- Result: Galwegians Firsts 7 - Dungannon 33
- Venue: Dungannon RFC on Sat Oct 1st 2022
- Competition: AIL Division 2B
Galwegians got their AIL campaign off to a very disappointing start when they were subjected to a heavy defeat away to their old foes Dungannon at Stevenson Park on Saturday.
The Blues went into this game with a quiet sense of confidence having won 3 out of their 4 Connacht Senior League games. However they got off to the worst possible start when they conceded an early try. With barely three minutes on the clock, Gannon won the first lineout and when the ball was flung wide, fullback Ben McCaughey joined the line and raced into the corner for a try. The same player missed out with the conversion but this put the hosts on the front foot.
Wegians had to do without influential flanker Ben McGuinness who was a late withdrawal, meaning new head coach Brendan Guilfoyle being drafted into the starting line-up. The ‘Gannon pack were looking good up front where the front row were dominating at scrum time. However, one impressive drive for the line ended when they were pinged for crossover. With the sun and wind at their backs in the opening half, things soon got better for the hosts. When skipper James McMahon drove deep into the ‘Wegians half, his offload to out-half Andrew McGregor saw him split open the visitors’ defence on his way to the posts on 17 minutes. McCaughey added the simple extras and Dungannon were now 12 points to the good.
However the Blues final settled into their stride in the second quarter and began to establish some dominance. It seemed a matter of time before they opened their account, and shortly before half-time they were rewarded. After the pack did much of the spade work, the ball was spun out and fullback Darragh Kennedy touched down as the Gannon defence ran out of numbers. Kennedy promptly fired over a good conversion to leave the score 12-7 at the break.
At this stage the Blues seemed well poised to kick on, and they came close to scoring a second try which would have put them at least level or better still in front. But a foot in touch denied them, and the hosts made the most of their good fortune to turn the tables. Having cleared their lines and worked their way up the pitch with two quick penalties, a notable piece of handling involving both forwards and backs saw ‘Gannon loose-head James Gamble crash over on 45 minutes. McCaughey popped over the conversion to restore a 12-point lead.
This felt like a 14 point swing for Wegians, who launched a rather hurried attack at the restart to try get back into it. But in the blink of an eye, their afternoon was done for in a bizarre passage of play. There was more than a hint of hands on the deck at ruck time, but the referee saw nothing untoward when the ball suddenly appeared on the defending side. Suddenly out of nothing, the alert McGregor saw his opportunity, grabbed the ball and sprinted 70 metres to complete his brace of tries at the posts on 47 minutes. That was the try bonus and again McCaughey added the extras as Dungannon cruised 26-7.
It was a hammer blow, but Wegians did their best to try claw things back. Prop Gamble was binned for a challenge on Kennedy as he scorched along the touchline. Then trying to force it, the Blues were undone with another softly conceded score into the final quarter. Winger Andy Nelson made a notable break before captain James McMahon took the final pass all too easily as he raced to the posts unopposed for McCaughey to convert.
That was to be the final score. Try-scorer Gamble completed an eventful afternoon for the wrong reasons when a late second yellow saw him receive red, but the final whistle soon put Wegians out of their misery. So there’s plenty to work on for Guilfoyle and his new coaching ticket of Jarrad Butler and Shane O’Brien, as they prepare for a huge first home game this Saturday. The visitors will be none other than local rivals Corinthians, so the stakes could not be any higher.