AIL – Old Wesley 16 Malone 11
On a bright and breezy November afternoon in Energia Park, Donnybrook, Old Wesley scored their fifth consecutive victory in this year’s All Ireland League Div. 1B with a narrow and hard fought 16-11 win over visitors from Belfast, Malone, who belied their lowly league position with an excellent performance. This victory leaves Old Wesley level at the top of the table with Highfield; with the Cork club being marginally ahead on points differential. In truth, Old Wesley will be the first to admit to being a trifle lucky in eking out a narrow victory despite spending most of the second half in their own territory.
The first half started promisingly, with scrum half, Ian Cassidy, knocking over a good penalty after 4 minutes to open the scoring. Malone, with the benefit of the swirling wind, levelled immediately with a penalty by winger, Rory Campbell. Both sides were playing lively entertaining rugby and, after 8 minutes, following an excellent movement, Old Wesley’s no. 8, Reuben Pim showed brilliant hands in picking up a long pass off his boots to cross in the corner without losing any momentum. Cassidy, with an excellent kick, slotted the conversion (Old Wesley 10-3). On 12 minutes, Cassidy added another penalty to stretch the Wesley lead to a useful looking 13-3. Malone came back very strongly but, despite some attractive back line movements, they were unable to breach the stubborn Wesley defence, with a great “jackal” under the posts by JJ O’Dea and excellent defensive reads throughout by Eoin Deegan and Tommy O’Callaghan succeeding in thwarting the Belfast men.
On 28 minutes, Malone finally breached the Wesley defence with a well worked try, finished off by winger, Andy Bryans. Campbell failed to add the points (Old Wesley 13-8). Soon after, Cassidy, who had a crucial 100 per cent strike rate on the day, kicked another excellent penalty to stretch the lead to 16-8, and this, after 30 minutes, would prove to be the home side’s final score. On 34 minutes, Wesley were penalised at a ruck in front of the posts and, critically as the match unfolded, the kick was pushed to the right by Campbell. Malone piled on the pressure up to half time and only excellent defensive work from Wesley, in particular Will Fay and Alastair Hoban, kept the homesters’ line intact, leaving the half time score 16-8 to Wesley. One particular highlight from the first half was the handling skills displayed by Hoban in retrieving a long line out throw to the tail.
In the second period, Malone were virtually camped in Wesley territory for most of the half, with the home side having difficulty in getting their hands on the ball for any length of time. However, the wall of defence displayed by Wesley in adversity was very impressive in snuffing out all Malone’s attempts to score. A certain naivety and lack of composure displayed by Malone was definitely a contributing factor also in keeping the second half scoreless until the 77th minute, when Campbell finally made it a “one score” with a penalty, with 3 minutes remaining. From the kick off, Wesley had a great chance to kill off the game from a line out inside the Malone half, but this opportunity was eschewed, enabling Malone to launch very dangerous all-out attacks on the Wesley line, causing an increasingly desperate Wesley defence to concede 2 yellow cards (Reuben Pim and Howard Noonan). A 13 man Wesley packed down for the final scrum on their line in added time, with an increasingly worried home support looking on in trepidation. Thankfully, the excellent defence held out one more time by shadowing Malone out to the sanctuary of the touch line to finally clinch victory in another nerve-wracking finish.
The final scoreline of Old Wesley 16 Malone 11 delivered 4 priceless points and, whilst the away top of the table fixture in two weeks’ time against Highfield will be a difficult test, this Wesley team is developing a positive habit of delivering tight victories in difficult situations and, hopefully, this priceless asset will continue in Cork on 20th November.
Old Wesley scorers: Try: Reuben Pim. Con: Ian Cassidy. Pens: Ian Cassidy (3)
Old Wesley team: Conor Gaston, Tommy O’Callaghan, Eoin Deegan, James O’Donovan, Nathan Randles, Paddy McKenzie, Ian Cassidy, Harry Noonan, Ben Burns, Cronan Gleeson, JJ O’Dea, Iain McGann (capt), Will Fay, Alastair Hoban, Reuben Pim. Replacements: Howard Noonan, Sam Kenny, Paul Derham, David Poff, Charlie O’Regan, Josh Miller.
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