- Result: Galwegians Firsts 42 - Dungannon 33
- Venue: Crowley Park on Sat Apr 15th 2023
- Competition: AIL Division 2B
The final day of the AIL 2B season would set the tone for the regulation deciders. As Galwegians kicked off against mid-table Dungannon with hopes of surviving in the division, Enniscorthy were across the country, causing a stir against league leaders Greystones. With only a point between the sides, a bonus point win would prove to be the only way to ensure a playoff spot for Galwegians.
Wegians’ started well from the kick-off, Dungannon were unable to gather the ball, which stumbled its way into touch, giving ‘The Blues’ the put-in for the line out. The Lineout was well taken feeding a carry from Earle, but an equally strong tackle sees the home side knock the ball on and allow the visitors a chance to breathe.
Dungannon showed they were equally up for this game, attempting to run out of their own 22. They tried a chip over the top, but fullback Darragh Kennedy was well aware of the threat blocking down and forcing a Dungannon line out.
Dungannon launched a series of strong carries from the line out, but a great turnover from captain Kieran Downey saw Wegians earn a penalty near the Dungannon ten-metre line. Mark Earle who has been since taking over kicking duties, looked to the posts and split them, to give the home side the lead in the 3rd minute.
With the wind behind them, Wegians pushed on, putting the Ulster men under great pressure. Langan returned the kick-off with a box kick, that won his side a 50-22 and a great attacking platform. The Blues gathered the line out and began to drive with their maul. Downey peeled off the back making a few metres. With patience came the reward, following several strong carries from the pack, Rob Deacy ignored the overlap to touch down for the first try of the game, and his fourth of the season. Earle struck the kick well and increased their lead to 10-0 after just eight minutes.
Following a series of kicks tennis ‘Gannon found a response after 15 minutes. A well-taken line out allowed their backs room to play, and a clever kick over the top, lwft the home side stumbling, and Dungannon outside centre Montgomery crossed the whitewash, to bring the sides within three points once again 10-7.
Wegians didn’t take long to regain their lead. After winning back the kick off, the Galway men were relentless in attack, and with a penalty advantage, Jordan Thompson tried his luck with a bridge pass to Karl Waterman. Although the try had been disallowed for a forward pass, Wegians scored on the second time of asking. This time a tap and go taken quickly, saw back row turned prop Jack Winters, helped over the line for his 4th of the season. Earle snapped the kick wide of the mark, leaving the score 15-7 after 19 minutes.
From the kick-off, Wegians continued their run of dominance. Downey broke the Dungannon defence to link with Dylan Keane who gained serious ground, pushing into the ‘Gannon half and forcing a breakdown penalty. Earle with the redemption kick increased the home side’s lead to 18-7.
As with most games this season Galwegians began to take their foot off the throttle, allowing Dungannon to find their stride. ‘Gannon won a scrum penalty in the Wegians’ half and McMullan nudged the ball to the corner to set the line out. Dungannon identified the Galwegians’ weakness at maul time, to cross the line for their second of the game. McMullan’s kick hitting the inside of the posts and over to reduce the gap to four, 18-14.
Dungannon were reduced to 14 in the 30th minute. A high tackle from Dungannon skipper, McMahon, on Wegians’ fullback Kennedy, earned him a red card, forcing him to observe the rest of the game from the sideline.
However, having the numerical disadvantage didn’t dampen the visitors’ spirits, as they went in search of the lead. Dungannon came time and time again, with the home side withstanding the onslaught in attack, and even holding them up on the line. However, a previous infringement meant Dungannon had a second chance and they managed to crash over on their second time of asking. The conversion sailed over the bar to give Dungannon the lead for the first time, which they held until the whistle called for halftime.
The half-time standings would mean that relegation was on the cards for Galwegians. As news came in from across the country that a strong-willed Enniscorthy had taken the lead against Greystone, going into the break 12-17. With the odds stacked against them Wegians were left with no choice but to regain the lead.
Wegians’ started the second half much the same as they had in the first. When in possession of the ball, they were calm and collected. Out-half, Thompson began to pull the strings chipping a ball through for Shane Mallon to break away down the wing. Unfortunately for him ‘Gannon managed to pull him down on the five and turn over to clear their lines.
Wegians’ came again earning a penalty inside the 10-metre line. Taking the quick tap and go, putting Gannon on the back foot once again. Guilfoyle showed his skill set, with soft hands putting Kennedy through a gap before being stopped shy of the posts.
‘Gannon received a yellow in the following ruck, a rush of blood to the head from the Gannon scrum half, saw him dive headfirst into Langan, the referee having no reason not to produce the card.
Staunton continued his run of great form and crashed over under the posts after the quick tap and go. Earle converted and Wegians’ regained their lead 25-21.
Dungannon received a lifeline moments later, with Galwegians receiving a card of their own. Joe Agbo making way for repeated infringements. The Tyrone men took full advantage of the Galwegians’ mistakes and came asking questions of their defence.
Fantastic Wegians’ goal line defence weathered the first few attempts, before the ‘Gannon pack eventually added some weight to push the 13-man Dungannon over the line, and into a narrow 26-25 lead.
Kick-off proved to be a clear weakness for ‘Gannon, as they drop the ball forward once again, giving Wegians an attacking scrum in the visitors’ 22. Wegians were unable to take advantage of the overlap and ‘Gannon had a chance to clear their lines. But poor execution allowed Mallon to get a great turnover in the Gannon 22 and Wegians look to the corner to clench back the lead.
A Great maul drive gave Wegians forward momentum, before the backs had a cut of their own putting top scorer, Shane Mallon over in the corner for the bonus point try, and his seventh of the season. Earles’ kick scraped wide and Wegians hit the front once more 30-26.
The next quarter of an hour was all Galwegians, as they got into full flow. Mallon broke down his wing and put Wegians on the front foot once again. Wegians gained a penalty and looked to the corner. A great line out set play found hooker Dylan Keane, on and inside line to cross the whitewash to push the home side further ahead. Earle made good use of the wind and added the extras to solidify the score line 37-26 with just under 15 minutes left to play.
Just as it seemed like the Blues could see out the game comfortably, bonus point in hand, and Greystones in the lead down in Wicklow, Wegians were reduced to 14 once again. Earle seeing yellow for a late tackle.
Dungannon made good use of the level playing field and fired all their inventory at the home side. With the pressure piling on, mistakes allowed Dungannon one last foothold in the game, as they broke the defensive line after a long period of possession to reduce the gap to 37-33 in the 77th minute.
With the clock in the red Galwegians took one last shot to extend their lead. A kick from Mallon propped up for Langan to gather, and touch down for the perfect ending.
With a 42-33 victory secured Galwegians’, hopes of remaining in AIL 2B live on. They play Bruff, in the relegation play-off semi-final next Saturday, the 22nd of April, at home in Crowley Park.