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Garryowen’s Wootton Whizzes In For Hat-Trick

Garryowen’s Wootton Whizzes In For Hat-Trick

Ireland Under-20 and Munster Academy winger Alex Wootton was the star of the show for Garryowen as his hat-trick of tries helped them to overcome Ballymena 32-24 at Dooradoyle.

Garryowen led 17-3 at the break and managed to hang on despite Ballymena scoring two late tries, one of which was a penalty try. The result also saw the sides swap places in the Division 1B table with the Light Blues now sitting in second place.

The return of brothers Barry and Ronan O'Mahony, along with ace finisher Alex Wootton, boosted Garryowen for this crunch clash with a highly-rated Ballymena side.

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The entertainment value was high as territorially dominant Garryowen shot out of the traps to establish a considerable lead, before the Braidmen hit their stride in the closing stages to almost earn a late losing bonus point.

Place-kickers Jamie Gavin and Tim Small exchanged early penalties and while Gavin missed his second attempt at goal, a splendid bit of work by flanker Barry O'Mahony, who got to an Andrew O'Byrne kick ahead of a hesitant Ballymena defence, earned him a try and a 10-3 lead for the hosts.

They increased their advantage when a delightful grubber kick by Ronan O'Mahony saw the speedy Wootton win the race to the touchdown and Gavin's conversion, which went over off an upright, widened the margin to 14 points.

The second half was only six minutes' old when Wootton crossed again, diving over after a scrum penalty had set up a dangerous lineout maul in the corner. Gavin converted and he dropped a goal in the 52nd minute to make it 27-3.

Winger James Beattie went close to scoring a try as Ballymena began to spark something of a comeback. That score duly arrived when their Ulster-capped captain Mike McComish made a break and linked with centre Martin Irwin whose strength took him over the line despite the presence of two defenders.

Small converted before Wootton ran in his third score of the afternoon with 17 minutes remaining. Surely, that was it done and dusted at 32-10? Ballymena had other ideas and made Conan Doyle's men sweat over the remainder.

The Braidmen, who face another Limerick club next week when they entertain Shannon, kept battling and a Garryowen yellow card gave them some impetus in the final quarter.

Number 8 McComish crashed over from a lineout drive. The try was converted by Small and the aforementioned 75th minute penalty try, awarded after the home front row stood up as they went backwards in a scrum, gave Andy Graham's charges a shot at a losing bonus point as Garryowen were guilty of becoming complacent.

Replacement Ritchie McMaster tagged on the conversion but with the last kick of the game, he narrowly missed a 40-metre penalty attempt and Ballymena's hopes of picking up a point were over.

Their head coach Graham was still pleased with their display, nonetheless. “There is nothing between our two sides, and if anything I thought we were the more creative, and a performance like that sets us up for the rest of the season,” he said.

Referee: Kieran Barry (IRFU)