Metro League Division 2 – Old Wesley 3rds 27 St. Mary’s 2nds 16
Report by David Braithwaite
Having seen a return to form last weekend against Clontarf, Old Wesley 3rds looked to make it back to back wins against a strong, well-organised St Mary’s 2nds at Templeville Road.
Not to be put off by a heavy pitch and deteriorating conditions, the Wesley men made a positive start by applying some early pressure deep inside the Marys half with strong carries from Dan Hall, Matthew Gilmer, Michael Raftery and Simon Goldsmith, who was coming out of retirement for the 3rd season in a row, setting the tone for the afternoon. An injury to Marys outside centre slowed the tempo and allowed the opposition to grow into the game. Playing with a gale behind them in the first 40, Marys were able to advance the ball downfield through the boot of their outhalf.
Wesley defended resolutely, as they have done all season, showing excellent tackle technique and defensive workrate. Marys probed left and right but could not find a hole in the Wesley brick wall and eventually coughed the ball up through a wayward pass. The ball landed at the feet of Sean Ballance who tore off downfield, narrowly escaping the clutches of a Marys second row, but was stopped agonisingly short of the line. After a heroic defensive effort, Wesley’s fitness paid dividends with a number of players arriving downfield in support. An unselfish clear-out of the ruck by Jamie Boyd allowed his better looking older brother Conor to cross the whitewash in the corner to make it 7 – 0 to Wesley, with Ballance adding the conversion from a difficult angle.
Marys kicked a penalty from long range making it 7 – 3 and from the resulting restart, the Wyverns struck again. With the kickoff hanging up in the air, it allowed David Braithwaite to latch onto the end of it, racing downfield before being tackled 10 metres from the Marys line. Wesley support arrived in the form of Eric Parfrey, clearly benefitting from his own advice at training of “lads, get the pints in Friday and not Saturday”. A number of phases later some slick hands from Luke Correll allowed Braithwaite to cross in the corner. This time Ballance missed the tricky conversion leaving the score at 12 – 3. Marys hit back again just before the break with a penalty leaving the score at 12 – 6 at half time.
With the conditions deteriorating rapidly after the break, Monty’s all-weather sleeveless gilet was put to the test and fared considerably worse than the Wesley men out on the pitch. After some accurate darts at the lineout from Gav Telford, coupled with tidy passing from Eoin McCabe, allowed Jamie Boyd to slice through the defence once more setting up yet another try for Conor Boyd. Ballance added the conversion making it 19 – 6 and further added a penalty to push the lead out to 16 points
As the game tightened in the torrential rain, Marys hit a purple patch with their large pack coming to the fore. After a period camped on the Wesley line they eventually breached the defence to make it 22 – 11. Continuous ill-discipline allowed Marys to march down the field once more and after a number of scrums and pick and go’s around the fringes, crossed for a second try in quick succession. Kinners, wetter than an otter’s pocket on the touchline, cut a forlorn figure. Momentum was building for the home side. 22 – 16
With the clock ticking towards the 80th minute, Wesley responded in admirable fashion pinning Marys deep inside their own half. Marys simply could find no way through the Wesley defence with big hits coming from resident gym monkeys David Priestman and Aaron McDonnell. The Wesley scrum, having experienced some difficulty earlier in the game for the first time this season, responded superbly through a collective effort in the driving rain from props Sam Moore and Micheal Kearney; two men who were clearly born to thrive in such conditions. From the resulting penalty, Ballance was unable to add the extras.
With the clock in the red, Marys threw the kitchen sink at Wesley and were forced to play out from deep. Tiger-like defence from the men from Donnybrook forced an error to allow supersub Mark Strong to smartly fly-hack the ball ahead. Giving chase in super-slow motion, Stronger arrived first to the try line and dotted the ball down for a bonus point to spark jubilant scenes on the Wesley bench.
Having done the double over a strong Marys outfit, the win leaves the 3rds in a commanding position with one game to play this side of Christmas; a home fixture next Saturday against rivals Lansdowne. The large Wesley travelling support who braved the conditions was not unnoticed and went home in high spirits after a memorable day.