All Ireland League – Old Wesley 34 UCC 12
Henry Miller famously once wrote “God knows, when spring comes to Paris the humble mortal alive must feel that he dwells in paradise….it’s the intimacy with which his eye rests upon the scene.” It’s quite clear from this that Henry never visited Donnybrook in mid February on a cold crisp beautifully sunny day. With 6 Nations atmosphere buzzing around the village Old Wesley welcomed a young fit student outfit from UCC who were coming to play rugby through their energetic brand of high tempo offloading play.
11 league places and 24 points separated both teams but you would have believed it to be the reverse for the first 10 minutes of the game with the visitors hammering the Wesley 22 with the home side having to look to the comfort of touch for respite. Wesley gradually starting working their way back into the game through some excellent territorial counter kicking by full back Rory Stynes and good pressure by the supporting players. Wesley turning to their line out to activate their attack. This has been such a successful part of their game this season but the students defended each effort masterfully. The game sprung into life on 20 minutes when from a retreating scrum the UCC number 8 was forced to pick and then a box kick was blocked down by Iain McGann. The ball then hit the referee, ricocheted into the waiting arms of David Rowley who barrelled over the defending 9 to touch down. However the referee disallowed the score as the ball came off him.
The opening score of the game came after 25 minutes following a ruck infringement by the visitors. In addition ion, referee O’Connor issued the first of 5 yellow cards to the UCC second row, Kieran Frost. The kick just to the left of the posts was easily converted by Ian Cassidy. The home crowd did not have too long for the next score. From the kick off Kenny Knaggs secured position to set up a clean ruck; seeing the stand side wing was unguarded Cassidy put in a clever box kick. The students misfielded and the ball bounced loose into the waiting arms of JC Greyling just inside his own half. Greyling showed great pace and powered his way up the tramlines, outsprinting the cover to touch down in the corner. Cassidy converted from the touchline and all of a sudden the home side that struggled in the opening passage of the game were 10-0 up. 5 minutes later the home side were on the score sheet again. This time it was from a scrum outside the students 22. Mark Rowley broke from the base with Cassidy going wide to draw the defence. He dummied the pass and galloped through the gap before slipping a pass back inside to supporting back row Darren Horan who sprinted 15 yards to the line for try number 2. Cassidy converted again to make it 17-0.
From the kick off Alan Large relieved pressure by kicking deep into the students half but UCC then kicked it up a gear showing they were not here just to make up the numbers. Through some spectacular play involving 15 phases with multiple offloads they moved the ball up to the Old Wesley 5 meter line. Eoin Stynes put in a fine cover tackle but was deemed to have not released the player in the tackle and was shown yellow for his efforts. The Corkmen opted for the corner. The gamble and their confidence paid off handsomely as they won clean line out ball resulting in their scum half Charlie O’Regan crashing over for their opening try. The conversion was missed leaving the half time score 17-5 to the home side.
Shortly after the restart Wesley got their first points of the half from a Cassidy penalty kick after the UCC number 10 infringed in the ruck, also earning himself a yellow card. Sensing a weakness the home side upped the ante with a string of carries from Knaggs and Mark Rowley whilst Large unlocked his centres for some piercing runs through the defence. But credit to the students as, down to 14 men, they managed to repel the league leader’s attack and counter it to put Wesley themselves in some uncomfortable positions. The game as a contest appeared to be over on the hour mark when a good tackle from Steven Harvey forced a knock on at the feet of substitute Richie Morrow. He collected the loose ball and offloaded to Greyling who could hardly believe his luck with a clear run in from the students 22 for an easy try. Cassidy converted and, leading 27-5, Old Wesley were now cruising.
But the students thought different and again dug deep to trouble the home side. In what was almost an exact repeat of their first try UCC were on the attack again. This time from a scrum on their own 5 meter line they moved wide and found a small gap. 10 phases and multiple offloads later the open side Dean Nolan charged over for the students’ second try. The successful conversion made it 27-12. Not home and dry yet Cassidy was shown a yellow card for overzealous use of the boot at ruck time. Wesley spent 5 minutes masterfully defending their own line from wave after wave of attack from the students. Eventually when they did get out of their own 22 the home side showed real professionalism moving the ball from ruck to ruck all the time eating up the sin bin clock. The icing on the cake for the hosts came in the last play, 3 minutes into injury time, when a Wesley scrum on their own 22 saw Large take a gap and weave his way to the UCC 22 with a great run. With UCC desperately defending and conceding countless penalties in their own 22 Iain McGann eventually took a quick tap. From the ensuing ruck Large showed quick hands to put Horan away for his second try and more importantly his side’s 4th and bonus point try. Cassidy again converted to leave the full time score 34-12 to the home side. The win sees Wesley stay top of Division 2A, a massive 14 points clear but having played one more game than the chasing pack.
Old Wesley face a short but mammoth away trip to 5th place NUIM Barnhall next Saturday. It will be a busy week preparing and recovering for Lennon’s charges as they face into what could be a season defining game.
Team: Rory Stynes, Eoin Stynes, Steven Harvey, Johann Greyling, Richie Jermyn, Alan Large (capt), Ian Cassidy, Ken Knaggs, David Rowley, Oltian Dervishi, Michael Dunleavy, Iain McGann, Darren Horan, Stephen Boyle, Mark Rowley. Subs: Craig Telford, Jurgen Steinbach, Richie Morrow, Josh Hinde, Alan Jeffares.
Old Wesley scorers: Johann Greyling, 2 tries; Darren Horan, 2 tries; Ian Cassidy, 4 cons, 2 pens.
You can view the all Ulster Bank League table here