Old Wesley just lose out to top Ulster side Malone
All Ireland League – Old Wesley 17 Malone 21
Despite an early lead and a late surge Old Wesley lost out by just one score to top Ulster side Malone at Donnybrook in round 11 of the All Ireland League.
Old Wesley had the better of the early exchanges with some good carries keeping play in the opposition half. They also had the first scoring opportunity with a long range penalty attempt, but Rory Stynes was wide of the posts. Then on 7 minutes some good handling and a powerful run by Harry Noonan had play up to 10 metres form the Malone line. It ended with play going into touch and it looked like the opportunity was gone. However from the Malone line out a great steal by JJ O’Dea had Malone on the back foot again, and after some good forward play Darren Horan was stopped just short of the line. However Cronan Gleeson picked and did just enough to hit the line for the first try of the match. Stynes converted for a 7-0 lead.
Next it was Malone’s turn to apply pressure, however the Wesley defence held firm and after the visitors conceded a penalty the pressure was relieved. Then with 20 minutes on the clock Malone were inside the Wesley 22 where, for the first time in the match, they displayed their forward power. From a line out they mauled the Wesley pack with some ease over the goal line where the referee awarded a penalty try. Stynes kicked a relatively straightforward penalty to reclaim the lead, but a yellow card for Gleeson did not help their cause. Indeed soon after the visitors scored a second try, again using their line out and maul with great effect. This time Michael Shiels got the grounding. The conversion by Rory Campbell was good and for the first time in the match Malone held the lead; but not for long. Virtually from the restart Wesley brought play back into the Malone 22 where David Poff broke a tackle to charge in for a try under the posts. With the conversion Wesley were back in the lead 17-14.
Then once again, and shortly after the restart Wesley were on the attack with particularly good carries by James O’Donovan and JJ O’Dea. But it ended with a knock on. Now back to full strength a neat chip through by Poff and chase by Tommy O’Callaghan came close to another score when the defender failed to control in defence. O’Callaghan collected but now with a barrage of defenders on him he could not control the ball and play ended up in touch. Soon after Josh Pim looked like he might cross the line following some good maul play by Wesley, but a knock on inches from the line denied him the try. Just short of half time a speculative kick from half way bounced perfectly for the home side for a Malone line out 5 metres from their line. However they collected and escaped before the ref called half time.
9 minutes into the second half it was déjà vu, for the third time, as once again the Northerners used their line out and maul option to claim their third try, this time with Adam McBurney claiming the points. The conversion by Campbell put Malone back into a 4 point lead. And there the score stayed until full time. Malone continued to use their powerful pack, and regularly used the kick to touch option, hoping to capitalise in the line out. With 10 minutes remaining Malone looked like they might get on the score board again, with some good carries into the Wesley 22. However a turnover by O’Dea stopped them in their tracks. Indeed from the counterattack they made their way back up to the opposition 22, but it ended when they conceded a penalty.
Now approaching full time both sides were chasing a try; Malone for the bonus point and Old Wesley for the win. Malone conceded a penalty 25 metres out in front of the posts. In need of a try, and a penalty kick of no value, Wesley kicked to touch 7 metres from the opposition line. In a last play that saw Wesley bombard the opposition line, and that included 2 penalties and a yellow card against Malone, it looked like they might snatch victory. However Malone eventually regained possession and end the siege to claim victory.
This was a fine performance against Ulster’s top side, which on the day included Ulster capped and academy players. The Old Wesley back line definitely had the edge, but it was the bulkier Malone pack that won out on the day.
OLD WESLEY SCORERS – Cronan Gleeson, try; David Poff, try; Rory Stynes, penalty, 2 conversions
TEAM – Rory Stynes, Tommy O’Callaghan, James O’Donovan, David Poff, Paul Harte (captain), Tim Clifford, Charlie O’Regan, Harry Noonan., Ben Burns, Cronan Gleeson, Iain McGann, JJ O’Dea, Darren Horan, Josh Pim, Paul Derham.
REPLACEMENTS Andrew McCrann, Ciaran McHugh, Conor Barry, Alan Jeffares, Craig Miller.
Click here for photos by Ken Richardson