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Away Defeat Sends Galwegians Down

Away Defeat Sends Galwegians Down

After surviving a few close shaves in recent years, Galwegians finally suffered the ignominy of relegation from Ulster Bank League Division 1 on a dramatic final day of the campaign.

Galwegians will be playing in Division 2A next season after coming away empty handed from Ballymacarn Park, having needed just a losing bonus point to guarantee their survival in the 1B tier.

But victories for fellow strugglers Bruff and UCD, and crucially a bonus point win for the students, meant that those two sides escaped the dreaded drop, and 'Wegians' inability to take anything from their final fixture ultimately sealed their fate.

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In many ways this game epitomised the Galway club's entire season. After making a disastrous start, they showed great spirit to recover well and get themselves right back into contention, before faltering at the end and failing to realise their potential.

This lively encounter started in warm sunshine with Ballynahinch playing towards the clubhouse in the first half and they started with a bang.

In the second minute, the 'Hinch backs began an attack on halfway with James Thompson racing through a gap in midfield and sprinting clear down the left wing.

The 'Wegians cover eventually closed him down but he gave a lovely inside pass to fellow centre Ian Whitten in support and he sprinted in to dot down behind the posts. Harry McAleese added the extras for a 7-0 lead.

The visitors looked rather shell-shocked and three minutes later they were standing under their posts for a second time.

Young Aaron Cairns at scrum half made the break this time, racing clear on halfway and he then provided quick ruck ball for Aaron Ferris to make further ground. The winger provided the final pass for lock James Simpson to stretch his legs and fend off a couple of tackles on the way to the whitewash.

McAleese converted again and the County Down outfit added a third try on the quarter hour mark, following some sustained build-up play from their pack.

The visitors defended with great determination but eventually the ball was moved left where loosehead prop Fergal Lynch ran a neat angle to blast through the defencive line and dive in behind the posts. McAleese converted to take his side 21-0 clear.

Now three converted tries down, it was vital for Galwegians to respond and after 20 minutes they managed to get into the 'Hinch half for the first time.

They kicked a penalty into the corner to set up a catch and drive and after a couple of phases, young back rower Eoin McKeon managed to force his way over to score. Out-half Tadhg Leader supplied the conversion.

Leader missed a penalty attempt in the 29th minute but he was on target four minutes later when 'Hinch failed to scrum straight, allowing the visitors to reach double figures at 21-10.

However, normal service was resumed on the stroke of half-time when Ballynahinch took a scrum against the head on the 'Wegians 22, the ball was fired to Ferris on the left wing and he crossed in the corner for an unconverted bonus point try.

With word coming through at this stage that other results were not going their way, Galwegians head coach Colm Rigney clearly had words for the Blues during the break.

26-10 behind, they came out fighting at the start of the second half, looking much more focused about the task at hand, and they got right back into the game when one of their players of the season, Brian Murphy, scored a second try.

Leader converted to reduce the gap to just nine points. Then as the game approached the hour mark, the Blues brought themselves into bonus point territory with a second successful penalty from Leader, reducing the deficit to just six points (26-20).

With their destiny now in their own hands. 'Wegians unfortunately conceded the initiative soon after when they coughed up a penalty which McAleese duly converted to restore the nine-point margin.

Try as they might, it just did not happen for Rigney's men as they were unable to build on their momentum in the final quarter.

The closest they came was near the end when Tadhg Leader attempted an ambitious penalty from halfway, only to slip in the wet ground and his effort fell short of the posts.

And when the final whistle sounded, Wegians' misery was confirmed when word filtered through of the other results which has consigned them to Division 2 rugby.

For 'Hinch, the victory marked a satisfying end to what has been an up and down season. It was also a fitting way for the club to bid farewell to the Ulster-capped Ian Whitten and Jerry Cronin who are both off to further their professional careers in England next season.

Referee: Eanna O'Dowd (IRFU)