AIL – Old Wesley 14 Armagh 12
Old Wesley got back on the winning trail, after a number of recent setbacks, with a narrow 14-12 victory over City of Armagh at Energia Park, Donnybrook last Saturday. This was a lively game between two well-matched sides, but Wesley will feel that the result should have been put to bed earlier in the contest.
Armagh came out of the blocks quickly and exerted strong early pressure on the home defence, which was finally lifted with an excellent tackle by David Poff. The Wesley scrum was dominant throughout the match, and this manifested itself on 10 minutes when a scrum penalty was awarded, but, unfortunately, Rory Stynes missed the relatively easy kick. With their set piece dominance, Wesley were camped in the Armagh half and only an excellent clearance from the visitors’ out half, Cormac Fox, relieved the incessant Wesley pressure, albeit temporarily.
The first score of the match was on 28 minutes when, after 3 scrum penalties near the Armagh line, the referee inevitably awarded a penalty try to Wesley. Armagh, to their credit, struck back immediately and only heroic defence from Wesley held the Armagh attacker up over the line. Armagh maintained a foothold in the 22 and a superbly timed pass from Fox to Shea O’Brien sent the winger sprinting over the line, for Fox to add the points — 7 all. Wesley’s reaction was instantaneous and they spent the remainder of the half exerting enormous pressure on the Armagh line and a combination of missed opportunities and excellent Armagh defence saw the scoreline remain unaltered at half time.
Armagh went ahead on 46 minutes, when a wayward quick throw in on the Wesley line led to the concession of a very soft try for Armagh captain and second row, Robbie Whitten. Fox hit the post with the conversion (how crucial this would prove to be) to leave the scoreline 12-7 to Armagh. This was a prelude to a good spell from the visitors and scrum half, Harry Doyle, made an excellent break, but an obstruction in midfield led to a Wesley penalty.
On 52 minutes, Wesley out-half, Tom Kiersey, made an excellent trademark break to lift the pressure and the home side went up a gear to turn the screw on the Armagh defence and, after further strong scrum pressure and resulting penalties, the referee was left with no option but to award a second penalty try to put Wesley back in the lead by 14-12, which was to prove the final score of the game. Wesley continued to attack and after a great break by veteran replacement, Stephen Boyle, and wonderful hands by Josh Pim, they were only thwarted by a subsequent knock on. Armagh were not giving up and it took an excellent try-saving tackle from Tommy O’Callaghan to cut down the excellent Armagh winger, O’Brien, in full flow on 65 minutes. Wesley hit back and elected to go to the corner with a penalty but Armagh held out, when Wesley were penalised for not releasing on 70 minutes.
Despite further pressure, Wesley were unable to extend this precarious 2 point lead and, inevitably, Armagh came back for one last throw of the dice. Spirited defence was required from Wesley to prevent a rolling maul from Armagh and the final relief of a penalty concession from Armagh for holding on, lifted the siege and was followed soon after by the final whistle, to leave Wesley narrow but deserving victory in a vital match for both sides.
This victory leaves Wesley still in joint 2nd place with a visit to Navan next Saturday, while City of Armagh will be looking over their shoulders as close rivals, St Mary’s College, had an important win.
Old Wesley Team – Rory Stynes, Tommy O’Callaghan, David Poff, James O’Donovan, Richie Walsh, Tom Kiersey, Craig Miller, Conor Maguire, Ben Burns, James Burton, Donnchadh Phelan, Iain McGann(C), Ian Condell, Josh Pim, Paul Derham
Replacements – Luke Thompson, Sam Kenny, Stephen Boyle, Josh Miller, Brendan Monahan
Old Wesley Scorers – 2 Penalty Tries