AIL Old Wesley 24 Banbridge 29
Saturday saw the 1st’s make their last trip of the season and our shortest trip of the Ulster clubs this season. Rifle Park had a suitably fitting welcome for Wesley as the Banbridge men firmly had a shot at the league champions in their sights. Leaving South County Dublin in glorious sunshine it was shaping up to be a great day. But the dark clouds that loomed towards kick off brought more than just rain for the visitors.
Wesley started the game well moving the ball wide early on and breaking the first line of the “Ban” defence. But it was a series of uncharacteristic turnovers and loose passing that saw the home side use the strong wide to keep Wesley back deep into their own half through some great tactical kicking. But the 10 minute mark produced the game’s, and Wesley’s, first try of the day. After securing a line out 10 meters out the ball was moved quickly wide right to left. Then with the forwards bringing it to within a yard of the line 3 phases in a row the ball was the feed to the backs. Ger Finucane attacked the outside shoulder of his opposite man and then masterfully guided the ball back inside with a no look pass to the one coming Darren Horan. Horan proceeded to bosh the first would be tackler and step through the second tackle to score. Converted by Ian Cassidy, Wesley lead 7-0. That was about as good as the first half was to get for Wesley. 2 minutes later off a mid field line the home side’s full back ghosted through the Wesley defence and raced toward the 22. He released a long high looping pass to his supporting winger who squeezed in by the flag to open Bandbridge’s account for the game, 7-5. The Wesley response was pretty immediate. From the restart they attacked again with a great counter attack down the wing by one of Rory Synes’s now trademark weaving runs. This phase of attack resulted in another Cassidy penalty and the Wesley lead was extended to10-5. Wesley did not handle the kick off well and handed the ball straight back to Banbridge who tried to attack down the right wing but were stopped by a solid Finucane tackle. But having recycled their own ball the home side hit their number 8 who came from deep on the Wesley 22, and like a pin ball bounced his way through the defence to barrel over under the sticks. 12-10 advantage Banbridge. Banbridge extended their lead to 15-10 through the boot of their outhalf but they were not finished there, for the half. Awarded a penalty deep into injury time they took a tap and found an overlap on the blind to again touch down in the corner with millimetres to spare. 22-10 was the half time score.
The second half opened much as the first half finish with Banbridge taking a quick line out on the opposition 22 that caught Wesley slightly unawares as they believed they had formed a line out and the time for a quick throw had expired. But the home side winger streaked up the line and passed inside to the 15 and on to their number 12. He slipped inside the defence line and popped to his number 9 to score and extend the lead to 29-10. Trailing by 19 points, Captain Alan Large began to refocus his troops and lead from the front. Taking a flat ball from a line out 10 metres out from the Banbridge line, he stepped the first defender then cut in to cross under the posts and score standing up, making it 17-29. Wesley again turned to their line out and it was another go maul and some nice inter passing by the forwards in mid field which saw Cassidy pick and go himself for Wesley’s 3rd try 29-24. Wesley dominated the last 10 minutes of play but the home side defence was stout and held tight to deny Wesley their 14th win of season and hand them only their 2nd loss of the campaign