JP Fanagan – Premiership 2. 12th November 2017. Old Wesley 15 – Dublin Univ 20
Following a fine run of four wins, Wesley came unstuck against a heretofore win-less Trinity outfit on Sunday. Having shipped 70 points in the previous outing, their selection on Sunday certainly raised a few eyebrows around College Park. The opening phase was a cagey affair, with Wesley strangely subdued. Both packs went toe to toe, but gradually, Trinity’s scrum gained the upper hand. On 30 minutes Wes were scrambling to defend a powerful drive when Trinity’s no 8 ran in for the opening score. We continued to struggle in the scrums, which Trinity used to great advantage. Just before the break, they broke from another disintegrating scrum and went over for a converted try. Half-time 12-0, and Wes were glad to get the break as the first 40 minutes saw them play their poorest all season.
The coaches made immediate changes for the second half, bringing on Glen and Stuart Dudley in the pack. This seemed to give Wesley a new energy, with the team also responding to some well-chosen words from the coaches at the break. Even though Trinity edged further ahead with a penalty on 45 minutes, we could sense a revival was at hand. Gradually, the lads took control and led by Dave Motyer, hammered away at Trinity’s defence. On 50 minutes, an unfortunate knock-on denied us a try but we had found the key to unlock Trinity’s defence. Within seconds Sean Balance collected on the halfway line and fed Luke Sweeney who danced his way over near the corner. The forwards then took on the load and after a series of great mauls, the superb Motyer powered over on 55 minutes. The conversion from Balance made it 12-15. Game on! Wesley cranked up the heat again, and played a very controlled game of territory and ball retention. The pedestrian home team had little but a scrum-based game to rely on, and conceded space again and again. Inevitably, Wesley found the cracks in their defence and who else but Dave Motyer again carried some great yards to score his second, with Balance converting. 19-15 to Wesley in the dying moments, and all we had to do was play possession. Alas, the bad habits from the first half resurfaced as the clock ticked past 80. Sloppy handling and poor concentration handed Trinity the one weapon in their bag that could hurt us, and despite Trojan efforts, the lads just couldn’t contain their dominant scrum. We conceded a push-over try in the last heart-breaking play of the match to leave the boys wondering what might have been. Full time 19-20. This is a game Wesley will reflect on as one that got away, but to effectively play only 40 minutes when their opponents play the full 80 – and still lose by the bare minimum – speaks wonders for the skill and spirit in this group.
Team: Andrew Irwin, Jordan Laybourne (C), Sam Kenny, Dave Motyer, Gavin Parr, Harrison Pitt, Luke Corish, David Boles, Scott Levie, Shane O’Hanrahan, Sean Balance, Darragh Forster, Bill Corrigan, Luke Sweeney, Philip Deane, Andrew Egan, Dylan O’Regan, Glen Dudley, Stuart Dudley, Gavin Parr, Callum Raftery, Daniel Gilmer, Geoff Mahon, Adam Culbert, Mark Braithwaite. Coaches: Ian Dumbleton, Ronan O’Donovan.