JP Fanagan Premiership 2. 26th Nov 2017. MU Barnhall 24 – Old Wesley 12.
In atrocious conditions at Parsonstown last Sunday, Wesley succumbed to a very physical Barnhall squad determined to protect their top of the table position. Wes started brightly, playing the more adventurous rugby from the off, and on 25 minutes, a series of strong drives and superb control saw Dave Motyer add to his growing tally of tries this season. Josh Millar kicked a fine conversion into a tricky wind. It quickly dawned on the home side they were in trouble and couldn’t compete with our running game. Thereafter they simply slowed everything down, and adopted the trusty old stick-it-up-the-jumper strategy. Their heavier pack battered away at our defensive line, and despite extraordinary bravery by our boys, the wretched conditions and physical mismatch took their toll. Injuries to key forwards David Boles, Andrew Egan and Aaron Brown robbed us of critical physical presence and set-piece experience (having already lost captain and pack-leader Jordan Layborne beforehand). We also lost a potent attacking threat in wing Luke Sweeney and within minutes Barnhall capitalized on the Wesley disruption and bustled their way over for an unconverted try. However, the lads hung on until the half-time break to re-group. Half time Barnhall 5, Wesley 7.
The coaches got the lads re-organised during the break and we started the second half brightly. Playing with a slight breeze, our half-backs carefully controlled matters, keeping the ball alive very well in heavy rain. A slick line-out and great handling across the back-line saw Miller put a beautiful grubber kick behind the Barnhall defense where a determined Evan Stephenson won the race to touch down. The injuries continued to mount up however. On 60 minutes Wes lost swashbuckling prop Sam Kenny, and Barnhall’s heavier pack gradually established a stranglehold powering their way over for a try on 63 minutes. A few moments later saw the turning point in this match. Substitute prop Dylan O’Regan pulled up injured, and with a replacement ready to come on, the referee decreed that Wesley could only bring on a designated prop (we had lost all three in the squad at this point). Even though the scrums were uncontested at this stage, the referee declared Dylan couldn’t be replaced, leaving us with only 14 brave but battered players on the field for the remainder of the match. Barnhall cranked up their pick-and-drive game, and on 74 minutes heaved over for an unconverted try. Wesley continued to play the only way they know how with their heads up and ball in hand, but were cruelly denied a losing bonus point in the dying moments when Barnhall barged in for another converted try. Full time score Barnhall 24, Wesley 12.
Were it not for an unfortunate series of costly injuries and a questionable refereeing decision, this match could have had a much different outcome. Nonetheless, the boys displayed immense bravery and played the more attractive rugby right to the end. Barnhall will probably top this league through sheer physical force, but they won’t face a stiffer challenge this season.
Final match in 2017 is next Sunday December 3rd against NUIG in Donnybrook.
Squad: Andrew Irwin, Matthew Guest, Andrew Egan, Dave Motyer, Aaron Brown, Luke Corish, David Boles, Glen Dudley, Scott Levie, Josh Millar, Sean Balance, Darragh Forster, Bill Corrigan, Luke Sweeney, Shane O’Hanrahan, Lloyd Stephens, Harrison Pitt, Stuart Dudley, Sam Kenny, Dylan O’Regan, Evan Stephenson, Mark Braithwaite, Daniel Gilmer. Coaches: Ronan O’Donovan, Ian Dumbleton