Ulster Bank All Ireland League – Old Wesley 24 – City of Derry 25
Old Wesley may have beaten the weather but came short by the narrowest of margins in beating City of Derry at Donnybrook. But this match, played in near perfect conditions, had more twists and turns than a Dan Browne novel.
The visitors looked the stronger side in the opening stages as they had a couple of early visits to the Wesley 22, however guilty of conceding penalties, they allowed Wesley take the first points with a Barry McLaughlin penalty goal after 5 minutes. Derry responded immediately and looked to be in for the game’s first try only to be stopped short by mobile lock Iain McGann. However from the next scrum they completed the job with a converted try to take a 7-3 lead. Approaching the 20 minute mark Wesley found themselves with a line out deep in the opposition 22, however the throw was crooked and the attack came to nothing. The northerners were now starting to flex their muscles thanks to a mobile back row and a speedy back line, however it was the hosts that scored the points thanks to two more McLaughlin penalties, the first from inside the 22 and the second, a beauty from the 10 meter line. Five minutes before half time Old Wesley again had a line out in the 22 and this time they made good when McGann got over in the corner. McLaughlin added the points with a sweetly struck conversion. Derry narrowed the gap with a penalty kick to leave the score at half time Old Wesley 16 – City of Derry 10.
Old Wesley had a dream start to the second half when again they had a line out in the opposition 22. This time Alan Large, in his first game back from injury, touched down in the corner. McLaughlin was short with the very difficult conversion. Both sides were now starting to increase the intensity and were playing open and attacking rugby. But it was the visitors who capitalized when they got in in the corner for an unconverted try. The home side responded well however when a fine break by Ian Cassidy very nearly led to a try. In desperation Derry conceded a penalty and McLaughlin kicked the points for a 24-15 lead. The Wesley pack were now starting to look the stronger due in no small part to some strategic substitutions as they introduced Ivan Campbell, Johnny Carroll and Davy Henshaw. But despite some sniping runs by Ian Cassidy Wesley were caught off guard in a Derry back line move that saw their mobile lock David Houston score a try in the corner. Out half Mark Robinson converted to leave the score at 24-22 to Old Wesley. The home side looked to have the visitors in serious difficulties when, with ten minutes to go, Derry conceded three penalties in succession and their try scorer Houston was dealt a yellow card. But some careless ball control allowed Derry to turn over possession and lift the siege. Then with 7 minutes remaining Wesley were guilty of a ruck infringement and Robinson kicked a penalty goal to take a one point lead. This spurred on the visitors and only for some desperate tackling they were nearly over again for a try. Indeed Derry had two further chances to extend the lead but were wide with both penalty kicks. Despite caution to the wind play by Wesley the score remained unchanged and it was the visitors who celebrated victory.
Old Wesley earned a loser’s bonus point and thanks to other results on the day remain in 9th place in the league. They will play their game in hand match against Rainey next Saturday just before the England v Ireland international.
Team: Alan Large (Capt),Barry McLaughlin, David Potterton, Kieran Hurrell, Wes Deverell, Rory Stynes, Ian Cassidy, Kenny Knaggs, Craig Telford, James Burton, Paul McCarroll, Iain McGann, Thomas Ratahi, Steven Boyle, Richie Morrow. Subs: Davy Henshaw, Oltian Dervishi, John Carroll, Ivan Campbell, Conor Lavelle
Old Wesley scorers: Iain McGann, try; Alan Large, try; Barry McLaughlin, 1 con 4 pens.