Galwegians bounced back from losing their unbeaten record to Ballymena as they got the better of city rivals Corinthians, winning 18-10 in damp conditions at Corinthian Park on Friday.
Last week Galwegians lost for the first time under new coach Matt Brown in a last-gasp defeat to Ballymena, whereas Corinthians put their stuttering start to their season behind them with a confidence-boosting win away to Buccaneers.
That confidence seemed to imbue the hosts from the off, as they took the game immediately to the Glenina outfit. Backed by the aid of a strong breeze blowing down towards the Tuam end, they took an early 3-0 lead via a Conor Murphy penalty.
However, there were ominous signs for Corinthians as the visitors put the squeeze on at the first scrum, resulting in referee Dave Connolly penalising the home pack.
In an error-strewn opening, scoring chances were limited. Galwegians were clearly dominating the set piece, where their captain Ja Naughton, returning from injury after a month-long absence, proved instrumental with his presence.
Despite playing against the wind, Galwegians were dominating possession, however some mishandling and poor line-kicking was costing them territory.
Entering the second quarter, a loose pass was intercepted near his own 22 by Corinthians lock Ultan Dillane who burst clear to set up a counter attack. Although the initial move was repelled, the damage was done and soon afterwards centre David Panter ignored a two-man overlap to scythe through the cover and score a well-taken try midway out the left hand side. Murphy converted for a 10-0 scoreline.
This was a real sucker-punch for 'Wegians, but to their credit they regrouped and continued to dominate the remainder of the first half. Their scrum and dominant pack continued to yield penalties, leading to the the sin-binning of Corinthians flanker Marc Kelly before half-time.
Galwegians out-half Dave Clarke was replaced by Ross Shaughnessy, marking his first appearance since starring in the Connacht Senior League win at the same venue last August. However, Shaughnessy missed two difficult penalty efforts to leave the margin 10-0 at the break.
'Wegians wasted no time in taking advantage of the elements after the restart. They went immediately on the offensive, and on 45 minutes they finished off a sustained period of pressure when a break down the short side saw scrum half Barry Lee feed full-back John Cleary, and a quite magnificent offload in the tackle fed winger Colin Conroy who dived over in the corner.
Shaughnessy was wide with the difficult conversion, but two minutes later he landed a penalty to reduce the gap to 10-8.
Although the Corinthians scrum improved immeasurably, they seemed powerless to prevent 'Wegians dominating territory, where Lee was putting in some excellent box kicks to keep the hosts pinned deep in their territory.
Corinthians continued to cough up penalties and referee Connolly binned two players – full-back Darin Claasen (pictured above) and prop Jamie Dever – in the second half. The pressure had to tell, and Shaughnessy struck an excellent second penalty from the right just after the hour mark to finally put the Blues in front.
It was no surprise when they crossed for the killer score on 69 minutes. Following another concerted period of pressure on the hosts' line, centre Brian Murphy burst through the midfield defence, evading three tackles to ground the ball at the posts. Shaughnessy converted for an eight-point cushion.
All Corintihans could muster in response was one late attack from deep which took play into Galwegians' 22, but when their scrum was turned over by the Blues, their chance was gone.
The round 6 success put Galwegians back at the summit of Division 1B, where they remain following Ballymena's defeat at home to Malone the following day.
Referee: David Connolly (IRFU)