- Result: Galwegians Firsts 41 - Dungannon 30
- Venue: Crowley Park on Sat Mar 5th 2022
- Competition: AIL Division 2B
Galwegians finally did themselves justice and claimed their second League win of the season when they won a humdinger of an eight-try feast at a sun-kissed Crowley Park in the AIL Division 2B League on Saturday.
Despite being rooted at the bottom of the League table for a long period, there were recent signs that the Blues were gradually turning the corner, and against their old rivals ‘Gannon they produced their best performance of the season. They clearly outgunned their opponents in so many aspects, not least in the backline. Yet for all that, the game was in the balance right until the last play, creating a few heart-stopping moments for home fans and players alike.
Played in glorious sunshine, the hard ground suited the Blues who got off to the perfect start. In what is probably a club AIL record, they scored the opening try after a mere 35 seconds. The visitors kicked off and when the Blues ran it back, centre Shayne Bolton gave an early sign of things to come with a powerful burst of speed and strength to leave the cover for dead and dive over in the right-hand corner. Out-half Morgan Codyre nailed a perfect conversion despite the tricky breeze to make it 7-0.
The visitors were playing with the aid of the breeze and soon narrowed the gap with an opening penalty from Jordan McIlwaine. However by the tenth minute the Blues had doubled their try tally. Once again it was Bolton the instigator with another burst down the right. He found Codyre running a great support line outside him, and just as the former Jes out-half looked like making the corner himself, he sent a perfect inside pass to full-back Rory Gaffney who dived under the posts to finish an outstanding backline move in style.
Wegians were looking rampant, however in fairness to Dungannon the visitors refused to panic. Three minutes later they were right back in it with their own first try. It was a soft one for the Blues to concede, as they were unable to defend an attacking lineout which saw Gannon’s hooker Daniel Mikolajzcyk cross near the right corner. McIlwaine landed a great conversion to make it 14-10.
This halted Wegians’ momentum, and just at the end of the first quarter they found themselves behind for the first time in the game. It was a sense of déjà vu as Gannon worked their way forward and a series of pick and go’s led to prop James Gamble barging over, McIlwaine again converting to put his side 17-14 ahead.
Wegians were still looking threatening with Codyre marshalling his backline superbly. However discipline was hurting the Blues, who were coughing up penalties especially at the breakdown. Codyre and McIlwaine then traded penalties, and as the game approached the half-time break, the Blues went in search of a third try to underline their dominance. It nearly came when a skip pass was spun wide to Darragh Kennedy on the left wing, only for a Dungannon fingertip to deflect it out of his grasp. But patient play eventually told right on the stroke of the half-time whistle, when captain Kieran Downey just squeezed over from the base of a ruck at the posts. Codyre’s simple conversion made it 24-20 and the Blues were very good value for their lead.
In the second-half the penalty count continued to go against the home side, and McIlwaine was soon given the chance to narrow the gap to a single point. Codyre had a chance to cancel that out with a long-range effort from hear halfway, but he was off target for the first time all day. However the Wegians backline was still looking potent, and when they one again stretched the Gannon defence near the hour mark, that man Bolton was at it again to dive near the left corner and seal a bonus fourth try. This time Codyre judged the wind to absolute perfection, as his curled effort rebounded off the post and over the bar to give his side a crucial 8-point lead.
Credit the visitors who refused to give up, and the see-saw nature of this contest continued. A contentious penalty gave Gannon another platform and having camped on the line, scrum-half John Russell darted over near the posts for a third converted try. Wegians lock Eoin Tarmey was also binned in the immediate aftermath to give the visitors a real chance to turn the tables heading into the last 15 minutes.
The Blues dug deep however, and Codyre landed another peach of a long-range penalty to put his side 34-30 to the good. Then in the 74th minute Wegians’ flanker Jack Winters was also binned for obstruction, leaving them momentarily reduced to 13 men. However some heroic defence thwarted an attacking lineout maul to lift the siege. In a nail-biting finish, Wegians again contrived to cough up a breakdown penalty just inside the visitor’s half. And in what was the final play, the quickly tapped penalty saw Gannon try to force it, leading to spilt ball. Man of the Match Bolton needed no second invitation and in another display of raw strength, he powered away and dived over in the left corner to seal the deal. Codyre made it 7 from 8 from the boot with another impeccable touchline conversion to give his side an 11-point winning margin.
In truth the game should not have been in doubt up till the end, such was Wegians’ overall dominance. But having suffered a 14-game losing streak, they gladly accepted both the victory and the manner in which it was achieved. This win gives them a faint mathematical hope of escaping the play-offs, but they need an extraordinary set of results to go their way over the final 3 game rounds. However it will restore their self-belief at just the right time of the season.
They now have a 3 week break before they take on promotion-chasing Blackrock College in Stradbrook on March 26th.