- Result: Galwegians Firsts 31 - Wanderers 31
- Venue: Merrion Road on Sat Dec 3rd 2022
- Competition: AIL Division 2B
For the second time this season, a stunning late comeback earned Galwegians a bonus point draw in Division 2B. Having reeled in Sligo at home in October, this time the Blues showed their growing belief to reel in ‘The Chaps’ in D4, and almost stole victory at the very death in what was an enthralling 9-try encounter on Saturday.
Last season Wanderers scored a combined 16 tries against the Blues over 2 AIL games, and they started off in the same vein with a try in the first minute. Second-row Brian Quill finished off their very first attack, with Ben Mahon adding the extras for a 7-0 lead early doors. However Wegians served notice of things to come as they soon settled into their stride. On 16 minutes they opened their account following a long period of possession, with the pressure eventually telling. Left-winger Shane Mallon grabbed his third try in successive games when he finished near the corner for an unconverted try.
The game was shaping up fairly even, but it was the hosts who were more clinical in the opening half. They scored with their next meaningful attack when some wonderful interchange between forwards and backs resulted in Quill bagging his brace with their second try just before the half-hour mark, with Mahon again converting. Disaster struck then for the Blues five minutes later when they lost their own put-in on a 5m scrum under their posts. Wanderers needed no second invitation, and Conor McQuaid fed David Fitzgibbon who crashed over, with Mahon’s convert putting them 16 points ahead.
Many teams might have folded at this stage, but this young Wegians team have a growing sense of belief, and they made the perfect response. Almost straight from the restart the Blues were awarded a penalty on the 10m line. A quick tap and go by scrum-half Andrew Sherlock created the opportunity for his skipper and no. 8 Kieran Downey, who continued his own rich vein of scoring form by diving over. Full-back Darragh Kennedy tagged on the conversion to reduce the gap to 21-12 at the break.
In a free-flowing and high-scoring contest, the next score was going to prove vital and fortunately for the visitors it went their way. On 50 minutes winger Shayne Bolton showed his immense strength and no little skill to dismiss the attention of four defenders and dive over near the right corner for another unconverted try.
With the gap now down to four points, the hosts then upped the tempo and sensibly opted for a kick at goal soon afterwards to restore a seven point lead. Five minutes later and things for better for the Chaps when this time they kicked to the corner, and a patient lineout maul resulted in McQuaid claiming the touchdown for their bonus fourth try. Mahon’s conversion pushed them 14 points clear and looking good to claim five points.
However the final quarter belonged to Wegians who mustered all their strength and energy to put the hosts to the sword. They played some scintillating rugby, and with ten minutes remaining they scored arguably the try of the game. From deep inside their own 22, out-half Jordan Thompson launched a peach of a chip over the top which Bolton regathered, and he ran past a few defenders before finding Mallon on the outside who finished really well from the left wing for his brace and the bonus fourth try. Kennedy landed an excellent conversion, and suddenly the gap was back down to seven points.
The momentum was now all with the Blues, and with the 80 minutes almost up they got their just rewards. Centre Mark Earle, playing in the shadow of his alma mater St. Michael’s College, received the ball on the 22, sold a dummy and had the pace and strength to make the line for an excellent individual try. Kennedy kept his nerve to land the conversion and level the game.
Incredibly the Blues still had two chances to seal the win with two late penalties. Earle tried his luck first with a shot to nothing from well inside his own half, but it fell short. And moments later Kennedy had a chance just inside the opposition half, only to pull his effort narrowly wide.
It was a heart-stopping end to an incredible match, where both sides went home with three points each. Next up for Wegians is a vital home game to bottom-placed Enniscorthy this Saturday Dec. 10th at Crowley Park (2.30pm k-o).