All Ireland league – Old Wesley 9 Malone 12
After a 3 and a half week gap Old Wesley got back to AIL action with a home fixture against Malone, hoping to avenge the loss in the away fixture in December. And it looked as though they might do so after a promising start. After blocking down an opposition clearance kick from the kick off Old Wesley gained a strong advantage with a position deep inside the 22. For the first 12 minutes Malone were pinned in their own half. Wesley had a number of scrums and penalties near the Malone goal line and will feel disappointed that the visitors were not penalised with a yellow card or even a penalty try. But despite the advantage Wesley could not cross the line and a knock on eventually allowed Malone to lift the siege.
Malone were now doing the attacking and following a couple of penalties gained a foothold 10 metres from the Wesley goal line. Wesley escaped following a knock on but just after the 20 minute mark Malone were again within 10 metres of the line and from a line out they mauled their way to the line for flanker Dave Cave to bundle over for a try. With the conversion it was 7 nil to the visitors. Shortly after Wesley were awarded a penalty and from 35 metres out Rory Stynes opened the Wesley account with a penalty goal. 10 minutes later a high tackle earned Wesley another penalty and once again Stynes converted with relative ease. As 40 minutes approached a couple of penalties had Old Wesley back into opposition territory with a line out inside their 22. However they were denied any scores following a knock on when the referee called half time.
6 minutes into the second half Malone again conceded a penalty half way between the touch line and the posts. But this time Stynes was uncharacteristically off target with the kick. A high tackle by Malone’s Ross Kane earned him a yellow card. Wesley grasped the opportunity and did all in their power to take advantage. A number of players came very close to crossing for a try, but the Ulstermen’s defence stood solid and eventually they gained possession allowing a clearance to touch. Soon after a second yellow card, this time for their try scorer Dave Cave again gave Wesley some opportunities but they just could not breach the defence. However a short range penalty allowed Stynes to kick Wesley into a 9-7 lead, for the first time in the match.
Wesley now looked the better side as they bombarded the visitors with attack after attack and it looked like the result was going to go their way. Tommy O’Callaghan was nearly over in the corner only to just run out of space and a number of other strong drives had the Wesley supporters on their feet. Then, and very much against the run of play, disaster struck. From a fairly innocent looking midfield play Malone swung the ball out wide. Their centre found a gap making good ground before passing to winger Angus Kernohan who ran in untouched for a try. The conversion was missed giving Malone a 12-9 lead.
With less than 10 minutes remaining Wesley now had a difficult, but not impossible, task to take on. Then with 2 minutes to go Wesley were awarded a penalty 35 metres out in front of the posts. There will be arguments for a long time over whether they should have gone for goal and a draw, or for touch and a try scoring opportunity and the win. They opted for the latter and Stynes found a good touch 7 metres from the Malone goal line. However the line out yielded a knock on and the opportunity was gone. Wesley had a last gasp line out 35 metres out but it come to nothing and not long after Malone cleared to touch for full time.
Old Wesley will feel very disappointed with the result as they had the territory and possession advantage for much of the match. There was some consolation however in that Highfield lost without a loser’s bonus point meaning we are now just 1 point behind the league leaders; who, as it happens, we play next in 2 weeks time.
Old Wesley Team :Rory Stynes, Tommy O’Callaghan, Ed O’Keefe, David Poff, Ed Paul Harte, Craig Miller, Josh Miller, Conor Maguire, Ben Burns, James Burton, JJ O’Dea, Iain McGann (c), Paul Derham, Josh Pim, Mark Rowley. Replacements- Craig Telford, Harry Noonan, Luke Thompson, Richie Walsh, Paddy McKenzie.
Scorers – Rory Stynes, 3 pens.