Wesley grind out opening AIL win

by Gazette Reporter

Old Wesley 13
Banbridge RFC 3

Old Wesley landed a winning start to their Energia All Ireland League campaign last Saturday with a hard-earned 13-3 home victory over Banbridge.

The prevailing weather conditions militated against flowing rugby as the greasy ball led to many handling errors on both sides. Nonetheless, Wes started well and put pressure on the Bann defence as they went through the phases but, inevitably, some broke down due to handling errors.

It led to a plethora of scrums with the home pack securing primary possession from scrums and line-outs with the young front row of Harry Noonan, Ben Burns and Stephen McGivern performed admirably.

Scoring opportunities were scarce but Wesley did capitalise on 22 minutes after some typically rampaging runs from Paul Derham and JJ O’Dea. A kickable penalty was earned which full back Rory Stynes duly slotted.

The lead was short-lived, however, as Banbridge full back, Adam Doherty, knocked over an equalising penalty after a Wesley infringement on the half hour.

And it remained that way into the break when Wesley eschewed a kickable penalty to go to the corner and were also penalised for offside when a chip through looked promising.

Stynes pushed a penalty narrowly wide early in the second half. Banbridge fought back and , on 49 minutes, it took an excellent tackle by Charlie O’Regan to prevent a try in the corner.

Wesley’s dominance and control up front, however, continued to sap the energy of the Banbridge defence in trying conditions. And, on 57 minutes, this pressure led to another penalty, which Stynes converted this time to give the home team a vital lead.

Wesley did see Tim Clifford receive a yellow card but the hosts lifted their game heroically to see out this tricky period with a vital scrum penalty and a great tackle by Burns were particular highlights.

And they finally put the game to bed with four minutes to go when, after apparently missing out on a try scoring opportunity, they regrouped on half way and Conor Barry gathered to accelerate impressively up the touch line to ground the ball. Stynes’ extras made it 13-3.

In the remaining minutes, the only option open to Banbridge was a losing bonus point but Doherty missed a very kickable penalty with the last kick.

It made for an encouraging start ahead of ties with Naas away next Saturday and St Mary’s at home on October 19.

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