Galwegians grabbed another vital victory - their second in succession - when outscoring Connacht rivals Buccaneers by 21 - 15 at Crowley Park on Saturday.
A vital win for the Galway outfit in the Ulster Bank division 1b win, it now brings them within two points of Bruff and the opportunity to escape a relegation play-off. Wegians will be hoping to maintain the momentum despite the month break from AIL action when they travel to face UCC in the Mardyke on March 26.
With six tries scored and the lead changing five times, Saturday’s derby was an enthralling contest, but it was the home side that perhaps showed the greater hunger which was rewarded.
Wegians dominated the opening exchanges, and after captain John Cleary failed with a 10th minute penalty, he made the breakthrough five minutes later with a purposeful run, creating the overlap for Darragh Fanning to dive over in the right-hand corner.
The home side should have scored a second try when camped on the visitors’ line, but a loose pass was intercepted by Buccaneers’ centre Jarrod Bennett under his own posts, which almost led to a breakaway try.
However the visitors levelled on 28 minutes when a thundering hit on Wegians Brian Murphy by Buccaneers’ No 8 Kolo Kiripati saw the Samoan collect the loose ball and race over to score a try near the left corner. Adam Kennedy was wide with the difficult conversion attempt, leaving the game at 5-5.
When Wegians’ influential lock forward Dave Nolan was yellow-carded for indiscipline, the home side then found themselves on the back foot, and although they went in at the break level, the visitors did make their numerical advantage count when Kiripati claimed his second within two minutes of the restart.
Wegians responded well with Nolan making amends on his re-introduction. After claiming the restart, the seond-row forward claimed Galwegians’ second try after a penalty kicked to touch paid off.
Cleary was narrowly wide with another difficult conversion, but the Blues continued to maintain their control on the game. An excellent scrum in the 52nd minute shoved Buccaneers off their own ball in their own 22, and Clarke slotted the resulting penalty for a 13 - 10 lead.
It proved short-lived as Buccaneers hit back again when fullback John O’Brien cut inside the Galwegians’ cover to score a third try for the visitors. Substitute scrumhalf Dave Connellan’s attempted conversion hit the post, restricting his side to a slender two-point lead.
Clarke put Wegians back in front with a penalty after another strong Wegians’ scrum, and in the final quarter it was nearly all Galwegians. The front-row of Ja Naughton, Conor Muldoon and Jamie Stephens, were too strong for the visitors, and were rewarded when Wegians worked their way forward from inside their own half courtesy of three more scrum penalties which saw Buccs’ Conor Higgins sent to the bin. In the final action hooker Muldoon finished off a line-out move by charging over in the corner to seal a 21-15 win. The missed conversion gave Buccaneers the consolation of a bonus point.
Galwegians: D Fanning; G O’Brien, J Cleary (capt ), B Murphy, R Shaughnessy; D Clarke, B Lee (sub Ronan Dillon 65 ); J Naughton, C Muldoon, J Stephens; D Nolan, B McClearn; L Scahill, I Muldoon, D O’Hara.
Saturday March 5: U-21 Cup, UCG v Monivea (2.30pm ). Sunday March 6:
Heineken Junior Cup (all matches 2.30pm ), Creggs v Dunmore; Monivea v Castleba; Tuam v Corinthians; Loughrea v OLBC; Westport v Corrib; Sligo v Buccaneers; Ballinrobe v Connemara; Ballinasloe v Ballina. Junior Division 2A (matches at 3pm ), Monivea v Sligo; Creggs v Buccaneers; Tuam v Ballina. Under 17 Cup 2011 (all remaining matches at 12 noon ), Galwegians v Westport; Sligo v Buccaneers. U-13 Cup, Oughterard v Ballaghaderreen; Connemara v Galwegians; Monivea v Dunmore; Galwegians 2 v Creggs; Loughrea v Castlebar; Corinthians v Corrib; Sligo v Claremorris; Ballina v Ballinasloe.
Wednesday March 9: Supermac’s Schools Senior Cup, Sligo Grammar v Colaiste Iognaid (2pm ) at Galway Sportsground.