- Result: Galwegians Firsts 28 - Buccaneers 26
- Venue: Dubarry Park on Sat Aug 13th 2022
- Competition: Connacht Senior League
Galwegians scored a morale-boosting win away to a much-fancied Buccaneers in this opening game round of the Connacht Senior League at Dubarry Park on Saturday to cause a huge upset.
Played in sweltering heat, this was a first competitive outing for Wegians under their new Head Coach Brendan Guilfoyle, although Buccs’ new coach Eddie O’Sullivan (back for his second stint at the club ) missed out on this particular game.
There are two tiers beween these sides in the AIL next season, and the hosts fielded a side backboned with AIL experience that on paper looked strong. Wegians had very much a side based on last year’s AIL 2B campaign, but with a notable infusion of youth and some senior debutants from within their underage ranks. And the Blues got off to the perfect start with a third minute try. An excellent speculative kick from the impressive Darragh Kennedy forced a 5m defensive lineout, and when the midlanders throw-in misfired, Wegians prop Mick McColgan gratefully received the ball and swooped for an opportunist score. Kennedy added an excellent conversion to make it 7-0.
Buccs responded and enjoyed considerable territory for the remainder of the opening quarter. However Wegians were dealing comfortably with the threat, until the 16th minute when the hosts’ pressure was rewarded. An impressive lineout maul was finished off by Sean O’Connell for a try on the left. Michael Hanley’s conversion rebounded off an upright, which would ultimately prove crucial.
Wegians responded immediately when some good work by flanker Jack Winters yielded a penalty 30 metres out, and Kennedy made no mistake to stretch the margin to 10-5 at the first-half water break. But just after play resumed, Buccs Danny Qualter broke a tackle near halfway and sent Frankie Hopkins racing clear. Some excellent scramble defence from senior debutant winger Rex Aghabueze halted the home scrumhalf just short of the line. Wegians appeals for a penalty for holding on fell on deaf ears, as the arriving support saw No.8 Qualter finish off what he started, with Hanley converting this time to put his side in front for the first time.
Both sides had their chances before the break, but the defences held sway and that was how it remained at half-time. Buccaneers started much the stronger in the second-half, and some excellent defence from Conor O’Shaughnessy saw him somehow prevent Shane Layden touching down in the left corner. However Wegians were struggling to get out of their 22, and eventually the pressure again paid off. Just when it looked like the Blues had secured an excellent turnover near their line, somehow the ball squirted loose and the alert Darren Browne pounced to grab the ball and dive over for an opportunist 52nd minute try. Hanley’s conversion stretched the Pirates advantage to 19-10 and they looked well in control at this stage.
However the young Wegians side refused to read the script, and showed tremendous resilience and self-belief to take the game to their opponents. Suddenly penalties at the breakdown started going their way, and quick thinking and a lightning break by sub flanker Ben McGuinness saw him burst fully 50 metres up close to the line. A Buccs slap down near their line could easily have resulted in a penalty try, but the Blues did it the hard way with a tap and go from 5 metres out, and veteran Eoin Tarmey finished off by diving over at the posts.
Kennedy’s conversion reduced the margin again to just two points. This rejuvenated the Blues who stunned their hosts by taking the lead soon after. Some excellent work by another senior debutant Dylan Keane gave the unerring Kennedy the chance to bag a another penalty, and he duly obliged with a hugely impressive effort against the wind from the 10metre line. Barely two minutes later it was déjà vu as he repeated the trick from the right to edge his side 23-19 ahead.
Having found their second wind, Wegians upped the gears and the hosts simply had no answer to their superior hunger. With time almost up, another great passage of play saw O’Shaughnessy finish off a great break by Kennedy to score out on the right and make the game safe. Kennedy’s conversion attempt was his only miss of the day, and in truth it mattered little. Buccs did rally and deep into stoppage time their pressure saw stand-in Blues scrurm-half Robert Deacy sin-binned. And although they seemed to lose control of the ball in a powerful 5m scrum, referee Michael Honan awarded the penalty try which would give the hosts two losing bonus points.
But there was no denying this young Wegians team who have thrown down a serious marker that they can compete at this level. Next up will be a fascinating city derby when they welcome their auld rivals Corinthians to Crowley Park on Saturday 20th August (2.30pm kick-off). It will be the first outing of the season for the Cloonacauneen men who were unable to travel to Sligo and therefore conceded the points last week.