Wesley muscle through to grind out a win
All Ireland League – Old Wesley 17 Nenagh Ormond 15
Saturday saw Old Wesley welcome the Ulster Bank League’s second stoutest defence to Donnybrook. Nenagh were second only to Highfield, having conceded an average of just 12.3 points per game in the league up until Saturday. Pregame it was the opinion of many in the stand and terrace that conditions would play a key factor in the game. It was a bitterly cold dry January day but with a strong wind blowing straight up the pitch from the Bective end that would reduce any aerial options for either team.
As Wesley took to the field for kick off a look of consternation passed across referee Mark Connolly’s face who felt that there was a clash of jerseys so Old Wesley captain Alan Large was instructed to take his troops back to the dressing room to don the less familiar red and blue strip of the clubs junior sides. After a 5 minute delay for the aforementioned wardrobe malfunction the game got underway and it was Nenagh who started the stronger. Playing into the wind they used their strong back row to pick and carry well around the fringes before unleashing their first center as a powerful strike runner. It was a very uncharacteristic start for Wesley who gave away 4 penalties in the first 5 minutes, however due to the strong wind they were outside of kicking range each time. Wesley struggled to get through the Nenagh defence in the opening quarter with most of the tackles being made behind the gain line. But on 10 minutes the game sprung into life when Darren Horan turned from defender into poacher with a great tackle and turn over. The ball was then quickly dispatched to Large who caught the defence flat footed, stepped inside and raced 50 yards up the pitch. With the approaching cover defence he was forced to grubber kick though. The resulting lineout was stolen by Nenagh but it was enough to lift the Wesley spirits and put a first bit of pressure on the visitor’s defence.
Throughout the game the home front row struggled to get on the same page as the referee but the same cannot be said of the line out. Every time a lineout was mauled the visiting pack struggled to cope with it. It was through the line out that came the first score of the half. After a great take by Josh Hinde on the 22 the ball was mauled up to the 5 meter line before it was collapsed. Two phases later from the base of a ruck Ian Cassidy dummied a pass and stepped inside the tackler to show a clean pair of heels and race the 10 yards through the defence to crash over the line under the posts. He duly converted his own try. But when Wes Deverell was shown a yellow card for carelessness at ruck time Nenagh saw this as a great chance to up the ante. They did just that from the resulting penalty lineout 10 yards out. They mauled and picked and went up to the Wesley line when eventually their potent Number 8 Viapula dived through the middle of the ruck and got the ball down for their opening try. It was now 7-5 with 10 minutes left in the half. The visitors bounced back into life and with 3 to go in the half a bad missed tackle in midfield off a Nenagh lineout saw them carve through the middle of the park. It took a Steven Harvey cover tackle to stop the attack 5 yards short. But two phases later the Nenagh number 18 Kevin O’Gorman managed to muscle his way over from two yards out. The conversion into the wind was missed. Half time was blown and the visitors lead 10-7.
Old Wesley started the second half the stronger and moved up to the Nenagh 22 almost straight away and the home side’s constant early pressure drew penalties. With the strong wind the corner was the only option available to Large but it proved fruitful. It was these visits to the corner that pushed the Tipperary team’s defence to breaking point and during this 5 minute spell they were shown 2 yellow cards for professional fouls at ruck and maul time. After the second card Wesley seized the upper hand. After a good 5 meter lineout maul Mark Rowley picked from the base of the ruck one yard out and with a superb leg drive forced his way over to get his side’s second try. The conversion was missed and the score was now 12-10 to Old Wesley. The lead was almost extended further when Ian Cassidy intercepted on his own 22 and raced clear. He fed Wes Deverell but a last gasp defensive tackle on the 22 forced a knock on. The Wesley pack kept their foot on the gas gaining hard yards and again drawing penalties. Rory Stynes continued to go to the corner. And it was through this came their 3rd try after a strong lineout and good hands by the backs. Ger Finucane took a hard line from a ruck and powered through from 7 yards out and it was his outstretched arm that got the ball over the line to give his side a much needed 7 point lead with 7 minutes left on the clock. The visitors keep hammering hard and with 3 minutes to go they created an overlap for John Healy to score a try in the corner. From the restart Wesley showed some of the moral fortitude that has gotten them to this stage of the season. They regained possession and played mistake free rugby as the clocked ticked down and the final whistle went.
This win leaves Old Wesley 9 points clear at the top of Division 2A. To see the full table click here
Team: Rory Stynes, Eoin Stynes, Steven Harvey, Ger Finucane, Wesley Dererell, Alan Large [capt], Ian Cassidy, Kenny Knaggs, David Rowley, Davy Henshaw, Iain McGann, Josh Hinde, Daren Horan, Stephen Boyle, Mark Rowley – Subs Josh Steinbach, Craig Telford, Michael Dunleavy, Richie Morrow, Alan Jeffares.
Old Wesley scorers: Ian Cassidy, try, con; Mark Rowley, try; Ger Finucane, try.