All Ireland League – Old Wesley 19 UCC 5
Eager to put last week’s disappointing result behind them Old Wesley were out of the blocks early in this final AIL fixture played in perfect conditions at Donnybrook. A huge tackle by Paul Harte, forcing a knock on, was an early indication of Wesley’s intent and ambition. For the first 15 minutes of the match play was confined to the UCC half of the pitch but Wesley only had a Tim Clifford penalty goal to their name. But once the Cork side got into the Wesley half their mobile back line looked dangerous. It took a desperate corner flag tackle into touch by Rory Stynes to prevent UCC scoring the first try. However with 20 minutes on the clock a break by centre Paul Kiernan, son of former international Michael Kiernan, found the Wesley defence thin and with two men outside him he ran in for the first try of the match. The more physical Wesley pack responded and soon had the opposition having to dig deep in defence but despite their territorial and possession advantage they could not cross the whitewash and with half time approaching all they had on the scoreboard was a second Clifford penalty goal. Some good carries again tested the opposition defence in a late Wesley rally but it came to naught leaving the half time score 6-5 to Old Wesley.
Now playing into a breeze Wesley had to score first in order to avoid any momentum build up by the Cork students. Sure enough a break by Conor Maguire had UCC on the back foot and brought play back into the opposition half. Then it was quick recycled ball taken on by David Rowley and a pass to Paul Harte. Harte, still with a lot to do, switched on the after burners and sprinted 30 metres, beating a number of tackles to score Wesley’s first try. The home side was now attacking and counterattacking with good effect, with substitutes Ger Finucane and Michael Dunleavy adding positive impact. Stynes, with his evasive style of running found space out wide inside the UCC 22. He passed to Harte who this time sprinted in untouched for his and Old Wesley’s second try. The conversion came back of the post. Indeed both team’s place kickers had a poor day with the boot. Wesley were now starting to turn the screw and spent most of the rest of the second half in opposition territory. But despite having a number of scoring opportunities including two five metre line outs and a five metre scrum they were denied any more tries, partly due to solid UCC defence and partly due to some frustrating errors. A yellow card for a high tackle by UCC second row Daragh Moloney seemed to open the door for Old Wesley but their only return was another Clifford penalty goal. However now with a 14 point lead the result was in no doubt and despite a late UCC counterattack and a five metre scrum the scoreboard remained unchanged. Nevertheless a 19-5 win over a side that had been on a roll was no mean achievement.
The win means Old Wesley finish a highly commendable 4th in the league and now play Garryowen, next Sunday 23rd April at Dooradoyle, in the play-off semi-final. The winner of that match will play the winner of Naas v UL Bohemian for a place in next season’s premier division.
Old Wesley team: Rory Stynes, Brendan Monahan, Isaac Leota, Michael Hastings, Paul Harte, Tim Clifford, Adam Kennedy, Martin Gately, Conor Maguire, James Burton, Iain McGann (capt), Aaron Browne, Josh Hinde, Stephen Boyle, Mark Rowley
Subs: David Rowley, Padraig Cullen, Michael Dunleavy, Adam Griggs, Ger Finucane.
Old Wesley scorers: Paul Harte, 2 tries; Tim Clifford, 3 pens.