After a run of four opening defeats, Galwegians finally opened their account in this season’s Ulster Bank Division 1b League fixture with a dramatic 28 - 24 win against Dungannon at Crowley Park on Saturday.
They did it the hard way, coming back from the dead to seal victory, but it was no more than Wegians deserved.
They made a disastrous start when the visitors took a comfortable 12-0 lead early on. It started in the sixth minute when a loose pass was gratefully scooped up by Dungannon’s right-wing Conor Gaston who raced home unopposed to score the game’s first try. And although he had missed a straightforward penalty in the opening minute, full-back Peter Nelson landed an excellent touchline conversion to put the Tyronemen 7-0 in front.
The visitors completely dominated the opening exchanges, and in the 16th minute they scored a second try. Centre Paul McKenzie made the vital break and after a super switch pass fullback Nelson dotted down in the right-hand corner.
Wegians finally opened their account with a Tadgh Leader 25th minute penalty, and with their forwards now gaining the upper hand, they dominated both possession and territory. Their reward came when captain John Cleary, having fielded a high clearance kick on his own 10 metre line, feigned a pass outside before scything through the middle, evading several tackles before rounding Nelson to score a sensational individual try near the posts. Leader’s conversion made reduced arrears to 12-10.
However a lapse in concentration saw the Blues concede a third try just before the break when No 8 James McMahon dived over in the corner from a scrum to give the visitors a 17-10 advantage.
Wegians started the second period with intent, and Leader soon reduced arrears to 17-13 with a well-struck penalty from wide out left. But almost straight from the restart, their brittle defence was again exposed when Dungannon outhalf Jarryd Bennett sold a dummy before feeding his scrumhalf Michael Kirkwood who sauntered home to touch down near the posts for a fourth try. Nelson’s simple conversion put the visitors 24-13 in front.
Galwegians, having folded under similar circumstances in the past, this time they refused to accept defeat and they rolled up their sleeves to dig their way out of trouble.
Leader started the revival with another excellent penalty on 50 minutes and after visitors’ wing Chris Cochrane was sinbinned on 60 minutes, the Blues opted to kick for the corner. They were rewarded with their second try when a lineout maul was finished by evergreen flanker Ivan Muldoon who burrowed over the line near the right-hand corner.
Although Leader was wide with both the difficult conversion and a penalty minutes later, the Blues kept pummelling away at the visiting defence, with their outstanding pack keeping them on the front foot, and they took the lead on 70 minutes. Influential scrumhalf Dave Moore claimed the match-winner following a series of pick and drives, and Leader converted, for a 28 - 24 win.
Galwegians XV: Cleary; B Lee, C Conroy, B Murphy, P Finn; T Leader, D Moore; J Naughton, D Murphy, J Stephens; D O’Hara, B McClearn; I O’Grady, I Muldoon, E McKeon.Subs: J East, O Tarmey, C Muldoon, M Dever, D Clarke.