Wesley flourish to bonus win with four second half tries

by Stephen Findlater
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Old Wesley bounced back from their recent narrow defeat to Naas with a convincing bonus point victory over visitors Ballymena in Energia Park, Donnybrook on a final score line of 27-16.

The two clubs were honoured by the attendance of current President of the IRFU, and Ballymena club member, Ian McIlrath, and the immediate Past President of the IRFU, and Old Wesley member, Philip Orr.

Wes opened brightly and early pressure forced a penalty which Rory Stynes pushed to the right. Ballymena, with a slight wind advantage, got a foothold and they got themselves on the board when Tim Small landed a penalty on the quarter-hour.

Despite some strong carries from JJ O’Dea and Mark Rowley, a penalty infringement at the breakdown kept Ballymena in the lead.

But, in the 26th minute, there was a key moment when Ballymena full-back Roger McBurney received a harsh yellow card. The hosts capitalised ruthlessly on the numerical advantage when Rowley made an excellent break up the middle and showed wonderful vision in throwing a long pass to winger Tommy O’Callaghan.

He still had two men to beat before grounding in the corner for an excellent unconverted try and a 5-3 lead. Ballymena struck back with another penalty for a narrow 6-5 lead but had not made full use of the conditions.

Into the second half, Ballymena centre, Alan Smith, made a great break only for Wesley’s Tom Kiersey to make a vital try-saving tackle,

It did lead to a penalty and a 9-5 lead with Stynes countering with a three-pointer to cut the gap back to one.

Wesley were beginning to to open up and capitalising on their greater fitness. They stretched Ballymena across the back line and Alan Jeffares was just held up short of the line.

On 58 minutes, the incessant pressure finally told when Kiersey, showing his pace, cut through to ground near the posts. Stynes’ conversion made it 15-9.

A wonderful cameo from O’Dea, where he followed a ruck steal with a kick block-down, led to a great break for Jeffares, with Stynes finally dotting down beside the posts. He added the points himself to push the margin out to 22-9 and, with 13 minutes left, the vocal home support dared to dream of a bonus point.

They did not disappoint and it arrived quickly. Kiersey capitalised clinically on a large overlap by cross-kicking to the corner and it was fitting that O’Dea gathered to crash over in the corner for the vital fourth bonus point try.

The Ulster side crashed over via Connor Smyth from a rolling maul, with ace goal kicker Small adding the points but it was mere consolation as Wesley move up to seventh, one point behind a quartet of teams on 16 points.

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