Galwegians complete their Ulster Bank League season on Saturday still unsure whether they have done enough to retain their division 1B status.
The went a long way to achieving it last weekend with a dramatic and late 20 - 17 win over Buccaneeers, but they head to Ballynahinch knowing a they will need at least a bonus point to ensure their safety without relying on results elsewhere.
It is an intriquing battle both at the top and bottom. Currently in seventh place with 37 points, Galwegians are being chased by Bruff (35 ) who play Buccaneers. But those currently in the relegation places are UCD with 33 points and UCC, who with 15 points, have already accepted the drop to division 2A. UCD face a tough final attempt to avert relegation as they host a Dungannon outfit that is in a three-way battle for league honours. Currently in second place, Dungannon are just a single point behind current leaders Belfast Harlequins and three ahead of UL Bohemians, who interestingly host Harlequins on Saturday.
Last weekend it took a late Conor Muldoon try to secure a win over Buccaneers at Crowley Park in a game that seemed to be going the way of the Athlone-based outfit for long periods.
Buccaneers, still with a possibility of promotion, looked the superior outfit, particularly in the early stages and were 3-0 up within six minutes. Galwegians’ hopes suffered when influential No 8 Eoin McKeon was harshly yellow carded, and Buccs capitalised with a try from centre Paul Harte minutes later, with outhalf Jack Carty adding the extras. It did not get better for the home side when flanker Ross Fitzgerald also saw yellow for hands in the ruck before stalwart prop Jamie Stephens was forced off with a torn Achilles in what was his last appearance for the Blues.
However the hosts ended the half with fullback Tadhg Leader opening their account with a well-struck penalty on 35 minutes before scrumhalf Dave Moore tapped a quick penalty near the posts and, three phases later, centre Brian Murphy barrelled his way over in the right-hand corner for a crucial try, with Leader landing an excellent conversion to level the game at the break.
Buccaneers, with the wind, went back in front when a breakaway move resulted in centre Harte touching down near the left-hand corner. Despite the intervention of the touch judge, referee O’Flynn awarded the try, which Carty converted.
However Galwegians refued to buckle and took the game to their opponents. It resulted in Buccaneers’ lock forward James Tormey sin-binning with Leader reducing the deficit to 17-13.
In the final 25 minutes Wegians played most of the rugby, but Buccs soaked up the pressure with halfbacks Mark Dolan and Carty using the elements to clear their lines. With time running out, it looked like Wegians had finally taken the lead when prop Ja Naughton gathered a loose ball and dived over near the left-hand corner. However the try was disallowed for an off-the-ball tackle on the advice of the referee’s assistant.
Wegians threw everything into one last assault. Dave Moore made a half-break which sent winger Ronan Burke clear and, although Brian Murphy was halted just short of the line, hooker Conor Muldoon managed to cross the whitewash after a series of short drives, ensuring Galwegians grabbed a life-saving victory.
Galwegians: T Leader; M Dever, C Conroy, B Murphy; R Burke; D Clarke, D Moore; J Naughton, C Muldoon, J Stephens; E Tarmey, B McClearn; R Fitzgerald, I Muldoon, E McKeon. Subs: J East, C O’Connell, I O’Grady, G O’Brien, R Shaughnessy.
Buccaneers: J O’Brien, S Layden, P Harte, A Hayman, C Lavelle; J Carty, M Dolan; M Staunton, G Halligan, D Higgins; D Qualter, J Tormey, DHeffernan, E Grace, K Kiripati.