All Ireland League – Old Wesley 13 – City of Armagh 6
Played in showery conditions this wasn’t the prettiest of matches, but the defence displayed by both sides was second to none, keeping the scores low and tight.
Old Wesley had the better of the early stages showing that they were not daunted by the current table toppers. A tap penalty after 5 minutes led to an attack down the right wing with Tommy O’Callaghan and Sam Pim making good inroads. Wesley continued attacking and were rewarded for their dominance after 7 minutes with a penalty goal kicked by Ian Cassidy. A few minutes later Cassidy was on hand again with a perfectly weighted cross kick to O’Callaghan a metre in from touch. A neat offload to the supporting Howard Noonan who crossed unopposed for the first, and as it transpired, last try of the match. Cassidy converted for a 10-nil lead.
Armagh responded soon after the restart and had Wesley under huge pressure near their line. Wesley conceded a number of penalties and received two yellow cards; for Cassidy and Harry Noonan. A try looked imminent, but amazingly Wesley escaped after earning a scrum after holding up a maul. Indeed for the 9-minute period of being down to 13 players they did not concede a single point. The nearest the visitors got to scoring was from a line out which was stolen by Pim. Armagh eventually got on the scoreboard with a 35-metre penalty kick by Michael McDonald. McDonald had the chance to double his side’s score 5 minutes later with a 45-metre penalty attempt, but the kick was wide leaving the score 10-3 at half time.
Wesley started the second half with gusto. After 5 minutes they had a 5-metre line out but it came to naught when the opposition claimed one against the head. Wesley then had a series of penalties and big carries near the opposition goal line, and this time it was Armagh’s turn to receive 2 yellow cards. And, similar to the first half when Wesley were down to 13, Armagh did not concede a score during that period. Wesley did have a scoring opportunity with a scrum 5-metre out in front of the posts, but the referee called crooked feed into the scrum, a decision rarely seen in modern rugby, allowing Armagh to clear their lines.
Just before the hour mark Wesley extended their lead with another Cassidy penalty goal from 25-metres out. Minutes later, Armagh had Wesley under big pressure inside their 22, but again the Wesley defence held firm eventually forcing a knock on. With 10-minutes to go McDonald kicked a penalty goal to make it a 7-point game and a tense finish. Spurred on by the prospect of claiming a draw Armagh threw everything at Wesley for the remaining time. Wesley eventually reclaimed possession and with less than a minute remaining they wound down the clock before kicking to touch for full time
This was a valuable victory for Old Wesley allowing them to cling to their hopes of a play-off spot. To achieve this Wesley will need a minimum of 7 points from the remaining two matches, and rely on some other results being in our favour. This is a huge ask and we wish our team all the best next week against Buccaneers and two weeks later against Naas.
Scorers: Howard Noonan, try; Ian Cassidy, con, 2 pens.
Team: Alex Molloy, Nathan Randles, Eoin Deegan, James O’Donovan, Tommy O’Callaghan, Ian Cassidy, Gary Bradley, Harry Noonan, Howard Noonan, Cronan Gleeson, David Motyer, Iain McGann (capt), Will Fay, Dom McClean, Sam Pim.
Replacements: Finn Tierney, Sam Kenny, Josh O’Hare, Keith Kavanagh, Eoin Monahan, David Poff.