All Ireland League – Old Wesley 22 City of Armagh 17
Played in perfect weather and pitch conditions and with a scenic backdrop, Old Wesley kicked off its 2018-19 All Ireland League campaign with a very welcome win, away to City of Armagh.
Understandably for a team that was promoted two years on the trot, the home side took to the field fuelled with adrenalin, emotion and enthusiasm. Twice within the opening 10 minutes Armagh were nearly in for a try. First, a cross kick bounced favourably for them only for Rory Stynes to narrowly beat his opponent to the grounding. Soon after, Charlie O’Regan intercepted a pass less than 5 metres from the line when Armagh had a 3 on 2 overlap. Armagh dominated in both possession and territory for the first quarter however despite this domination they failed to get on the scoreboard. Indeed it was 20 minutes into the game before Wesley got a foothold in the opposition half. And this they did in style with a scything run by out half Tom Kiersey to bring play from inside his own half into the Armagh 22. Although a score did not ensue, the move ignited the Old Wesley options.
The Wesley back row of JJ O’Dea, Paul Derham and the experienced Stephen Boyle was starting to flex its muscles, with O’Dea in particular regularly leaving would be tacklers in his wake. Then after some sustained Wesley pressure, captain Paul Harte handed off a couple of tacklers before getting over for the first try of the match. Virtually from the kick off David Poff made a break in mid field. He passed to Tommy O’Callaghan who took play up to the 22; and it was Harte again who took the final pass to cross unopposed and touch down under the posts. Rory Stynes converted for a 12 nil lead. Wesley were now looking very confident and the dedicated group of travelling supporters were looking much happier.
Armagh started the second half as they did the first, but this time with a bit more accuracy. After 7 minutes they looked to be on the scoreboard with a powerful rolling maul, but Wesley did just enough to prevent the grounding. Soon after, their pack, now looking the stronger, bundled over allowing Gerard Treanor to score the home team’s first try. It was 17 minutes into the second half before the first penalty goal attempt by either side, when Stynes extended the Old Wesley lead to 15-5. But Armagh were on the scoreboard soon again when the Wesley defence was stretched out wide, for a try by Tim McNeice.
The next score was key for both sides. And it was Harte, who led by example throughout, that showed his elusive running skills again with a foray deep into the Armagh 22; and after a couple more passes Tom Kiersey stretched over to ground for a try. Stynes nailed the difficult conversion for a 22-10 Wesley lead. With both sides now in the hunt for a bonus point this game was certainly not over. Armagh upped their attacking threats, however the Wesley defence stood up to them. But their forwards showed their strength once again with a try by Andrew Smyth with just 2 minutes remaining. The conversion was successful making it a 5 point game. From the restart the Northerners attacked again, but when Wesley regained possession they were rightfully content to wind down the last half minute on the clock and kick to touch for fulltime.
After a poor opening to last season’s campaign this was a welcome start to this season’s, before we take on Old Belvedere next Saturday in our first home match of the season.
OLD WESLEY SCORERS – Paul Harte, 2 tries; Tom Kiersey, try; Rory Stynes, 2 cons, pen.
TEAM: Rory Stynes, Thomas O’Callaghan, Bill Corrigan, Paul Harte (Capt), Tom Kiersey, Charlie O’Regan, Harry Noonan, Andrew McCrann, James Burton, Donnchadh Phelan, Iain McGann, JJ O’Dea, Stephen Boyle, Paul Derham.
Replacements: Padraig Cullen, Sam Kenny, Josh Pim, Alan Gaughan, Josh Miller