AIL – Old Wesley claim bonus point win over Queens

AIL – Old Wesley claim bonus point win over Queens

AIL – Queens University 20 Old Wesley 38

Old Wesley opened their 2023-24 AIL campaign with a keenly contested bonus point win over Queen’s University in Belfast.  Whilst the final score may suggest an easy win for Wesley, it took 72 minutes to nail the victory with never more than one score separating the two sides up until then, and with the lead changing five times during that period.

For the opening 15 minutes there was nothing between the two sides as they both tried to gain a foothold in the game.  Newly promoted Queens were full of enthusiasm but the more experienced Wesley defence held firm and kept them at bay.  Then a cruel blow for the home side as their scrum half, James Wright, was shown a red card for a tip tackle. From the ensuing penalty Ian Cassidy kicked the points from 30 metres to open the score for Old Wesley.  Just a minute later Queens responded with a penalty goal by James Humphries, son of David Humphries.

Queens’ woes continued when second row Joe Hopes received a yellow card for a high tackle.  But despite their numbers disadvantage Queens kept up with the game, not helped by Old Wesley conceding a number of penalties. And from one penalty they kicked to find a 5-metre touch which led to them scoring the first try of the match, converted by Humphries. However, virtually straight from the restart Will Fay gathered a loose ball.  The ball went to Tommy O’Callaghan who made good ground before passing to Howard Noonan who broke clear for a 20-metre run in for a try.  Cassidy converted to level the scores.

Not long after they got back to 14 players Queens’ hooker Alexander Clarke received a yellow card for a high tackle reducing them to 13 once again. However, Wesley  struggled to breach the opposition’s stubborn defence not helped by further concession of penalties. And just short of half time Humphries struck again with a penalty goal to make it 13-10 to Queen’s at half time.

The second half started like the first with both sides attacking but struggling to break the opposition defence.  Then a breakthrough for Old Wesley; from a break by Fergus Jemphrey the ball went to O’Callaghan on the left wing who did just enough to fend off a tackle and score in the corner. Cassidy converted and for the first time since the 18th minute Wesley were in the lead, 20-17. But once again the pendulum swung.  A loose clearance was fielded inside his half by Humphries who kicked gaining a 50/22 touch close to the Wesley line. And Queens went on to score their second try, converted to regain the lead.  But Wesley’s response was once again immediate.  Off a mid-field scrum the ball was passed out the line to Alex Molloy who went on one of his lethal runs from 35-metres out to cross and score under the posts for a converted try. 24-20 to Old Wesley.

Queens maintained their adventurous play and had a number of scoring opportunities including a 5-metre line-out, however Wesley escaped after an overthrow.  A big moment for Old Wesley came 30 minutes into the second half with a 50/22 kick to touch by Alex Molloy. Wesley won clean line out and after good carries they ploughed over for the bonus point try by Cronan Gleeson. Cassidy converted and for the first time in the match it was a 2-score game. With the result now a virtual certainty for Old Wesley Will Fay added some icing with a late try under the posts. Cassidy, who had a 100% kicking result on the day, again converted.

So, after a somewhat shaky start for Old Wesley, the result was a perfect start to their AIL campaign.  Next week it is a home fixture against St. Mary’s who also started with a bonus point win.  Expect big support from both camps.

Scorers:  Howard Noonan, try; Tommy O’Callaghan, try; Alex Molloy, try; Cronan Gleeson, try; Will Fay, try; Ian Cassidy, pen, 5 cons.

Team: Alex Molloy, Nathan Randles, Fergus Jemphrey, Eoin Deegan, Tommy O’Callaghan, Ian Cassidy, Gary Bradley, Harry Noonan, Howard Noonan, Robert O’Donovan, David Motyer, Billy Corrigan, Reuben Pim (capt), Josh Pim, Will Fay.

Replacements: Stephen Smyth, Cronan Gleeson, Kieran O’Shea, Josh O’Hare, Tom Larke, Keith Kavanagh.

Click here for photos by Ken Richardson

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