All Ireland League – Old Wesley 11 Old Belvedere 10
Played in rain from start to finish this match was always going to have a high error count, however to their credit, both sides competed with enthusiasm throughout.
Old Wesley looked to have had the better start gaining early ground and winning the first line out against the head, however it ended with a conceded penalty. But it was the home side who were first on the scoreboard after 8 minutes. From a line out 25 metres out the Belvo pack had their Wesley opponents on the back foot as they mauled and drove towards the goal line resulting in a try by hooker John McKee. It was 25 minutes in before Wesley had a strong foothold in opposition territory. A Belvedere knock on yielded a scrum 7 metres out. Wesley attacked strongly, the defence held firm but conceded a penalty just 20 metres out which Rory Stynes had no difficulty in converting. Virtually from the restart a deft kick by Tom Kiersey had play back well into the opposition half. From the line out Belvo conceded a penalty and once again Stynes had no difficulty in converting to give Wesley the lead for the first time in the match.
Old Belvedere then spent a spell camped in the Wesley 22 however the threat ended after a knock on. With half time now approaching it looked like Wesley would finish the half with a slight lead however they were dealt a huge blow when Belvedere flanker Jack Kelly intercepted a pass and sprinted nearly half the pitch to touch down for a try. The relatively straightforward conversion by Steve Crosby came back off the upright; a miss that the home team would later rue. Half time, Old Wesley 6 Old Belvedere 10.
Wesley had most of the scoring opportunities of the second half. The first came following a penalty and yellow card against Belvedere prop Roman Solanoa for a late tackle, however Stynes pushed the kick wide. Another penalty, this time for a high tackle, but once again no score emanated. A third penalty, this time out wide, and Wesley kicked to the corner. However they lost the line out allowing Belvo to escape. 15 minutes into the half Wesley had a 5 metre scrum. They attacked with some good carries, but again it came to nothing after a knock on. 5 minutes later Wesley stole a Belvo line out inside their 22. After some good hands and strong carries, Ben Burns looked to be over but the referee spotted a forward pass.
As the second half progressed Old Wesley were more and more looking the better side, but the scores were not coming. Was it going to be another match that we should have won but didn’t? Then a powerful carry by James O’Donovan suddenly had the opposition on the back foot, eventually bringing play into the Belvo 22 where they conceded a penalty. With 5 points needed for a win Wesley wisely kicked down the line for a line out 6 metres out. The gamble paid off and after a perfectly executed line out the Wesley pack ploughed over allowing Conor Barry to ground for a try and a 1 point lead. From the restart and now in injury time the home side threw everything at Wesley, but good defence kept them restricted mainly to their own half. Belvo had one last opportunity to claim the win with a long range penalty attempt, however the kick went wide resulting in a hard fought but deserved win for Old Wesley.
Old Wesley Team: Rory Stynes, Tommy O’Callaghan, David Poff, James O’Donovan, Ed O’Keeffe, Tom Kiersey, Charlie O’Regan, Conor Maguire, Ben Burns, Cronan Gleeson, Donnchadh Phelan, JJ O’Dea, Conor Barry, Stephen Boyle, Paul Derham (Capt). Replacements: Luke Thompson, James Burton, Ian Condell, Paddy McKenzie, Josh Miller.
Old Wesley scorers: Conor Barry, try; Rory Stynes, 2 pens.
Click here for photos by Ken Richardson