Strauss on comeback trail

by Gazette Reporter

LEINSTER hooker Richardt Strauss continued his return from knee surgery by playing in Old Wesley’s 35-25 bonus point success at home to Galwegians last Saturday.
A sizeable crowd was in situ to witness his debut, getting some more game-time on the back of last week’s run-out with Leinster A in the British & Irish Cup. Strauss was involved early on, his clear-out at a ruck leading to a penalty stuck over by Barry McLaughlin, Division 1B’s top points scorer so far.
But this was certainly not a waltz for Wesley by any means as they found themselves trailing 25-11 at one stage before a crucial try from scrum half Ian Cassidy brought them right back into it.
Galwegians’ ten personnel changes from the last round included the return of Connacht Eagles centres Rory Parata and Mitch Lam and fit-again captain Brian Murphy, giving their back-line a serious boost.
Indeed, the visitors took a 25-18 lead into the break, Connacht Academy winger Ed O’Keeffe and senior-capped centre Parata setting them on their way with 10th and 15th minute tries out wide.
The defending Isaac Leota missed a potential intercept to leave an overlap for O’Keeffe’s score, and then Parata chased down his own grubber kick which wrong-footed McLaughlin.
A second three-pointer from McLaughlin, coming after Wegian skipper Murphy was sin-binned for a tip tackle, and Wesley’s goal-kicker was soon over the try-line after a good move from a Strauss lineout throw.
Wegians made it 17-11 thanks to Parata’s second try as the lively centre profited from an interception, and following Murphy’s return, the Connacht men went wide off a lineout to send winger Barry Lee through for their bonus point score.
A subsequent Conor Lowndes penalty was cancelled out by a timely try by Wesley scrum half Cassidy whose clever dummy and pace off the mark saw him touch down from a close-in ruck.
Wesley’s dominance of the scrum continued on the restart, and McLaughlin punished an off-the-ball tackle with three more points, reducing the arrears to just 25-21.
Galwegians were then forced to see out the game with 14 players after centre Murphy picked up his second yellow card for taking McLaughlin out after a kick. The resulting penalty was sent towards the corner and replacement David Henshaw peeled off the maul for a key seven-pointer.
Wesley were never really troubled after that, the Wegians defence doing well to hold up another couple of mauls before Kiwi centre Leota got that elusive intercept to run in the bonus point try. The result moves Morgan Lennon’s men up to third place, with Wegians sliding down to eighth.

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