Old Wesley continue winning form with solid performance against Banbridge
All Ireland League – Old Wesley 22 Banbridge 0
Old Wesley continued their positive form with their 6th win from the last 7 AIL matches, this time with a solid and confident performance against Ulster visitors, Banbridge.
The opening quarter was fairly ordinary with both sides looking to find the measure of each other, and play taking place mainly between both 22s. Old Wesley had the first scoring opportunity after 3 minutes with a long range penalty kick from a few metres inside the Banbridge half. Rory Stynes struck the ball perfectly to take the first points of the match. Shortly after Banbridge had the opportunity to level the scores with a penalty from 30 metres out, but the kick was pushed wide. This was to be Banbridge’s one and only penalty goal attempt of the match.
Entering the 2nd quarter the Northerners started to gain a territorial edge starting with a blustering run from loose head prop, Michael Cromie. However despite the threat the Wesley defence held firm, and following a Banbridge knock on, they were able to relieve the pressure. The visitors then had a line out 5 metres from the Wesley line, but again a handling error let them down. Then it was Wesley’s turn when a penalty allowed them to kick and find a good touch inside the Banbridge 22. Following some good carries, a deft diagonal chip by Alan Gaughan was not collected by the opposition defence. The ball went loose then over the goal line and Paul Harte was on hand to pounce for the first try of the match. Stynes converted for a 10 nil lead at half time.
Old Wesley started the 2nd half where they left off taking play to the opposition and varying their game enough to create opportunities. Another neat chip through had the Banbridge defence at 6s and 7s. Gaughan collected and passed to Thomas O’Callaghan who fended off a couple of tacklers on the wing. A try looked on however the last defender did just enough to keep him out. Wesley had the line out but were unable to capitalise, eventually conceding a knock on, and then a penalty. Wesley continued to show the attacking initiative before an intercept allowed Banbridge to regain territory inside the Wesley 22. The visitors had a series of attacking scrums and a try looked ominous. However a brilliant turnover allowed Wesley to clear their lines.
Approaching the end of the 3rd quarter Wesley were starting to assert their superiority. A penalty led to a line out inside the Banbridge 22. Following some good carries and strong mauls they were up to the goal line and looked to be over for a try, only to be held up. But a poor scrum yielded a Banbridge penalty and the opportunity looked to be gone. But 3 minutes later a blocked down clearance kick had Banbridge again on the back foot. The ball got to Cronan Gleeson who ploughed over the line. The Wesley players celebrated but the referee called a knock on. It was frustrating but the signs were positive with the team now brimming with confidence.
Stynes had an opportunity to push out the score with a penalty attempt, but the kick went wide. Then a blistering run by O’Callaghan, followed by a strong carry by Ben Burns brought play again deep into opposition territory. From recycled play Wesley were looking rampant, and Conor Barry shrugged off a couple of tackle attempts to touch down beside the goal post. With the conversion it was 17 nil, and any chance of an opposition recovery was now gone.
Banbridge did have a late scoring opportunity with a penalty kick to touch, however the kick went dead and that was that. Wesley soon got back down the field again and when they were awarded a penalty, they confidently kicked down the line. The line out, which functioned well all afternoon, was won with ease and following some strong carries and mauls the pack drove over the line for Josh Pim to claim the touch-down. Now with the possibility of a 4 try bonus point Wesley conceded the tricky conversion in order to maximise available time. However there were no further scores and soon after the ref called full time.
The win consolidates Old Wesley’s lead at the top of Division 1B putting us 4 points clear of 2nd place Malone; and the magic word, Promotion, is becoming more and more of a reality. However the league continues to be very tight, with just 10 points separating 1st to 9th on the table.
OLD WESLEY SCORERS – Paul Harte, try; Conor Barry, try; Josh Pim, try; Rory Stynes, 2 cons, 1 penalty.
TEAM – Rory Stynes, Tommy O’Callaghan, David Poff, James O’Donovan, Paul Harte (captain), Alan Gaughan, Charlie O’Regan, Harry Noonan., Ben Burns, Cronan Gleeson, Iain McGann, JJ O’Dea, Darren Horan, Josh Pim, Paul Derham.
REPLACEMENTS Craig Telford, Ciaran McHugh, Conor Barry, Lachlan Anderson, Josh Miller.
Click here for photos by Ken Richardson