All Ireland League – City of Armagh 16 Old Wesley 19
A classic entertaining affair this wasn’t, nevertheless there was no shortage of spirit, determination or physicality, by both sides, in this hard-fought match. For the first 30 minutes there was nothing between the two sides as each tried to establish a foothold on the match. At the end of the period the score stood at 6 all; two penalties each from Ian Cassidy for Old Wesley and Kyle Faloon for Armagh.
The first serious opportunity of the match came to Wesley, when a penalty was kicked to touch resulting in a 5 metre line out. From the line out Wesley put together a series of good phases with a number of players threatening the opposition line. The next penalty was under the posts, and with the Wesley pack now looking by far the better outfit, they elected for a scrum. A penalty try looked imminent however the referee decided on just the penalty. Again electing for the scrum, this time the ball went wide where the home team defence was caught short allowing David Poff cross for the first try of the match. The conversion was missed from out wide.
Armagh’s woes continued when just short of half time, their wing forward Nigel Simpson was yellow carded. From the resulting penalty Cassidy kicked the points making it 14-6 at the half time break for Old Wesley.
After the break Wesley continued where they left off. From a line out 12 metres out they drove the now struggling Armagh pack. Another penalty and this time Wesley again opted for the scrum. This led to a number of well constructed phases and a try looked on the cards. But the attack ended with a forward pass. Somewhat against the run of play Armagh then had a purple patch finding their way back into the Wesley half. Then out of what appeared to be nothing, number 8 Neil Faloon found a gap off a ruck and sprinted 30 metres for his sides first try. The conversion made it 14-13.
Wesley needed to respond quickly, and this they did. Some good interplay by Paul Derham, Howard Noonan and others brought play to the opposition 5 metre line. Then from the breakdown the ball was swung wide to Tommy O’Callaghan who beat two would-be tacklers to score mid-way between the posts and the touchline. The conversion was missed meaning there was still just one score between the sides. Then with 14 minutes to go, Armagh reduced the gap to 3 points with another penalty goal. More worryingly their pack was now on the ascendancy having seemingly found their second wind.
Coming into the last 10 minutes of the game, both sides, including the spectators, threw everything at the match. Equally both sides continued to defend to the end. Wesley’s best chance came with a 12 metre line out, but the ensuing maul was held up. Then just when Armagh were starting to look threatening, but to the relief of Old Wesley, the referee blew for full time.
Old Wesley’s delight with the result was enhanced when they learnt that League leaders, Highfield, lost their match. So, at the mid-season break Old Wesley are lying in a strong second place in the league on equal points with Highfield and just marginally separated on points difference. There is now a 5 week gap before today’s two sides meet in their return fixture.
OLD WESLEY scorers: Tries: David Poff, Tommy O’Callaghan; Pens: Ian Cassidy (3)
OLD WESLEY team: Conor Gaston, Tommy O’Callaghan, Eoin Deegan, James O’Donovan, David Poff, Ian Cassidy, Charlie O’Regan, Sam Kenny, Ben Burns, Cronan Gleeson, JJ O’Dea, Iain McGann (capt), Will Fay, Josh Pim, Reuben Pim. Replacements: Howard Noonan, Jacob Barrett, Alastair Hoban, Paul Derham, Alex Molloy, Paddy McKenzie.