All Ireland League – Old Wesley 24 Ballynahinch 14
On a balmy day with no wind and in a truly picturesque setting Old Wesley took to the field knowing that a win would see them clear in fourth place and a step closer to a play-off spot.
Ballynahinch started the game on the attack but when the ball was turned over Mark Rowley broke down the blindside and passed the ball to Harte who made a fine break down the touchline before finally being brought down close to the opposition 22. From the ensuing ruck the ball was transferred to Tim Clifford who gave an excellent pass to Poff who in turn found Monahan out wide and he ran in unopposed to touch down for the first score of the game after just four minutes. The difficult conversion was missed to leave the score 5 nil. Shortly after the re-start Wesley again went on the attack and after making good ground, Wesley were awarded a penalty some 35yards out, which Clifford duly slotted to stretch Wesley’s lead to 8pts to nil after 8 minutes.
Then Ballynahinch started to put on the pressure and were awarded a penalty just inside their own half and found touch deep into the Wesley 22. From the lineout Ballynahinch continued to put on the pressure until Wesley managed to turn the ball over and David Poff made a fine break to bring play up to halfway. The ball was then taken on by Kenny Knaggs and following a number of rucks and good retention, which brought play into the Ballynahinch 22, the ball came to Knaggs out on the touchline and he took both the ball and the defending winger over the line to score. Clifford converted with a fine strike from the touchline to put Wesley into a 15 nil lead after just 18 minutes.
Wesley were in no mood to let up and continued to take control. Even when Ballynahinch did manage to get a foothold in the opposition half, Wesley managed to regain possession and relieve the danger. As Wesley again went on the attack and following excellent retention, the ball reached Poff who carved open the Ballynahinch defence to go over for a fine try. The conversion was missed to leave the score 20 pts to nil on the half hour. Ballynahinch gained possession from the restart and on this occasion they managed to protect the ball through a number of phases, which saw the ball transferred to the right wing and then back across the backline where full back Paddy Wright showed up outside the left wing, to create the extra man and go over in the corner for a well worked try. The same player then converted with an excellent kick to bring the score to 20pts to 7pts where it stayed until the interval.
Wesley began the second half where they left off and in the ninth minute they were on the attack in the opposition half. But the ball was turned over and the relieving kick was fielded by Rory Stynes who found the ever green Brian Hastings, who made good ground and when the ball was re-cycled, it again came to Hastings, who drew his man before passing to Harte, who had an excellent game throughout. Harte then took it on before being tackled by two defenders but managed an excellent off-load to Poff who sprinted some 30 meters to score another fine try, his second of the afternoon, which secured the bonus point and brought the score to 25-7. At this point the Wesley pack were in control with Knaggs having a good return both at scrum time and in the loose and Padraig Cullen, making his debut at this level, growing into the game as it went on. Josh Hinde, also making a return after a long lay-off, had a fine game. However, half way through the second period Hastings had to leave the field due to what transpired to be a broken nose. This necessitated a reshuffle of the backline with Adam Griggs coming on at scrum half and Kennedy reverting to out-half with Clifford moving to centre.
With just fifteen minutes left on the clock, Ballynahinch, as they did last year in Donnybrook began to open up. A fine break from their big centre Gordon Grattan saw Stynes make a last ditch tackle, but from the resultant ruck Ballynahinch were awarded a penalty which they elected to put in the corner. Ballynahinch won the lineout and brought play up to the Wesley line before knocking the ball on. At this stage Wesley had brought Matthew Bursey onto the wing for Monahan, Dave Rowley on for Maguire and Mark Robinson on for Hinde. With just 10 minutes remaining and Ballynahinch still on the attack the ball came to out-half McBreer, who made an excellent break to go in unopposed for a fine try which was converted again by Wright. Ballynahinch, continuing to look dangerous putting pressure on the Wesley defence but the defence stood firm and following a turnover by Harte, Clifford put in a relieving kick into the Ballynahinch half. Wesley won the lineout and again Harte was on hand to make ground. Ballynahinch kept on the pressure before Harte again gained possession and made good ground before giving the ball to Mark Rowley, who had another fine game in the Old Wesley colours, who then brought play close to the opposition line. Following a scrum Wesley were awarded a penalty in front of the posts which Clifford duly slotted to bring the score to 28-14 at which it remained until the final whistle.
This win tightens Wesley’s grip on fourth place, some 8 points ahead of UCC in 5th place with three matches remaining.
Old Wesley – Rory Stynes, Paul Harte, David Poff, Michael Hastings, Brendan Monahan, Tim Clifford, Adam Kennedy, Kenny Knaggs, Conor Maguire, Padraig Cullen, Michael Dunleavy, Iain McGann (capt) Josh Hinde, Stephen Boyle, Mark Rowley – Subs Adam Griggs, Craig Telford, Dave Rowley, Mark Robinson, Matthew Bursey.
Scorers – Tries: David Poff 2, Brendan Monahan, Kenny Knaggs; Con: Tim Clifford; Pens: Tim Clifford 2