All Ireland League – Old Wesley 24 Banbridge 14
Old Wesley finally prevailed in this hard fought encounter at Energia Park, Donnybrook against a dogged Banbridge side on a final scoreline of 24-14. Old Wesley have now won 7 matches out of 8 this season, consolidating and strengthening their 2nd position in the league and, whilst it wasn’t their most impressive performance of the season, they will be well pleased, on reflection, to have embellished the win with a bonus point try in the last few minutes.
On a bright and chilly day, both sides started in lively fashion, with Wesley having the lions share of territory and possession, but, after a few missed chances, it was the visitors who opened the scoring after 10 minutes when impressive full back, Adam Doherty, struck an excellent penalty from just inside halfway.
Wesley’s response was almost immediate and, after a great charge by Will Fay, captain, Iain McGann ran a brilliant line to carve open the Banbridge defence and score under the posts, with Ian Cassidy adding the points to push the scoreline to 7-3 Wesley. Fay, who had a great game, made another barnstorming run up to the line but the concession of a penalty saw the chance go astray. In an error strewn period, Banbridge came more into the game and, despite great defence by Paul Derham and Josh Pim, their full back, Doherty slotted 2 more excellent penalties on 21 and 33 mins respectively to nudge the visitors into a 9-7 lead.
Just on half time, Wesley got a huge psychological boost when hooker, Ben Burns, rounded off an excellent maul by crashing over for a great try, to leave the half time score at 12-9 Wesley.
Wesley started the second half in determined fashion and, after a number of near misses and incessant pressure, on 49 minutes, David Poff dotted down out wide for an easy third try, with the conversion again missed (17-9 Wesley). In truth, Wesley should have put the game to bed soon after but missed chances cost them dearly and Banbridge, belying their lowly league position, hit back in spirited fashion on 67 minutes, with an excellent rolling maul try, credited to hooker, Jonny Murphy. (17-14 Wesley). This was a prequel to a very tense closing 12 minutes, with Banbridge eschewing one particularly good chance, with a line out overthrow deep in the Wesley 22, when they were seeking to get their dangerous rolling maul into operation again. Wesley lifted the siege and showed great character, under pressure, by carving out a bonus try scoring opportunity with replacement, Paddy McKenzie, crashing over in the corner and added the points to good effect (Wesley 24-14).
This 4th try finally and belatedly killed off the game and Wesley defended the last 3 minutes quite comfortably to register a vital “5 pointer“ win.
Wesley travel to 4th placed, City of Armagh, next Saturday for their final game before Christmas and will be hoping for an improved performance to deliver another victory against excellent opposition, to keep the momentum going.
OLD WESLEY TEAM – Conor Gaston, Thomas O’Callaghan, James O’Donovan, Eoin Deegan, David Poff, Ian Cassidy, Ben Murphy, Sam Kenny, Ben Burns, Rob O’Donovan, Paul Derham, Iain McGann (capt.), Will Fay, Josh Pim, Reuben Pim. Replacements – Dave Young, Jacob Barrett, Alastair Hoban, Alex Molloy, Paddy McKenzie, Charlie O’Regan.
OLD WESLEY SCORERS – Tries (4) McGann, Burns, Poff and McKenzie; Conversions (2) – Cassidy and McKenzie
Full Broadcast here on YouTube.