Under 20s Premiership 2 – Old Wesley 22 Buccaneers 15
On a crisp Sunny and dry January day the U20s resumed their winning streak with a hard fought but deserved victory over a physical Buccaneers team in Dubarry Park, Athlone. To their credit Buccaneers had in their pack some fine individual players and a strong defensive back line formation. Old Wesley, with a little more composure and patience, could have had the game decided by half time, but instead the game was on a knife edge until the final minutes.
The game started with Old Wesley retaining their kick off with great athleticism from winger Andrew Vincent which brought the phased play to the Buccaneers 5 metre line. Buccs however cleared their lines and from the following line out Old Wesley kicked a penalty, and, through the boot of Cameron Watson, opened up the lead 0-3 with 5 minutes played. From the restart Buccaneers progressed towards Old Wesley’s line and with a penalty kick to the corner. Their pack drove from the back of the line out and went over to score a good try, and with the conversion it was 7-3 to the home team.
From the restart Wesley secured a penalty but the visitors were unable to take the points through the boot of Watson. However, from the 22 drop out another penalty was awarded and this time Wesley chose to kick to the corner. With the lineout on the edge of the 22 the Wesley pack progressed toward the Buccs line, however with a turnover Buccs eased the pressure on the home team. The following 10 minutes saw Wesley make some really good yardage with breaks from Dave Young, Bill Corrigan and Cameron Watson. However on each occasion a lack of composure at the vital movement saw 2 try scoring opportunities missed. One of the highlights of the 1st half was a break of 40 metres by Fergus Noonan, who unfortunately ran out of options as he entered the Buccs 22.
After 30 minutes and quick recycling in the Buccs 22 Wesley got reward for some smart play, and Andrew Vincent continuing his outstanding scoring run with a fine finish and try in the corner. With a fine conversion from Cameron Watson, Old Wesley extended their lead to 10 point to 7. From the restart Old Wesley had to provide some very strong defence as Buccaneers really pressed towards the visitor’s line. The siege was finally lifted by a fine relieving kick from Old Wesley’s John Ridgeway.
Just before half time Andrew Vincent was forced off with a hand injury and Evan Stephenson came on in his place. Again Wesley were required to use all their defensive strengths to hold out Buccaneers surging attacks and superior scrum. That said it was Wesley who finished on the attack but they did not execute the opportunities close to the home team line. Half time it was 7 – 10 to Old Wesley.
The second half started in similar vein with both teams not capitalising on their own attacking opportunities, and some really strong defences saw both teams deny each other scores. A change at front row saw Calum Kavanagh introduced at tight head, and with Buccs making similar changes the scrum went more in favour of the visitors. Throughout the game the lineout was evenly contested, but on several occasions Old Wesley were able to come through on the opposition scrum half and put their back line under pressure.
A very clever break by Cameron Watson into the opposition 22 was unfortunately knocked on, and as play broke back into the Wesley half a series of penalties pushed Wesley back to their own 22. Further changes in the pack saw Andrew Irwin replaced by Sam Kenny and Calum Kavanagh move to loose head. Buccaneers scored their 2nd try with a fine cross field kick which landed straight into their right winger’s hands to dot down for a try, making the score 10-12. The following conversion was missed.
Mid way through the 2nd half hooker Dave Young made a surging run into the Buccs 22. In the next series of plays, and following a turnover, Old Wesley had their blind side flanker Stephen Keane unluckily sin binned for an alleged tip tackle. This put further pressure on the Wesley pack due to being a man down. Then after some fine back play, a delicate chip behind the defence was collected on the bounce by Watson. He in turn fed outhalf Gary Hawe, who crossed for a great score, and Old Wesley sneaked back ahead 12-15. The conversion was narrowly missed into the breeze and with 10 minutes left to play the visitors began to assert some good pressure, despite the numerical disadvantage.
Old Wesley’s 3rd try came following a classy piece of footballing skill by fullback Watson, collecting his own chip to score once again in the corner. Without the conversion the score moved to 12-20 with 10 minutes left. With the sin bin reversal and Keane back on the pitch, Wesley introduced Andrew Warner in place of Cameron Madden, who had a fine afternoon at Number 7 in the trenches, although his chip kicking may need some finessing to perfect his technique.
The next 5 minutes saw Buccs throw the kitchen sink at the visitors but some fine defending prevented Buccs scoring a try. However with 2 minutes on the clock, Buccs to their credit kicked a pressure penalty to move the score to 15-20, securing their losing bonus point.
The final whistle sounded shortly after the restart and the impressive winning streak has continued for the U20s, who are now 5 points clear at the top of the league. It’s Old Belvedere away next week followed by NUIG then Greystones, both at home on the 10th and 17th February respectively.