Wesley overcome Dolphin in needle match
27th February, 2016 AIL – Old Wesley 31 Dolphin 30
Dolphin came to Donnybrook on Saturday in determined mood having lost so narrowly in the corresponding fixture in Musgrave Park earlier in the season, when they seemed to have scored under the posts in the last play of the game, only for it to be judged ‘held up’ by the referee. The referee for this match in Donnybrook was Joy Neville, who was a member of the Irish Women’s team that won the Grand Slam in 2013.
From the start Dolphin took the game to Old Wesley through their big pack, however Wesley fought back and tried to run the ball at every opportunity but after 5 minutes they were penalised and veteran Dolphin outhalf Barry Keeshan duly slotted to open the scoring. Wesley continued to try and run the ball but made a number of unforced errors and were also forced into a number of turnovers and into giving away a number of penalties. This gave Keeshan the opportunities to both relieve the pressure and to put Dolphin back on the attack.
In the twenty first minute Dolphin were awarded a penalty just inside the Wesley 10 metre line, well within Keeshan’s range, however he decided to go for touch. From the ensuing lineout their rolling maul took play up to the Wesley line where their second row Chris Rowe went over for the first try of the game, which was converted by Keeshan to go into a 10 nil lead. Wesley again came back with some good passing movements which brought them deep into the Dolphin 22 only to turnover the ball and give Keeshan an opportunity to relieve the pressure. Wesley won the lineout and came back on the attack again and were awarded a penalty just to the left of the posts but decided to go for the scrum and following a number of phases Ian Cassidy darted in for a try which was converted by Barry McLaughlin.
From the Kick-off, Wesley conceded a penalty and Keeshan again decided to go for touch and bring play well inside the Old Wesley 22. Following a period of pressure Dolphin were awarded a penalty close in and Keeshan duly obliged to bring the score to 13-7 with 37 minutes on the clock. Again from the kick-off Dolphin took the game to Wesley and were awarded another penalty which again saw Keeshan go for touch. From the resulting lineout Dolphin’s rolling maul brought play up to the Wesley line before Rowe was on hand again to go over for his second try of the half. Keeshan again obliged with the conversion to bring the half time score to 20-7 and it looked as if it could be a long afternoon for the home side.
The second half started much as the first half had ended with Dolphin on the attack, however, Wesley started to put some good phases together and showed good ball retention. This lead to a number of good attacks before the ball came out to Paul Harte on the left wing who showed great strength and determination to beat three defenders before going over for a fine try which was converted by McLaughlin from close to the touchline. This seemed to be the spark required to lift the home team. Wesley continued on the attack and in the 61st minute after a period of sustained pressure, Cassidy went in for another well taken try and his second of the afternoon. McLaughlin again converted with another excellent strike to put Old Wesley in front for the first time in the game. But Dolphin were not finished yet and in the 75th minute they were awarded a penalty and Keeshan again stepped up to put Dolphin back into the lead. At this stage Dolphin were forced into changing their prop and at the same time we saw the introduction of Kenny Knaggs, who was returning to the fray following a number of months away from the action and Craig Telford to the front row. This saw Wesley take control of the scrum until Dolphin lost another prop through injury which resulted in uncontested scrums. From the re-start, Billy Henshaw, who had just replaced Harte on the left wing, showed great determination to race up and claim the kick-off. This lead to a series of good attacks before the ball came out to Ngawini who showed his excellent footwork to leave the defence flatfooted and go over for another well taken Wesley try in the corner. Again McLaughlin showed his class from the tee by putting the ball straight between the posts from the touchline.
With Wesley now back in the lead by 28 points to 23 entering injury time, Dolphin were not giving up and came back to score a try only to be brought back for a knock on. However, shortly after Dolphin were on the attack again and Keeshan put in a well judged cross kick which saw winger Killian O’Keeffe race to touch down far out. Keeshan who had shortly before shown that he was human when he missed a penalty was back on song with another excellent strike which put Dolphin back in front yet again by 30pts to 28pts. However it was Billy Henshaw again who followed up the kick-off to claim the ball and set up another Wesley attack deep into injury time. Wesley were then awarded a penalty about five meters out from touch and some thirty-five metres out from the Dolphin line. McLaughlin stepped up, on his wrong side, only to put the ball straight between the post and put Wesley back in-front, with just one minute left. Wesley survived to take a bonus point victory and stay in fourth place – three points ahead of Buccaneers.
This was a highly entertaining game played by two totally committed sides who gave their all. It produced seven excellent tries but it has to be mentioned that we were treated to a really magnificent display of place kicking from, what must be, two of the top components of the art in the Ulster Bank League, in Barry McLaughlin and Barry Keeshan.
Team: Rory Stynes, Barry McLaughlin, Billy Ngawini, Conor Fitzgibbon, Paul Harte, Alan Large, Ian Cassidy (captain), Martin Gately, David Rowley, David Henshaw, Josh Hinde, Iain McGann, Darren Horan, Stephen Boyle, Mark Rowley. Substitutes: Craig Telford, Ken Knaggs, Mark Robinson, Ger Finucane, Billy Henshaw
Old Wesley scorers: Ian Cassidy, 2 tries; Paul Harte, try; Billy Ngawini, try; Barry McLaughlin, 4 cons, 1 pen