All Ireland League – Old Wesley 23 Naas 23
One week after losing out to Naas in the last seconds of the game, Old Wesley welcomed them to Donnybrook for the rematch, eager to reverse the result. The two teams played out a thrilling 23-23 draw last Saturday in a vital Ulster Bank All Ireland League 1B encounter.
Old Wesley started with the greater presence, showing they were eager to run the ball at the opposition. After just 4 minutes, JJ O’Dea drove over for the first score of the game following concerted pressure. Jack Maybury converted for an early 7 nil lead. The Old Wesley side opened the encounter playing with good commitment and forcing the opposition to concede penalties. On a number of occasions David Poff and Jack Maybury made good breaks, beating would-be tacklers. The home side was eventually rewarded for their efforts with a Maybury penalty goal to extend the lead to 10-0.
A break by Naas No 8 Paulie Tolofau, who went on to cause big headaches for the Wesley defence, brought them into the Wesley 22 for the first time in the game. However, the Wesley defence stood firm. Naas were soon in another strong attacking position with a line out 15 metres out. This time Wesley escaped after Naas conceded a penalty. Approaching the half hour Mathew Bursey had a great break bringing play 40 metres down the pitch. However a knock on allowed the visitors to relieve the pressure.
Everything seemed to be going Wesley’s way until they lost a line out 7 metres from their own line. Naas immediately capitalised, swinging the ball wide allowing winger Ben O’Connor to dot down for a try. Peter Osborne struck the difficult conversion perfectly and suddenly the game had a different complexion. Naas had another scoring chance just before half time, but the Wesley pack succeeded in turning over their possession and there were no further scores before the half time break, with the scoreline remaining at 10-7 to Old Wesley.
The Kildare men came out of the blocks early in the second half and were awarded a penalty 45 metres out. However, Wesley had a let off when the touch judges raised their flags before quickly lowering them and the referee correctly adjudged no score. Following the restart, Bursey and O’Dea had some great carries to bring play into the opposition half and then, from a fairly innocent looking situation, Thomas O’Callaghan snuck over in the corner. He had the maturity and patience to run in towards the posts to touch down and reduce the difficulty of the conversion. Sure enough, Maybury converted with ease for a 17-7 lead. Wesley continued to look the more dangerous in attack, however their line out was causing problems with possession being lost in some key positions. On 60 minutes, the home side were awarded a penalty for holding on. Maybury again obliged, converting from 35 metres and the match now looked to be well in Old Wesley’s favour, with a 13 point lead.
But straight from the restart Wesley conceded a penalty, which Osborne kicked from 25 metres to claw back 3 points. Then, with 7 minutes to go Naas had a line out 5 metres from the Wesley line. They took clean possession and swung the ball out the back line for Osborne to outdo the Wesley defence and score near the posts. He converted his own try to cut Wesley’s lead to 3 points. What followed was a series of 3 rapid fire penalties. Naas started with a well struck effort from 40 metres to level the match. Straight from the restart a Naas infringement allowed Maybury to retake the lead with a coolly struck attempt. Then in the last play a ruck infringement by Old Wesley gave Osborne another chance. He converted with ease from in front of the posts to draw the match.
This is a match that Old Wesley will justifiably feel they should have won, and the draw felt more like a loss, but this was an excellent match between two teams which belied their position in the league (6th and 7th respectively). For their part, Old Wesley can take great heart from the performance, if not the result, and their recent record of 3 wins and a draw from the last 5 matches, augurs very well for the second half of a very competitive and evenly matched league after Christmas.
The league now takes a 4 week break when Old Wesley will next meet UL Bohemian at Donnybrook on 6th January.
OLD WESLEY TEAM – Jack Maybury, Eoghan O’Reilly, Cillian Monahan, David Poff, Thomas O’Callaghan, Tim Clifford, Craig Miller, Cronan Gleeson, Conor Maguire, James Burton, JJ O’Dea, Kieran Murphy, Darren Horan (capt), Stephen Boyle, Matthew Bursey. Replacements – Craig Telford, David Henshaw, John Fitzgerald, Conor Barry, Josh Miller.
SCORERS–JJ O’Dea, try; Thomas O’Callaghan, try; Jack Maybury, 2 cons, 3 pens.