- Result: Galwegians Firsts 27 - Corinthians 31
- Venue: Corinthian Park on Fri Mar 31st 2023
- Competition: AIL Division 2B
Two teams took the field in one of the most important games of their Division 2B season on Friday night as the sun set over Cloonacauneen. Promotion was on the line for Corinthians whereas Galwegians sat at the other end of the league table in last place.
Galwegians started strong and piled on the pressure from the first whistle. The Blues were clinical in their execution and continued to push the home side back. In the 8th minute when their patience was rewarded without half Kelvin Langan breaking the Corinthian’s defensive line to score the first try of the game. Centre Mark Earle perfectly judged the kick and nudged Wegians into the lead.
Corinthians had a few attempts to get one back at the visitors, turning over a Galwegians scrum and kicking to the corner. Wegians' defence held strong, and they did well to hold out with a great turn over on their own five-meter line.
Wegians would strike again minutes later with an outrageous kick over the Corinthians line by back row and captain Kieran Downey. Karl Waterman regathered and broke away to touch down in the corner. Earle was without fault with his second kick and the conversion sailed between the posts to make it 14-0 to the visitors.
Corinthians only score of the half would come from Galwegians mistakes. Joseph Agbo knocked the ball on inside his own 22 and the home side capitalising with Micheal O Reilly gathering the loose ball and scoring in a the corner. The kick from Logan Allen was pushed just wide and the home side now trailed 14-5.
The rest of the half was all Galwegians as they put their City rivals under immense pressure forcing errors all over the park. Galwegians would continue to build on their lead before the half time whistle. Earle successfully kicked a penalty from distance to give the visitors a 17-5 lead going into the dugouts.
The second half got underway much the same as the first with Galwegians looking very comfortable on the ball. A turning point in the game came with the touch judge flagging a kick back from Langan and referee Shane Touhy issuing a yellow card for the offence.
With a man in the bin, Corinthians set to work making use of their numerical advantage. A strong line out maul would see Corinthians cross the line, but excellent Wegians goal line defence would result in the ball being held up.
Following a scrum Corinthians scored on their second time of asking as Harry Rogers gathered the ball and beating the narrow Galwegians defence. Allen’s second kick of the game cleared the black spot and reduced the gap to five.
With a few minutes left on the yellow card, Galwegians attempted to re-establish a strong lead with Earle kicking a penalty from distance. Although his kick had the legs, the ball did not hit the intended target and the score would remain 17-12.
On the 52nd minute, Corinthians would draw level a well-executed backline move would exploit the Galwegians defensive line, with Finn McNulty crossing the whitewash for his first of the afternoon.
The structure of the Galwegians attack returned withLangan back the pitch. However, momentum was with Corinthians and they went on to score next. McNulty bagged his second by running a clever inside line from a lineout, and using his footwork to elude any tackles from the Blues, putting the home side in front for the first time, the score 24-17.
Just as it seemed like Corinthians had taken control Galwegians responded. Fast Wegians ruck speed saw some fantastic flowing rugby, with 1 to 15 all getting their hands on the ball before earning themselves a free on the goal line for a Corinthians infringement at the break down.
The visitors took a quick tap-and-go with the carry rattling the posts as Wegians pushed for the line, earning another goal-line penalty. This time their hard work paid off as Ian Staunton was helped over the line to reduce the gap to 2 points. Earle’s kick was willed wide by the Corinthians crowd and the home side maintained their lead 22-24.
The Blues carried hard from the restart, with youngster Cody Farrell’s lighting quick break seeing them reach the Corinthians 22. The Galwegians forwards were hot in pursuit following up the attack and driving Jack Winters over to regain the lead. Earle’s kick was wide of the mark and the score remained 27-24.
Ian Staunton has proved to be a fantastic find for Galwegians, breaking the Corinthians line to set up another attack, but with both sides suffering from fatigue the Tuam road men were first to the break down snatching away any hopes of a score.
Galwgians were soon be on the back foot as Corinthians went in search of the winner. The Corinthians pack put Wegians under serious pressure with Allen eventually spotting the space out wide for Connacht full-back Oran McNulty to breaking the visitor’s hearts as he crossed the line in the corner. Allen added the extras to make it 31-27.
To make matters worse, Galwegians were reduced to 14 men as Karl Waterman saw red for foul play.
In the final play of the game the Blues were handed a life line. An Allen penalty ricocheted off the upright to give Galwegians one last chance to run from deep inside their own half. Just as they had in the first half, the Blues put Corinthians on the back foot and, just as they looked like they might breach the line, a handling error saw the ball knocked forward. The final whistle sounded the end to one of the finest games of rugby the season.
The win sees Corinthians earn a home semi-final in the Division 2B which will be played after their last league game vs Rainey on April 15th.
Although the outcome wasn’t what Galwegians had hoped for they have come away with a vital 2 points. Enniscorthy suffered a defeat over the weekend so the result sees the Blues push back up to 9th with a massive game vs Dungannon on April 15th.
Ciarán Ó Flaithearta