All Ireland League – Old Wesley 13 Dolphin 13
After beating Dolphin comprehensively in the first leg encounter in November, Old Wesley travelled to Cork with optimism for the return leg. However despite leading or being level for the whole match Wesley had to settle for a somewhat disappointing draw.
Played in cold but dry and sunny conditions Dolphin had the better of the opening quarter aided partly by having the breeze advantage, but also by the fact that Old Wesley’s line-out was failing to perform. Dolphin had a scoring opportunity after 10 minutes when awarded a penalty just outside the Wesley 22, however the kick to touch went dead relieving the pressure for Old Wesley. Old Wesley eventually started to make inroads into opposition territory, and following a nice line break by Tommy O’Callaghan, taken on by Conor Maguire, they were awarded a penalty on the 22 just wide of the posts. Josh Miller stepped up and kicked the goal for the opening score of the game. Experienced Dolphin out half Barry Keeshan had his side’s first chance to score after 34 minutes but was off target from 35 metres. However just a minute later he was on target from a similar distance, to leave the score at 3 all at half time.
Now playing with the breeze; although it had eased slightly, the visitors started to apply more pressure. They had a series of strong assaults on the Dolphin line and the opposition had to dig deep to defend. However the attack ended when Wesley were penalised for a ruck infringement. 12 minutes into the half Miller regained the lead for Old Wesley with a nicely struck penalty goal from 35 metres out. However the Corkmen responded immediately bringing play back down the field. This time Wesley had to defend strongly but conceded a penalty under the posts which was converted with ease by Keeshan. 6 all.
With the introduction of fresh legs including Craig Telford, Martin Gately and Donnchadh Phelan, the Wesley pack started to increase its presence on the pitch and the line out in particular was much improved. This gave the back line more opportunities. A break down the right wing by O’Callaghan was taken on by JJ O’Dea, who broke a couple of tackles, showing his strength and pace to cross for a try under the posts. Miller converted with ease, and now 7 points up and with 10 minutes remaining Wesley looked to have taken control. But Munster sides don’t give up easily and right from the kick off Dolphin regained camp in the Wesley 22. From a line out 7 metres out they launched a series of attacks. Wesley stopped them crossing but were punished for collapsing the maul with a penalty and a yellow card for James Burton. From 5 metres out Dolphin ran the ball. The pressure was too much for the Wesley pack and the referee awarded a penalty try for offside in the maul. Wesley made a brave attempt to respond but with time virtually up there were no further scores and the match ended in draw.
Old Wesley maintain 7th place position in the league, but the gap between them and the teams below is getting tighter. Next up it’s another Cork side, UCC, at Donnybrook in 2 weeks time.
OLD WESLEY TEAM – Josh Miller, Eoghan O’Reilly, Paul Harte, James O’Donovan, Thomas O’Callaghan, Tim Clifford, Charlie O’Regan, Cronan Gleeson, Conor Maguire, James Burton, Mark Robinson, Kieran Murphy, JJ O’Dea, Conor Barry, Matthew Bursey.
Replacements – Craig Telford, Martin Gately, Donnchadh Phelan, Rory Stynes, Adam Kennedy.
SCORERS – JJ O’Dea, try; Josh Miller, con, 2 pens.