- Result: Galwegians Firsts 26 - Bruff 26
- Venue: Crowley Park on Sat Nov 4th 2023
- Competition: AIL Division 2C
Galwegians’ winning streak was dashed by a last-minute Bruff try to force a 26-26 draw, following a spectacular second-half comeback from the visitors.
A dramatic last-gasp try from Ethan Anderson spoiled the afternoon for Wegians, after the hosts found themselves 26-0 up in the first half.
This was a highly anticipated fixture, with both sides flying high in AIL Division 2C with 14 points apiece after the opening three games. Galwegians were also looking to exact revenge on Bruff after the county Limerick side relegated the Blues last season in the play-offs.
Galwegians’ starting XV had four changes with Jesse Va’asuaga returning to action at blindside, a revitalised back-line that saw Oisin McKey and Darragh Kennedy get their first starts of the season on the wing, and it was U-20s Ireland international Hugh Gavin’s first appearance of the season at centre.
Despite a week’s hiatus from AIL action, Galwegians didn’t appear to have lost their high-scoring form as Finn Tracey struck early. A clever kick downfield saw them gain crucial metres and Tracey found the gap in the corner to take the lead. Tiarnan Neville has been on top form with his kicking accuracy all season and didn’t disappoint by striking another conversion between the posts to give Wegians a seven-point lead.
Galwegians were kept on their toes after a long spell of pressure from Bruff as Galwegians began racking up penalties and Bruff were close to a score. But the hosts remained defiant and held on, and kept Bruff scoreless for the opening forty minutes.
Instead, Galwegians went through a purple patch after the half-hour mark to increase their lead. Jesse Va’asuaga barged his way past several Bruff defenders to put Tracey in acres of space to touchdown behind the posts for Galwegians’ second. An unfortunate slip-up for Neville saw them clatter the post to keep the score at 12-0.
Another try followed in quick succession just two minutes later, this time it was the captain Jack Winters. Holding off three Bruff players and breaking away from their tackles, he stormed through to grab Galwegians’ third of the afternoon and put the bonus point in sight.
The backs were firing on all cylinders as three minutes before half-time, Hugh Gavin etched his name on the scoresheet. A superb line break from halfway gave him an open canvas to burst past the full-back and score Galwegians' fourth try of the afternoon and an all-important bonus point. Neville rectified his earlier error by scoring two conversions on the bounce.
Galwegians had a hefty advantage heading into the dressing room with four unanswered tries giving them a 26-0 lead. Bruff had their moments in the first half but crucially didn’t have anything for their efforts and it would be an uphill battle for the visitors if they wanted to salvage anything from this game.
But their response proved that they were well and truly up to the challenge with their opening try of the afternoon coming nine minutes into the second half. Pa Maher got over the line for their first of the afternoon with an effective lineout maul proving to be fruitful. Sean Kilbridge converted his first goal attempt to make it 26-7.
Bruff were well and truly on top, dominating possession and Galwegians were losing their discipline, with Oisin Halpin heading to the bin. Sure enough, Bruff grabbed their second, this time with Gio Sangiorgi crossing over for the try as their backs exposed Wegians’ numbers on the left-hand side. The resulting conversion hit the post, ensuring the score remained at 26-12.
Drama ensued as Bruff appeared to deliberately knock on the ball inside Galwegians 22 but play continued and Bruff proceeded to break into Galwegians half once more. With the clock ticking down, Galwegians continued to pick up cards, Hugo Gens, the latest to go for ten minutes.
Meanwhile, Bruff secured another try with just ten minutes on the clock, this time at the hands of Tom Quigley with the line-out once again paying dividends. A well-taken conversion made it a seven-point game, giving Bruff the opportunity to bring the game to a deadlock.
Galwegians’ hopes of victory took another punch with Conor Kyne heading to the bin for a high tackle and the numerical disadvantage would prove pivotal. Ethan Anderson in the dying seconds of the game found the gap and completed the comeback, scoring the final try of the afternoon. Kilbridge calmly put away the conversion to level the game and cap off an extraordinary afternoon of rugby in Galway.
Galwegians will be dejected after a brave defensive effort in the last few minutes, but three second-half yellow cards put them on the back foot, and Bruff capitalised on a dominant second-half display to keep themselves in touch in the battle for promotion.
Clogher Valley’s fourth consecutive bonus point victory ensured their supremacy at the top of the league table. Galwegians maintain second place in the division with the bonus point, keeping them above Bruff on point difference.
Galwegians head to Bangor this Saturday for round 5 of the AIL Division 2C season, with kick-off at 2.30 p.m.