Ulster Bank All Ireland League – Old Wesley 31 – Banbridge 31
Old Wesley played their last home Ulster Bank All Ireland League match of the season in weather conditions that varied from fine and sunny to rain and hail. And like the weather the game changed course a number of times with both sides having opportunities to put the other to the sword.
Old Wesley were first off the mark with an 8th minute try by Ian Cassidy (see photo) after a great run by Barry McLaughlin nearly saw him cross himself. McLaughlin converted to take a 7 nil lead. However less than a minute elapsed before Banbridge evened the score with a try by John Porter, following a defence mix up by Old Wesley, which was converted by his brother Ian. A fine break by David Potterton from the half way line brought play to the opposition 22 before he passed to captain Alan Large who got Wesley back into the lead with a try, again converted by McLaughlin. However once again the home side were guilty of resting on their laurels as Andrew Morrison scored for the visitors following a speculative kick ahead. Porter again converted to make it 14 all. Then it was Banbridge’s turn to take the lead with a Peter Cromie try from a line out in the Wesley 22 which was again converted by Porter. Phew, 20 minutes gone and five tries on the board. McLaughlin kicked the first penalty goal of the game to make the score 21-17 to the visitors at half time.
With Kenny Knaggs now on in the front row the Wesley scrum was starting to flex its muscles and they forced a number of penalties. Two perfectly struck penalty goals by McLaughlin saw the Donnybrook side take the lead 23-21 but the Northerners responded with another Ian Porter penalty to regain the lead. A rare Rory Stynes knock on gave Banbridge an opportunity to extend their lead but the powerful Wesley scrum messed up the opportunity and lifted the siege. Entering the final quarter a perfectly struck long range McLaughlin penalty regained the lead for Old Wesley. But again the visitors responded scoring their fourth try from a line out in the Old Wesley 22. Porter again converted to make the score 31-26 to the visitors. Entering the final 10 minutes some sustained Old Wesley pressure brought play deep into the Banbridge 22 forcing them to concede a number of penalties and two yellow cards for technical infringements. In need of a try Wesley chose to kick for touch on three occasions, although with the visitors down two players a scrum may have been a better option. The pressure eventually told and Kenny Knaggs forced his way over for a try to draw the teams level. From the touchline and into the wind the conversion was a big ask and McLaughlin will be excused for missing the very difficult kick. Another few minutes and Wesley could well have scored again however they were out of time as the ref blew the final whistle.
This was an entertaining game with plenty of scores and two fine displays of place kicking, with Porter and McLaughlin missing just one attempt each. Old Wesley remain in 8th place in the table with one match remaining
Old Wesley:- Alan Large (Capt), Barry McLaughlin, Kieran Hurrell, David Potterton, Steven Harvey, Rory Stynes, Ian Cassidy, Oltian Dervishi, Andrew McCrann, Kevin Becker, Iain McGann, Paul McCarroll, Darren Horan, Thomas Ratahi, Steven Boyle. Replacements: Craig Telford, Kenny Knaggs, Richie Morrow, Josh Hinde, Conor Lavelle
Old Wesley scorers:- Ian Cassidy, try; Alan Large, try; Kenny Knaggs, try; Barry McLaughlin, 2 cons, 4 pens.