Galwegians extend league lead in nine-try thriller

Claiming the top spot, Galwegians' Brian McClearn wins line-out ball in the Ulster Bank League division 1b game against Malone at Crowley Park on Saturday. 		Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

Claiming the top spot, Galwegians' Brian McClearn wins line-out ball in the Ulster Bank League division 1b game against Malone at Crowley Park on Saturday. Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

Galwegians remain in a command of the Ulster Bank League division 1b after a 34-25 victory over Malone in Crowley Park.

With six wins out of seven, Galwegians grabbed their fifth try bonus win in a nine-try thriller to open up a seven-point lead over Ballymena.

Despite missing the influential John Cleary and Brian Murphy, the Wegian backline produced some sparkling rugby, opening the scoring after eight minutes when some excellent handling by Conor Lowndes and Jerome Harrimate sent fullback Ciaran Gaffney over for the opening try, which Lowndes converted. Almost from the restart the Blues bagged their second try when some more swift backline play saw the in-form Colin Conroy make a break from inside his own half, outpacing the defence to cross near the right-hand corner.

Having beaten last week’s table-toppers Ballymena away, the Belfast side recovered and opened their account with a 12th minute try, and although centre Josh Pentland was off target with the conversion, he landed a penalty to reduce the deficit to 12-8.

Wegians regained the initiative to dominate the second quarter, and after two missed penalties and a try denied for a forward pass, Lowndes bagged the third try after a speculative Garryowen and forward drive.

The bonus fourth try arrived on the stroke of half time when a trademark lineout maul resulted in captain Ja Naughton grounding the ball over the line, giving the hosts a 22-8 lead.

The Ulstermen, however, came out fighting, Two minutes after the restart winger Adam Liddell crossed on the right with Pentland converting, and five minutes later it was déjà vu as the visitors laid siege to the Wegians’ line before Liddell capitalised on the stretched cover to score again, with Pentland’s conversion drawing the sides level.

And worse followed for the home side when Ulster U-20 outhalf Josh Bingham dropped a sweet goal to give his side a 25-22 lead.

Finally, however, the home side recovered - the turning point coming in the 65th minute when a loose clearance kick from Malonewas gathered by fullback Gaffney, whose neat chip was secured by Lowndes for Galwegians’ fifth try. Two minutes later substitute winger Matt Dever intercepted a chip by his opposite number before racing home for an opportunist score. Gaffney landed the conversion.

Galwegians now host struggling Belfast Harlequins on Saturday (2.30pm ) looking to continue their winning form.

Galwegians: C Gaffney; C Conroy, J Harrimate, G O’Brien, C Lowndes; D Clarke, B Lee; J Naughton (cpt ), J Dinneen, D McHugh; B McClearn, M Cummins; M Towey, P Hackett, A Ryan. Replacements: P O’Donnell, P MacCreanor, M Dever, R Shaughnessy, R Moore.

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