Old Wesley fall to committed Harlequins
All Ireland League – Old Wesley 24 Belfast Harlequins 29
After the previous week’s thrilling victory over Dolphin, Old Wesley travelled up the M1 last Saturday confident that they could repeat the victory from earlier in the season over bottom placed Belfast Harlequins at Deramore Park in Division 1B of the All Ireland League. However nobody shared the script with the opposition in what turned out to be a frustrating afternoon.
On a bright, crisp day, and on a soft pitch, Old Wesley kicked off with a strong wind at their backs in a match refereed by Helen O’Reilly, a member of the IRFU National Referees Panel. From the outset it was obvious that Belfast Harlequins were not going to lie down and tested the Old Wesley defence by going through the phases and keeping the ball in hand. However, it would be Old Wesley to score first after their first visit into the home team’s 22 after a fine break by Conor Fitzgibbon. This led to a try from a turned over scrum scored by Josh Hinde in the fifteenth minute which was converted by Barry McLoughlin. Belfast Harlequins continued to have the majority of the possession and were rewarded with a try on twenty five minutes scored by replacement Ben Alexander, converted by Mark Best to bring the scores level at seven all. On the half hour mark and again against the run of play, following a turn over and a break by Billy Ngawni, Josh Hinde picking up his second try, which again was converted by McLaughlin. 14-7 to Old Wesley.
Again Harlequins came back, and following a penalty kick to the corner, they won the lineout and a neat chip through by Mark Kettyle led to a try by Mark Best. The missed conversion left the score 14 12 to the visitors. Indeed, Kettyle showed commitment to his clubs cause, lining out with his team after his wife had given birth earlier in the day ! An unconverted try on the stroke of half time had Old Wesley leading by 19 points to 12. Ian McGann provided the turn over. The ball went through the hands and a neat pass by prop Martin Gately saw Paul Harte score in the corner.
A seven point lead at half time had Old Wesley supporters wondering was it going to be enough of a lead as Harlequins would have the advantage of the strong breeze in the second half. It appeared it might as Old Wesley extended their lead after three minutes in. After a neat break by Ian Cassidy, McGann was held up short of the line but the ball was moved wide to allow Barry McLaughlin score in the corner. Although the difficult conversion was missed, it gave the visitors a twelve point lead 24 12. However the home team was not giving up and in the fifty eight minute were rewarded with a try by Olly Loughead, again converted by Mark Best to bring the score to 24 19. It was now very much game on with both teams making changes off the bench.
On sixty eight minutes a clearance out of defence by Harlequins brought play up to the Wesley 22. Although winning the lineout Old Wesley had their clearance kick blocked by Loughhead to allow him complete his brace. Best converting from close to the touch line. He then added a long range penalty with eleven minutes remaining to give the home team a 29-24 lead. For the remainder of the match Old Wesley threw everything into attack, and despite Harlequins receiving two yellow cards in the closing stages, they could not break down a resolute defence.
Despite their bonus point win, other results on the day doomed Belfast Harlequins to relegation to Division 2A for next season. On this performance they certainly did not look like a team only gaining their second victory of this league campaign. They will bounce back. For Old Wesley the two points gained (four tries and losing by less than seven) means they remain in that all important fourth position and in line for a play-off spot.
The next game is away to Buccaneers on Saturday the 2nd of April in what is essentially a winner take all for that play-off spot. Let’s travel in numbers to Dubarry Park to give the squad the support they will need for this vital game. After getting the upper hand and winning 42-38 at home against Buccaneers in the first leg, this match promises to be a cracker.
Team: Rory Stynes, Barry McLaughlin, Billy Ngawini, Conor Fitzgibbon, Paul Harte, Alan Large, Ian Cassidy (captain), Martin Gately, David Rowley, Ken Knaggs, Josh Hinde, Iain McGann, Darren Horan, Stephen Boyle, Mark Rowley. Substitutes: James Burton, Craig Telford, Rory Kerins, Billy Henshaw, Adam Kennedy
Old Wesley scorers: Josh Hinde, 2 Tries; Paul Harte, Try; Barry McLaughlin, Try, 2 Cons.