All Ireland League – Old Wesley 34 Old Belvedere 22
Wednesday night under lights saw hosts Old Wesley take on near neighbours Old Belvedere in a crucial rearranged Ulster Bank Division 1B league encounter. Old Wesley started the game 9th and second last in the table and Old Belvedere 5th and close on the heels of 4th place UCC, so both sides needed a win for contrasting reasons. In a highly entertaining game played in cold crisp conditions it was the hosts who emerged with a precious bonus point victory, while denying the visitors any spoils. The result propelled Old Wesley into mid table and eased immediate worries of involvement in a dogfight at the bottom.
From the kick off, Old Wesley approached the match with intent and had the visitors under early pressure. This yielded dividends as early as the 4th minute when a half break by out half Josh Miller in mid field saw centre James O’Donovan released for a touch down under the posts. Maybury added the points.
Old Wesley continued to tear into the visitors and continued to supply the backline with a supply of quick ball from loose play. With Josh Miller controlling matters and regularly releasing the outside backs, the Donnybrook side continued to look dangerous going forward. Following the concession of a tenth minute penalty for off side under their posts, Old Wesley stretched their lead with a Jack Maybury try following a neat line break by full back Rory Stynes. Maybury again added the points.
With the line out generally working well, and with dominance in the set scrum, the hosts continued to apply pressure, and in the loose they also had the upper hand with outstanding performances from JJ O’Dea and Conor Barry in particular. Old Belvedere had a more conservative game plan opting to keep the game tighter and relying on their pack to make progress. A series of penalties conceded by Old Wesley allowed the visitors to gain good field positions from which they looked dangerous. Following several phases of play their speedy left winger Paul Maher made the most of poor tackling in the home defence to score a seven pointer under the posts. At 14-10 the home support were concerned that the lead did not reflect the run of play but their worries were eased with a remarkable try five minutes before the break. With Old Belvedere pummelling the home try line it was Old Wesley wing Paul Harte who somehow emerged with the ball and, spotting a gap on the short side, sprinted 60 metres along the touchline before releasing centre James O’Donovan to score under the posts. With the conversion added the Old Wesley lead extended to 21-10 … but not for long. With the home side unable to field the kick off, a problem which has persisted all season, the visitor’s flanker Pierce Dargan barged over following a 5 metre lineout and forward drive. The conversion narrowed the half time score to 21-17.
The second period commenced with Old Wesley again pressing following an early penalty and, following a 5 metre lineout, sprightly winger Paul Harte was forced into touch just short of the line. Displaying a fluency not evident in recent outings the home side continued to impress. The skip pass in midfield frequently released the back three into space and they were well supported by an industrious pack. A half break by centre David Poff led to the visitors conceding a penalty under their posts and Maybury obliged. He repeated the feat on 55 minutes extending the lead to ten points and creating a bit of breathing space. The visitors reacted immediately and, as the game entered the final quarter, they took advantage of poor discipline to gain a promising 5 metre lineout. Crucially this was plundered by Old Wesley through JJ O’Dea, leading to a breakaway which ended with Jack Maybury being held up short of the visitor’s line. A couple of minutes later another Old Belvedere onslaught close to the host’s line broke down and a sweeping Old Wesley break downfield was finished off by Paul Harte for a fourth and bonus point try, again converted by Maybury.
As the game approached its conclusion full back Rory Stynes brought off a great try saving tackle, before Old Belvedere scored a deserved consolation try through replacement Chris Carey. The full-time whistle sounded shortly after with Old Wesley celebrating a hard fought and welcome bonus point victory by 34-22.
With three games to go Old Wesley are not yet out of the woods but their prospects of an acceptable league table finish look a lot more promising following this result.
Old Wesley Team: Rory Stynes, Paul Harte, James O’Donovan, David Poff, Jack Maybury, Josh Miller, Cronan Gleeson, Craig Telford, James Burton, JJ O’Dea, Kieran Murphy, Conor Barry, Johnny O’Sullivan, Darren Horan (c). Replacements: Andrew McGrann, David Henshaw, Donnchadh Phelan, Thomas O’Callaghan, Craig Miller.
Old Wesley Scorers: Conor Barry (Try), Jack Maybury (Try, 4 cons, 2 pens), James O’Donovan (Try), Paul Harte (Try), Jack Maybury.