Leinster Conference A – Old Wesley 27 Lansdowne 29
Old Wesley’s second outing In the Leinster Conference was against former AIL 1A champions Lansdowne. Wesley struggled in the first half as the opposition crossed for 4 tries to none, but a valiant second half comeback came very close to seeing Wesley claim a big scalp for the second week in a row.
Played in breezy and overcast conditions on the Lansdowne Road side pitch, Wesley had an early scoring opportunity with a 5 metre line out after Lansdowne had conceded a penalty. But it came to nothing after Lansdowne were awarded a penalty allowing them to escape. From the first scrum of the day the powerful Lansdowne pack forced another penalty. Then after 6 minutes their scrum half James Kenny nipped through a narrow gap to run in for a try near the posts. Bizarrely they attempted a drop goal conversion which was missed; something that could have cost them dearly later in the match.
The next scrum went the other way with Wesley awarded the penalty. From the line out came a second penalty just inside the 22 in front of the posts, which Tom Kiersey had no difficulty in converting. 17 minutes into the game a scything run by Kiersey bought play 40 metres down the pitch. The hosts were penalised after the tackle and, this time from even closer, Kiersey kicked the points to give Old Wesley a 6-5 lead. But the lead did not last long. When the hosts earned a position inside the Wesley 22 their pack flexed their muscles for their second try. This time more care was taken with the conversion which went over from a more difficult angle.
Kiersey made it 3 out of 3 with another short range penalty kick. However whenever Lansdowne got within try scoring range they looked dangerous. On the half hour mark Dan Kenny finished off a forwards move and approaching half time they struck again with the bonus point try by Mark Flanagan. Both were converted and it looked like Wesley were heading for a hammering. The departure of prop Cronan Gleeson due to foot injury just on half time compounded their problems. However substitute prop Sam Illo went on to prove that despite his young years he is well capable of playing at this level. Half time 9-24
Lansdowne started the second half where they left off rampaging the Wesley defence. However Wesley held firm and after a turnover a huge kick by Charlie O’Regan brought play to the other end of the pitch. A Wesley penalty gave them a line out on the opposition 22. Good carries and a particularly powerful run by Illo got to within 5 metres of the line. From the recycle the ball wide to Alastair Hoban, himself a former Lansdowne player some years ago, who dotted down right in the corner. Now with renewed energy Wesley got back into the opposition 22. Much to the annoyance of the referee Lansdowne again conceded a penalty in front of the posts and indeed had to be spoken to by him. Kiersey kicked the points to narrow the score to 17-24.
On the hour mark Lansdowne again infringed and this time as well as the penalty there was a yellow card for former Old Wesley player Ed O’Keeffe. Wesley kicked for touch gaining a line out 7 metres out. After a number of big carries Eoin Deegan looked to be clear to the line but for an earlier knock on. 28 minutes, another penalty by Lansdowne and Wesley opted for the kick to touch. This time, and after numerous phases, the ball was swung wide and Michael Clune was able to cross out wide and ground for a try. The conversion, in breezy conditions, was missed but Wesley were within 2 points.
Lansdowne responded immediately and after being awarded a penalty the ball was kicked to touch for a line out 10 metres out. After winning clean possession they then mauled the ball all the way to the line for a try by Henry Godson. The conversion came back off the post leaving it a 7 point game. An intercept by Tommy O’Callaghan on the half way line looked like Wesley were over again but there was an earlier knock on.
With full time approaching a miss-hit clearance kick gave Wesley a line out on the Lansdowne 22. After another infringement Wesley were able to kick to within 5 metres of the line. The Wesley line out was performing well, particularly with the addition of new recruit Sam Pim, son of former club captain, Chris. A perfect take and powerful maul saw Ben Burns claim the honours for Wesley’s third try. The conversion, again in a tricky breeze, by Josh Miller went just wide and shortly after it was full time.
It could have been a draw, or even a win, but, a loser’s bonus point against one of the top sides in the competition is no mean achievement. Well done to all.
Old Wesley Scorers – Alastair Hoban, try; Michael Clune, try; Ben Burns, try; Tom Kiersey, 4 pens.
Team – Michael Clune, Thomas O’Callaghan, Eoin Deegan, Bill Corrigan, Nathan Randles, Tom Kiersey, Charlie O’Regan, Harry Noonan, Ben Burns, Cronan Gleeson, Donnchadh Phelan, Iain McGann (c), Alastair Hoban, Luke Thompson, Sam Pim. Subs – Sam Illo, Sam Kenny, Brian Short, Will Fay, Josh Miller, Josh Oakley.