All Ireland League – Old Wesley 16 Ballynahinch 27
After a bonus point victory last week at home against Ballymena, Old Wesley were unable to secure back to back home wins, when going down on a scoreline of 26-17 to visitors, Ballynahinch, last Saturday in grey drizzly conditions at Energia Park, Donnybrook.
The visitors started brightly and went slickly through the phases and the Wesley defence conceded a penalty on 3 minutes, which Ulster player, Peter Nelson duly stroked over with a left footed kick. Indeed, this was the precursor to Nelson having a significant influence over this game. Wesley hit back within 4 minutes, when after good play by Tom Kiersey and a beautiful offload from Paul Derham, Mark Rowley scored a typical try by sneaking through a small gap at the resultant ruck to score by the posts, for Rory Stynes to comfortably add the points – Old Wesley led 5-3.
Both sides attempted to move the ball on every occasion, and JJ O’Dea and Alan Jeffares were particularly prominent, with stand -in captain, Iain McGann also making some “hard yards”. Handling errors on both sides took their toll before, on 21 minutes, Nelson punished Wesley again, this time with a superbly struck penalty from half way, to reduce the Wesley lead to 7-6. Wesley struck back immediately and Stynes slotted a neat penalty to restore the 4 point margin.
On 26 minutes, Wesley were penalised for a high tackle 45 metres out and Nelson showed how penalties were going to be cruelly punished with another effortless strike – Wesley 10-9. On 34 minutes, Wesley centre, David Poff appeared to receive a harsh yellow card and, soon after, from a penalty, Nelson scored with his 4th consecutive kick to regain the lead for ” Hinch “. Yet again, Wesley struck from the kick off and good play forced a penalty which Stynes duly slotted to restore the lead in a very closely fought match – Wesley 13-12.
With everyone settling down for the half-time break, the Hinch kick off was gathered by Kiersey who, in the best move of the match, sliced through the Hinch first up defence before passing to Tommy O’Callaghan who continued the move right up to the Hinch 22. This ultimately led to a cross kick to the left wing, where Stynes was very unlucky not to capitalise, as he was adjudged to have had a slight knock on before grounding. A score here would have been crucial in such a tight game and Ballynahinch rode their luck by coming out in determined fashion and they enjoyed a territorial and possession advantage in the second half, with the Wesley backs unable to break down the excellent visitors’ defence. Stynes and Nelson exchanged penalties early in the second half, to leave Wesley still clinging to a 16-15 lead, but this was to prove Wesley’s last score of the match. Wesley kept their line intact, with one particularly good tackle by prop, Ciaran McHugh, before the concession of a scrum penalty on 56 minutes led to a rolling maul near the Wesley line, with substitute Ross Adair crashing over for an unconverted try – Hinch led 20-16.
Strong carries by Mark Rowley led to a Wesley penalty, which was, unfortunately, missed and, on 71 minutes, Hinch struck a killer blow when another substitute, Campbell Classon, scored a try, converted by Nelson, to stretch the lead to 27-16 and leaving Wesley chasing a try to get something from the contest.
Wesley threw the kitchen sink at Hinch in the final minutes but didn’t have the penetration to get through, with one rolling maul stopped by the defence. The final whistle blew with Hinch victorious and Wesley disappointed not to, at least, get a losing bonus point .
OLD WESLEY SCORERS – Rory Stynes – 3 penalties, 1 conversion; Mark Rowley- try
TEAM – Rory Stynes, Tommy O’Callaghan, Bill Corrigan, David Poff, Alan Jeffares, Tom Kiersey, Charlie O’Regan, Ciaran McHugh, Ben Burns, James Burton, Iain McGann (c), JJ O’Dea, Paul Derham, Josh Pim, Mark Rowley. REPLACEMENTS Andrew McCrann, Martin Gately, Darren Horan, Josh Miller, James O’Donovan