Galwegians came away with four vital points in a hard-fought battle away to Old Crescent in this re-arranged Ulster Bank Division 2a fixture in Limerick on Saturday.
The Blues came into this game on the back of four successive league wins, and they were favourites to add another scalp in their late push for promotion. However they were pushed all the way by a dogged home team, whose performance belied their lowly league standing. The hosts took the lead in the fourth minute after Wegians were penalised at the first scrum, and Padraig Quinn split the uprights to give his side a 3-0 lead. Remarkably this was to prove their only score of the game, as a massive disciplined and defensive effort was required from Wegians for the next 76 minutes.
The Blues responded well to this early concession and almost hit the front straight from the restart, with a fine break by centre Brian Murphy, eager to impress on his return from recent suspension, only to be held up on the line. However the Blues were soon on level terms when quick thinking by scrum-half Barry Lee created the first penalty attempt for full-back Tadhg Leader, and the Connacht Academy member duly obliged to make it 3-3.
Wegians began to gradually take control of proceedings, although scoring opportunities were limited with both defences fairly well on top. The game was effectively decided in the 24th minute with two vital passages of play. Firstly an excellent break from Crescent inside centre Will Hanley saw him scythe through the Galwegians’ midfield from inside his own half, and only an excellent last-gasp tackle from Leader prevented a score.
The winning score came from the resulting scrum five metres from their own line, when this time it was Wegians’ inside centre Garry O’Brien’s turn to make a fine break and burst through two tackles. He then fed his centre partner Murphy who fended off two more tackles and gained fully 60 yards before finding winger Paddy Finn who took a great line on the inside to score what proved to be the game’s only try. The hosts had their chances in the first half, but will rue not taking two kicks at goal when they opted to kick for the corner, only to turn over lineout ball on each occasion.
Wegians started the second-half well and another excellent break from the inspired Murphy was nearly finished off by Leader, only for the full-back to drop the ball with the line at his mercy. However the Crescent pack was dogged and determined, causing all sorts of problems in the set-piece and rolling maul especially. The normally dominant Wegians pack were being pushed all the way, and had to defend resolutely for long periods.
Although largely played in good spirit, both sides saw yellow near the hour mark when Wegians’ Conor Muldoon and an opposing prop were binned for exchanging pleasantries following a scrum. Then with 10 minutes to go, the elder Muldoon, flanker Ivan, was binned for persistent infringing at the breakdown. Yet again Crescent spurned the opportunity to kick at goal, only to cough up yet more lineout ball. And though they still had to work hard and keep their focus, the Blues managed to protect their line in the face of a late onslaught from the hosts, and were very relieved to hear the final whistle.
This win pushes Wegians back up to fifth place, and now within shouting distance of the leaders, and seven points behind third-placed local rivals Corinthians with six matches remaining. Next up for the Blues is a vital away game this Saturday February 16 against second-placed UCC in the Mardyke.
Paul Griffin, Conor Muldoon Jason East, Anthony Ryan, Brian McClearn, Eoin Rooney, Ivan Muldoon, Jonathon Gardiner, Barry Lee, David Clarke, Paddy Finn, Garry O'Brien, Brian Murphy, Colin Conroy,Tadgh Leader.
Sub: Ross Fitzgerald, Eddie Earle, Doran McHugh., Ger Brady, Conor O'Rourke.