Old Belvedere 12
by Brian Bolger
Galwegians ended Old Belvedere’s 100 per cent start to the AIL season with a disciplined display at a sodden Glenina on Saturday. The rugby was far from pretty but in the conditions proved pretty effective as Galwegians climbed into fifth place in the first division after their third win on the trot.
Leading 7-0 at the end of a first half in which the rain and wind whipped at their backs, the hosts lost their way after the break but got down the pitch for the score needed to pull back ahead before defending manfully for the remainder of the contest.
A pushover try was claimed by Ireland U-20 lock David Nolan and Rob Beirne’s difficult conversion handed the home side the initiative early on.
The attritional opening act failed to yield another score – O’Beirne wide with a pop at goal on 15 minutes and a knock on ending a good move up near the visitor’s tryline before the break. Old Belvedere’s exciting young backline have drawn the plaudits this season but Saturday wasn’t the occasion for spinning it wide. Leinster-contracted Felix Jones followed prop Dan Wyeth to the treatment table and Belvedere’s ranks were further trimmed by the loss of captain Richie Leyden at the interval with a rib injury.
Galwegians were slogging it out up front and the introduction of Connacht prop Brett Wilkinson gave them further firepower but it was Belvedere that made the early running. After missing an early penalty, the Dubliners brought play deep into ‘Wegians’ territory and their star centre Eoin O’Malley unleashed the outside backs for winger Dave Mongan to step inside the stretched cover and touch down on 47 minutes. Kieran Hurrell was wide with the conversion but Belvedere didn’t have to wait too long to make amends. Capitalising on a turnover in the home ’22, they had the scoreboard ticking over again on 51 minutes when Maori number eight Leo Auva’a barged over after a lapse by the home defence. Substitute fullback Eamonn Fitzgerald’s conversion from in front of the posts made it 7-12 and with a half hour left to play Belvedere appeared well placed to prevail. ‘Wegians were presented with a kickable penalty on the hour mark but decided to despatch it to the corner instead. Nolan’s clean catch led to a driving 13-man maul that presented an attacking five metre scrum and referee Colin Stanley had little hesitation in awarding a penalty try when Belvedere’s backrow broke early to obstruct Kieran Campbell. There was some doubt whether O’Beirne’s kick went over or under the crossbar but the conversion stood, the hosts ahead 14-12. The final quarter was a pitched battle fought out in unremitting rain as Galwegians defended their line with conviction and discipline. Fitzgerald went close from a penalty inside the Belvedere half as Galwegians opted to keep it tight and kill the clock. Belvedere managed to work the ball up into the home ’22 but declined a drop at goal in favour of pounding the home whitewash. The hosts stood tall, with the pack in particular not yielding an inch in close and for a full six minutes of injury time Belvedere battered the home line with little joy. Considering the day and the opposition, the soggy celebrations at the end were justified. It proved the only victory on the last AIL weekend before the break for the autumn internationals as Buccaneers were narrowly beaten 19-18 by Garryowen and both Corinthians and Connemara lost out in the third division.
Galwegians: Robert O’Beirne, John Cleary, Chris Brigl, Chris Rodgers, Brian Murphy, Matt Brandon, Kieran Campbell, Brian McGovern, Conor Muldoon, Jamie Stephens, Dave Nolan, Brian McLearn, Liam Scahill, Ivan Muldoon (capt ), Liam Casserly.
Subs: Brett Wilkinson for Brian McGovern (h/t ), Nick McCarthy for Ivan Muldoon (76mins ).
Old Belvedere: Felix Jones, Dave Mongan, Eoin O’Malley, Marcus McAllister, Kevin Barden, Kieran Hurrell, Ruari Cushion, Dan Wyeth, Paddy Hogan, Jamie Hagan, Dave Synott, Paul Spivey, Richie Leyden (capt ), Jason Risdon, Leo Auva’a.
Subs: Marcin Wilczuk for Dan Wyeth (inj ) (13mins ) Eamonn Fitzgerald for Felix Jones (inj ) (34mins ), Simon Breen for Richie Leyden (inj ) (h/t ).
Referee: Colin Stanley (Ulster ).