Old Wesley v Shannon
It wasn't to be on the return fixture!
Our Firsts travelled to Dublin to take on Old Wesley in Donnybrook at a later kick off time of 5.30pm. It was a change from the norm for our firsts as the match took place on the 4g pitch, and as we have come to expect the conditions weren’t favorable with an ice cold wind swirling around. Shannon kicked off the match with Ronan McKenna putting himself under the ball. After an early penalty against Shannon, James Vaughan wasn’t long setting the pace in the game and getting us a turnover. We kicked to touch and won our first lineout, in which we utilized our strong maul. Were unlucky not to get touch from a kick and the Old Wesley winger was quick off the mark as he gathered and made a good break down the wing. He was tackled just short of the line but the support was fast and they spread the ball wide, switching direction when we weren’t expecting. They had the overlap, and a draw-and-pass saw Old Wesley put points on the board with a try in the corner. This went unconverted and left the score 5-0 after five minutes. One minute later and Shane Airey was lining up for a penalty due to Old Wesley crossing, he got this and the score read 5-3. Free play followed this, with Old Wesley in possession, they were given the chance to kick a penalty but missed.
After the penalty we held onto possession, kept the ball tight and in the forwards. We made the hard yards and were awarded a penalty for Old Wesley holding on, this was kicked to half way and Shannon kept possession in the lineout spreading the ball out to the backs. Shane kicked this with Old Wesley gathering and returning the kick which went out on the full. We took a quick lineout with Niall Horan taking the ball on and crashing up the pitch. We were attacking around the corner and Dave Evans was quick in his decision to switch direction, finding Ronan McKenna who timed a chip perfectly for David O’Donovan to run onto and score a try in the corner. The conversion was missed and left the score 8-5 to Shannon after 13 minutes.
What followed was a fairly evenly matched battle with each team spreading the ball wide and taking a cut off each other. Will Leonard was in his usual form and put in some solid hits. We were strong in the lineout and split the ball evenly between mauling and spreading it out to the backs. Lee Nicholas was a danger from the back of the scrum picking and going and making yards each time. A dropped ball in our line-out saw Old Wesley on the gallop and not to be outdone by his first center partner Robbie Deegan stepped up and put in a great hit, forcing he knock on in contact. We got a free from the resulting scrum and after a tip and go Robbie kicked us down the pitch. A few knock-ons here hindered our attack, but again we were evenly matched in the scrum with neither team giving up much.
Missed touch at 37 minutes saw Old Wesley in possession and attacking from deep bringing the ball into contact. A chip from the out-half saw Old Wesley attacking Shannon’s line and to credit our defense each player was alert and marking his man to ensure they didn’t break through our defense. A ruck just short of our line saw Old Wesley pick and go, but the ball carrier found himself behind his own player and so offside . The last minute of the first half saw a Shannon scrum on our own line. Lee picked and went here and found Shane who kicked to just inside our half way line. Old Wesley threw the ball crooked in the following lineout and we opted for the lineout again. Sean McCarthy took the ball in the air and passed to Shane who kicked the ball out to end the half.
Old Wesley kicked off the second half and Shannon were in possession. Two penalties in a row to Old Wesley saw them attacking through their backs, they kicked the ball here and Ronan Mckenna gathered and returned, chasing to make a good cover tackle. Old Wesley kicked the ball again, which was returned by Shannon. We turned over the ball here and Frank Bradshaw-Ryan took the ball up; passing to a waiting Ollie Lyons who made a fantastic break dancing around 5 players to offload to Robbie Deegan who shipped the ball onto Richard Mullane who scored in the corner. The conversion was missed and the score read 13-5 after 44 minutes. Two minutes later Old Wesley were in possession form the kick off and moved the ball up the pitch. They set up a maul and pushed over the line for a soft try. They converted this and the score read 13-12 to Shannon.
We kicked off here and followed up with a good solid hit. They kicked and we recovered, with Shane Mullally getting the ball and making a good break, unfortunately he was isolated and ended up being tackled into touch. Old Wesley took the lineout and spread it to the backs who kicked. We didn’t gather this and Old Wesley remained in possession. The ref then called this back for a penalty against Shannon for a high tackle. This was within the out half’s range and he slotted it over with Old Wesley taking the lead, leaving the score 15-13 after 50 minutes. The next ten minutes saw a missed penalty apiece, Shannon’s first for an Old Wesley offside infringement and Old Wesley next for Shannon in from the side. There were some good sparks with quick penalties taken and long kicks to touch getting us line out possession and clean backs ball off the top; but perhaps a lapse in concentration or the cold weather got the better of us and we paid for knock-ons and missed touch at times.
We saw a yellow card on the 75th minute for a dangerous tackle, and Old Wesley capitalized on this by running in a try minutes later. They shipped the ball out wide and went in for a converted try which left the score 20-13 at 77 minutes. What followed for the next 5 minutes was a heart stopping performance from Shannon. Dave Evans got a good break and made yards down the pitch with his back line in support. The backs shipped the ball wide quickly, drawing and passing as they needed to. Old Wesley found themselves in possession and high pressure from Shannon meant they kicked the ball into touch on their own five meter line. We took the lineout here and got it to the backs again. We won a penalty at the breakdown and with no time to kick for touch Ollie Lyons took the ball on and made yards. Old Wesley were shown a yellow card then, another quick penalty saw Sean McCarthy take on the ball and pass to Shane Airey who scored in the dying seconds of injury time. Unfortunately this wasn’t converted and the final score read 20-18 to Old Wesley. Alas, it wasn’t to be this weekend but the lads put on a great display and didn’t stop until literally the last second of the match. We were unlucky not to come away with the draw but it is all still to play for, and I’m sure the firsts will be already looking ahead to the Bohs match in anticipation.
Photo from Dermot Lynch