All Ireland League – Old Wesley 9 Buccaneers 25
Old Wesley made their last scheduled journey of the season out of Dublin to take on Buccaneers at Dubarry Park in Athlone. The Wesley team and management traveled in high hopes of a win that would go a long way to securing a promotion play off. However those hopes were well and truly dashed by an opposition that was stronger, more skilled and displayed grater hunger.
Played in damp conditions but on a firm enough pitch the hosts looked to have a dream start when a Rory Stynes clearance was blocked down, but Wesley escaped with a 22. But it was Old Wesley that were first on the scoreboard with an Ian Cassidy penalty kick after Iain McCann brought play into the opposition 22. Buccaneers levelled the score on 9 minutes with a penalty kick before Cassidy struck again to make it 6-3 approaching the end of the first quarter. The conditions were starting to cause problems for Wesley causing a number of handling errors and the Athlone men looked to be in for a try only to be called back for a forward pass. Then a miskicked clearance by Buccaneers fell nicely into the hands of winger Eoghan O’Reilly who beat his opposite man to sprint nearly 50 metres for the first try of the game. Buccs continued to cause Wesley problems and looked to be over again after a maul from a line out inside the 22. But Wesley got out of jail when the opposition were penalised for an offence just short of the line. The score at half time, 8-6 for the hosts.
Playing into the wind in the second half was going to be a major challenge for Old Wesley. Buccaneers kicked an early penalty goal to extend their lead to 11-6 and it was becoming harder and harder to see a win for Wesley. But in a rare sortie into opposition territory Wesley looked like they might have a scoring opportunity. The try did not materialise but when awarded a penalty under the posts Cassidy wisely went for the points to narrow the gap to 9-11. But that was the end of Wesley’s purple patch as the opposition started to turn the screw. Furthermore the Wesley line out was not functioning with Connaught player Danny Qualter, in particular, showing his superiority. Buccs took three line outs in a row against the head, the last of which led to a try by Cian Romaine. The conversion made it 18-9 to the Athlone men and the result was no longer in doubt.
Old Wesley continued to absorb enormous pressure and although the opposition conceded a number of late penalties Wesley could only run the ball due to their malfunctioning line out. Unable to get out of their own 22 a big tackle on Billy Ngawini dislodged the ball which was snapped up by Conor Finn who ran in unopposed for the last score of the match.
A disappointing afternoon for Old Wesley but we still cling on to an outside chance of a promotion play off place. To achieve this Old Wesley need to win in their last match against UL Bohemians and rely on Buccaneers losing to Shannon; bonus points would also come into the equation. However Old Wesley will finish no lower than 5th in the table; an admirable achievement in our first year in Division 1B
Old Wesley scorers: Iain Cassidy, 3 Pens.
Old Wesley team: Rory Stynes, Paul Harte, Billy Ngawini, Ger Finucane, Billy Henshaw, Alan Large, Ian Cassidy [Capt], Davy Henshaw, David Rowley, James Burton, Josh Hinde, Iain McGann, Darren Horan, Stephen Boyle, Mark Rowley.
Subs: Martin Gately, Craig Telford, Rory Kerins, Adam Kennedy, Barry McLaughlin