AIL – Old Wesley beat Ballymena in eight try Thriller

AIL – Old Wesley beat Ballymena in eight try Thriller

Old Wesley 27 Ballymena 25

(5th Nov) Old Wesley travelled to Ballymena eager to erase memories of last season’s disastrous visit, and came away with a deserved but, in the end, fortunate bonus point victory.

For the first quarter Old Wesley looked the better side having an advantage in both possession and territory. They also go the first scoring opportunity when Ballymena were penalised and Barry McLaughlin had no difficulty in converting from 30 metres out. Then with 12 minutes on the clock Wesley won good possession from a line out in the opposition 22.  Hooker Conor Maguire drove on taking three defenders to halt him.  The recycle ball got to Mark Rowley who strolled in for the first try of the match.  McLaughlin again converted for a 10 nil lead. The hosts pulled back 3 points with a Callum Patterson penalty and five minutes later they were back in the Wesley 22 where a try looked ominous. However a handling error allowed Wesley to clear the lines and relieve the pressure.

A break by Wesley centre Ger Finucane brought play deep into the Ballymena 22 but came to naught. A minute later McLaughlin brought play back into the 22. Quick second phase ball and Finucane was stopped just short of the line, however Iain McGann was hand to pick and cross for Old Wesley’s second try. The conversion was missed and Old Wesley lead 15-3 at half time.

Whatever the Ballymena coach said at half time saw them come out with greater purpose and enthusiasm.  Just 3 minutes into the half a Ballymena scrum in the Wesley 22 lead to a break by scrum half David Shanahan who weaved through the Wesley defence for a try out wide. But the Wesley line out and maul was starting to purr. From a line out just inside the northerners half Wesley rumbled and mauled 15 metres.  Then from the next line out some good passing brought play to within 10 metres of the opposition goal line eventually getting to Conor Maguire who powered over for Wesley’s third try. Five minutes later and Wesley were again deep in opposition territory and somehow Alan Jeffares got over for Wesley’s 4th try. 27-8 in the lead, bonus point in the bag and Old Wesley seemed to be in cruise control. 

But the Ulstermen had different ideas. Virtually from the restart Wesley were on the back foot when Callum Patterson crossed for a try out wide.  Now in the last quarter this spurred on the host side. Good Ballymena ruck ball and some slack Wesley defence and Rodger McBurney was in for another Ballymena try. But Patterson missed the relatively straightforward conversion leaving the score 27-18 to the visitors. Ballymena continued to increase the pressure and now it was their pack that looked the dominant.  With the Wesley scrum in disarray 5 metres from their own line the referee awarded a penalty try, which was easily converted to leave Wesley leading by just 2 points. With the clock approaching 80 minutes a penalty for Ballymena on the 22 looked like they would take the match, however Patterson again missed the relatively straightforward kick. With time now up a brilliant line out steal by McGann allowed Wesley to regain possession and kick to touch to end the game.

The result leaves Old Wesley in a very healthy 3rd place in the league just one point behind joint leaders UL Bohemians and, next week’s opposition, Buccaneers.

Old Wesley team: Rory Stynes, Barry McLaughlin, Isaac Leota, Ger Finucane, Alan Jeffares, Tim Clifford, Adam Griggs, Davy Henshaw, Conor Maguire, James Burton, Michael Dunleavy, Iain McGann, Darren Horan (capt), Stephen Boyle, Mark Rowley. Subs: Craig Telford, Martin Gately, Donnchadh Phelan, Matthew Bursey, Adam Kennedy

Old Wesley scorers: Mark Rowley, Try; Iain McGann, Try; Conor Maguire, Try, Alan Jeffares, Try, Barry McLaughlin, 2 Cons, Pen.

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