Blues side refused to let their heads drop and they were playing some good rugby at times. On the half-hour mark they deservedly got on the scoreboard with their opening try. Having worked their way deep into opposition territory, some good grunt work by the pack saw them suck in the defence, and a quick pass from scrum-half Andrew Sherlock found centre Mark Earle who barrelled over from close-range for an unconverted try.
However discipline was to prove costly for the Blues, and when a touch-judge flag called an infringement off the ball, Quins again kicked to the corner and this time it was Gorrod who went under the sticks from a pick and go to seal their bonus point. Kerr added the extras and Quins looked home and hosed leading 26-5 at the break.
Credit Wegians who rallied at the half-time talk and they made an immediate statement with an early second-half try. After multiple phases in the opposition 22, the Blues showed great patience and a notable carry from senior debutant and Wegians underage product, winger Hugh Gavin created another chance for Earle, who bagged his brace by diving in at the corner to reduce the margin to 26-10.
Unfortunately any hopes of a major upset were soon dashed when the hosts responded in kind on 44 minutes. Some good play from the Quins back line saw them recycle and move the ball back into midfield where lock Sean Shuttleworth scored their fifth try, with the conversion putting them effectively out of sight.
But Wegians can take real heart from their performance in the final quarter. When the hosts were down to 14 with substitute Chris Larmour binned, they took advantage with their third try. It came following a line break and countless offloading until flanker Paul Hackett sent full-back Darragh Kennedy over in the corner. The Clifden native and another product of the Wegians Youth Academy then added the conversion to keep the hosts on their guard and reduce it to a 16-point margin.
Quins made the game safe on 71 minutes when they scored off yet another maul, this time substitute forward Joel Dundas who peeled off and scored. However Wegians were determined to come away with something. A great break almost got them in only for veteran Mark Kettyle to make a try-saving tackle and win a relieving penalty. But the never-say-die attitude was rewarded when in the last play of the game, following go forward ball, good work by sub Micheal Loughlin and Gavin helped create an overlap, and Kennedy finished in the corner for his second and crucially his side’s bonus point. It was no more than they deserved, so they open their points account in the League.
Next up is an intriguing home game v Sligo on Saturday week (October 29th).