Old Wesley reach promotion play-offs after Armagh win
All Ireland League – Old Wesley 31 City of Armagh 10
Played in breezy but sunny conditions Old Wesley finished their AIL campaign on a high with a 31-10 bonus point win over Armagh at Donnybrook.
Right from the off it was obvious that Old Wesley meant business. After picking up on an opposition knock-on they brought play down the wing and after a number of phases were over the line only to be held up. From the ensuing scrum Mark Rowley made one of his familiar breaks to cross and ground for what looked like a try. However the referee spotted a knock on and Armagh escaped. After 7 minutes and after the early dust had settled Rory Stynes got Wesley off the mark with a penalty goal from 25 metres out. Soon after David Poff made a fine break and chip ahead. Tommy O’Callaghan collected but was bundled into touch and it was becoming apparent that Armagh were not going to give in without a fight. The northerners eventually got a foothold in the Wesley 22 but after a kick ahead the Wesley defence used the stiff breeze to kick back downfield.
After getting back into opposition territory Wesley had a scrum deep in their 22 and showing their superior forward strength the Armagh scrum buckled, conceding a penalty try. Armagh then responded with a penalty goal to open their scoring account. As half time approached Wesley had a number of scoring opportunities however the Armagh defence stood firm and they finished out the half displaying good ball retention and patience. Wesley were dealt a blow when Ben Burns was shown a yellow card for not releasing. Armagh kicked down the line to earn a line out 7 metres from the Wesley line, but they failed to capitalise after Wesley turned over their possession. Half time soon came but now playing into a stiff breeze, it was really a question of whether a 10-3 lead was enough?
Wesley started the second half with similar gusto to the first half gaining ground into the Armagh 22. Armagh’s Josh McKinley received a yellow card for a dangerous tackle earning a Wesley line out 7 metres from the goal line. Now with the initiative Wesley opted for a scrum from the penalty. No score ensued but Armagh received a second yellow card, this time for a maul infringement by Stephen Morton. After a further couple of penalties Conor Barry decided this was enough scrums, taking a quick penalty to bulldoze over the line for a try near the posts. Stynes converted for a 17-3 lead.
Armagh did eventually gain territory, and with the wind advantage were applying pressure on the Wesley defence. They crossed the line but were unable to ground the ball and now it was Wesley who were forced to concede penalties. The pressure eventually told and Robbie Whitten crossed for a try for the visitors. Ryan Purvis converted, and now a 7 point game, it was vital for Old Wesley that they score next. And this they did. A neat chip by Charlie O’Regan led to an Armagh line out inside their 22. But they lost the line out and following some good carries and phases Cronan Gleeson used his strength to plough over for a try near the posts. Josh Miller converted with ease and the threat of an Armagh comeback was gone.
Wesley were now showing their greater ability with the back line causing problems for the visitors. Substitute Lachlan Anderson was regulary making strong carries, and one run down the left wing led to a third Armagh yellow card for Tim McNeice. And they were lucky not to receive another immediately after for taking a man out in the line out. Now brimming with confidence another Anderson break had the opposition defence stretched to its limits. And from recycled play Josh Miller made a break then passed to Conor Barry who ran in untouched for the bonus point try. Miller again converted and soon after it was game over.
On the day Wesley did what they knew they had to, but with other results going much as expected it was impossible to claim the automatic promotion spot. Instead Old Wesley finished a very creditable second in the table and will meet arch rivals Naas in the promotion play-off semi final in two weeks time.
OLD WESLEY SCORERS – Penalty try; Conor Barry, 2 tries; Cronan Gleeson, try; Rory Stynes, con, pen; Josh Miller, 2 cons.
TEAM – Rory Stynes, Tommy O’Callaghan, David Poff, Alan Gaughan, Paul Harte (captain), Josh Miller, Charlie O’Regan, Ciaran McHugh., Ben Burns, Cronan Gleeson, Iain McGann, JJ O’Dea, Paul Derham, Conor Barry, Mark Rowley. REPLACEMENTS – Andrew McCrann, Conor Maguire, Donnchadh Phelan, Lachlan Anderson, Alan Jeffares.