All Ireland League -Old Wesley 57 Ballymena 7
Old Wesley travelled to Ballymena last Saturday and scored an emphatic victory on a scoreline of 57-7 to go top of the All Ireland League Division 1B, with 5 games still remaining. Supported by a large and loyal group of Wesley members, this was a sparkling 8 try performance culminating in Wesley now having won all five matches “ on the road “ against Ulster opposition this season.
Wesley, playing with the wind, started brightly and Rory Stynes kicked an early penalty and was unlucky to hit the post with a subsequent effort. Wesley then went to the corner on 2 occasions but their attempted rolling maul was thwarted and the Ballymena defence held out.
After 20 minutes, in their first foray into the Wesley half, Ballymena scored a well worked try against the run of play and added the points to lead 7-3. Wesley reacted to this setback very positively and, after strong pressure, the influential Paul Derham crashed over for an unconverted try to lead 8-7. Wesley continued to exert territorial dominance and this incessant pressure resulted in Ballymena committing a number of indiscretions, which led to 2 yellow cards in swift succession. Wesley ruthlessly exposed the gaps created by these yellow cards, by moving the ball wide to captain Paul Harte, who had an easy canter into the corner, despite having to adjust the ball following the pass. Stynes added a superb conversion from the touchline to close the first half scoring, with Wesley leading 15-7.
Wesley came out of the traps in convincing fashion at the start of the second half and resumed where they left off, gradually dismantling the Ballymena defence and, most impressively, being ruthless in their execution of the opportunities which were created. Ballymena, whose discipline was poor, were actually down to 12 men for a short period after receiving a further yellow card and lively hooker, Ben Burns, dotted down after a very well constructed maul, for the reliable Stynes to again add the points – 22-7 to Wesley. On 50 minutes Wesley struck again, this time with a superb breakaway try; after excellent running and handling by Tommy O’Callaghan and James O’Donovan, the supporting Charlie O’Regan crashed over under the posts, with Stynes converting – 29-7.
The floodgates opened and Wesley ran riot in the final quarter with a number of unanswered scores. Darren Horan crossed after good work by Derham ( 36-7). David Poff added another try under the posts (43-7). The curtain came down on a superb all-round performance with further tries by Wesley’s hooker and Josh Miller, with Stynes, embellishing a fine kicking performance in windy conditions, adding further conversions to bring his own personal tally to 17 points (7 conversions out of 8 and 1 penalty), and the final scoreline to 57-7 for Wesley.
If anything, the ease and margin of victory, whilst welcome, will not be a great preparation for the stiffer tests ahead over the coming weeks, with Banbridge next up at Energia Park, Donnybrook next Saturday. But the team are playing with great confidence at present and are well primed for a strong run-in to the season.