Galwegians have returned to top flight rugby after winning the division 1B title on Saturday.
Their 17-13 win over fellow title chasers Garryowen ensured Galwegians secured the automatic promotion place, while the Limerick outfit will now face a play-off with St Mary’s.
It was also going to be a tight battle and with both sides finishing this season’s league with 14 wins from 18, Galwegians’ superior try bonus tally made the difference.
In a nervy opening for the home side, it was Garryowen, with the wind at their backs, who took an early lead with a Jamie Gavin penalty.
The visitors continued to created opportunities, but failed to make the final pass stick, while Gavin missed a second penalty. The visitors continued to assert all the pressure, resulting in Galwegians losing prop Doran McHugh and his replacement Conor Kyne to the sinbin as Gavin stretched Garryowen’s lead to 6-0.
Finally the 13-man home side gained a foothold in opposition territory, and stopped coughing up penalties. They opened their account on 33 minutes when outhalf Aidan Moynihan drilled over an excellent penalty into the teeth of the breeze. And when winger John Cleary pulled off a try-saving tackle at the other end, the visitors led by just 6-3 at the break.
A moment of magic on 43 minutes made all the difference to the home side, and it was Cleary again, whose deft dink caught the cover with an awkward bounce, before he scampered home. Moynihan slotted a perfect convert to turn the game in Galwegians’ favour.
Garryowen, however, took control again, but after a period of intense pressure they had nothing to show as the home side’s resolute defence kept them at bay.
Wegians went on to dominate the remainder of the third quarter, but could not add to their score. Instead on 66 minutes Garryowen’s No 8 Josh Hrstich pierced the Wegian defence with a line-break, and with support arriving in numbers, centre Andrew O’Byrne finished near the right corner for an excellent try. Gavin added the conversion to regain the lead for the visitors.
Once more the pendulum swung in this enthralling contest as Wegians went in search of the winner. Cleary seemed to be through again only to be called back for a forward pass, but two penalties provided Galwegians with the platform. From a scrum, substitute scrumhalf Caolin Blade picked from the base, sucked in the covering defence, and released Cleary, who broke the covering tackle and dotted down. Moynihan landed the tricky conversion, restoring a vital four-point cushion with 78 minutes gone on the clock.
When Garrowen were penalised for indiscipline, Wegians opted for a penalty to touch, but gritty Garryowen defence kept them at bay. The
Limerickmen had one last reprieve when they broke out of their own half, won a succession of penalties, which led to stalwart Brian Murphy being binned, but after eight minutes of extra time, they could find no way through the Wegian defence.
Having led the league for most of the season, it is a deserving reward for head coach Matt Brown,assistant John Muldoon, and the squad.
GALWEGIANS XV: C Gaffney; J Cleary, B Murphy, R Parata, M Dever; A Moynihan, B Lee; J Naughton (capt ), R Fitzgerald, D McHugh; M Cummins, B McClearn; J Dinneen, J Pimm, A Ryan.Replacements, C Blade, G O’Brien, P Hackett, C Kyne, M Towey.
•After a tough season in division 1b, Corinthians, relegated to division 2 next season, concluded their campaign with a 24-19 loss to UL Bohemians in Thomond Park on Saturday.