All Ireland League – Malone 17 Old Wesley 17
Old Wesley travelled to Belfast in the hope of claiming a bonus point win against Malone, who were propping up the table. However the opposition had not read the script and the match ended up as a game of two halves.
Old Wesley had the better of the opening exchanges and indeed went on to dominate territory and possession for all of the first half. Wesley had Malone pinned in their own half for the entire first quarter. Indeed, much of that time was spent deep in the Malone 22. However despite this, after 20 minutes the score remained nil all. Wesley got over the line twice but on both occasions were held up, allowing the opposition to escape with a goal line drop out. To be fair the Malone defence was solid and they tackled everything that came their way.
Wesley eventually got the break after 22 minutes. Awarded a penalty under the posts they refused the goal kick attempt and instead opted for a scrum. The gamble paid off and after some good carries, scrum half Keith Kavanagh crossed to score under the posts. Ian Cassidy converted to take a 7-nil lead. Malone had their first scoring opportunity just before the half hour mark, indeed on only their first visit to the Wesley half. But the 40-metre penalty goal attempt was wide. Two minutes later Wesley were awarded a penalty from a similar distance and Cassidy struck the kick perfectly to extend the lead to 10 nil. Wesley were awarded another close-range penalty just before half time after a Malone player was shown a yellow card. This time they opted to kick for touch. Again they crossed the line but could not get the grounding, and the score remained 10 nil at half time
Despite being down a player, Malone started the second half a different side, aided by the slope of the pitch and a stiffening breeze. Wesley conceded an early penalty and Malone kicked for a 15-metre line out. They failed to score but had clearly laid down a marker. The Ulster side then received a second yellow card but despite being down to 13 players a quickly taken penalty led to their first try by Dave Shanahan, which he converted himself. Shortly after Shanahan kicked a penalty goal to level the sides.
Suddenly Malone were calling the shots and winning penalties, and on the hour mark Declan Moore crossed for another try. Shanahan again converted giving the home side a 7-point lead. Wesley responded and after being awarded a penalty kicked to find touch inside the opposition 22. They attacked well off the line out but once again the ball was held up and Malone escaped. With just five minutes remaining Wesley were awarded a penalty under the posts. With 3 points of no great benefit, they opted for a tap penalty, a brave gamble. There were strong carries by a number of players but the Malone defence looked to be in control. Just when it looked like the attack would come to nought Dom Maclean found a gap in the defence to crash over for a try. The conversion was easy but big pressure. Nonetheless Cassidy again did the needful to level the sides.
Malone responded immediately from the kick off and looked like they might cross for a late try however the Wesley defence held firm leaving the sides level at full time.
Old Wesley remains in 5th place in the league, but with just 5 matches remaining in the competition they urgently need a few wins if they are to challenge for a top four play-off spot.
Scorers: Keith Kavanagh, try; Dom Maclean, try; Ian Cassidy, 2cons, pen.
Team: Tommy O’Callaghan, Nathan Randles, Eoin Monahan, Eoin Deegan, Ian Cassidy, Keith Kavanagh, Harry Noonan, Howard Noonan, Cronan Gleeson, David Motyer, Iain McGann (capt), Sam Pim, Will Fay, Reuben Pim.
Replacements: Dom Maclean, Sam Kenny, Brian Short, Josh O’Hare, Niall Finn, David Poff.
Click here for photos by Ken Richardson
Click here for photos by Deryck Vincent