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Home Win Sees Galwegians Open Up Seven-Point Lead

Home Win Sees Galwegians Open Up Seven-Point Lead

Galwegians have moved seven points clear at the top of Ulster Bank League Division 1B following an excellent 34-25 bonus point win at home to Malone.

Galwegians handed over top spot when losing to chief rivals Ballymena a fortnight ago, but since then they have strung together two victories whereas the Braidmen have faltered.

The Crowley Park crowd certainly got value for money as 'Wegians ran in six tries and Malone responded with three in a hugely entertaining round 7 encounter.

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Despite those six touchdowns, the hosts made hard work of overcoming their dogged opponents who threatened to spoil the party in a nip-and-tuck second half.

The 'Wegians backs, who were without the influential John Cleary and Brian Murphy, clicked into the gear in the eighth minute. A slick handling move saw Conor Lowndes and Jerome Harimate release young full-back Ciaran Gaffney for a try which Lowndes converted.

Malone had barely restarted when a brilliant burst of pace from right winger Colin Conroy, straight from his own half, took him clear for a quick-fire second touchdown.

The in-form visitors, who had risen to fourth in the table, hit back with a 12th minute try from prop Ross Kane who profited from a well-executed lineout maul.

'Wegians continued to dictate, though, and they should have stretched their lead when Conroy was called back for a forward pass and fellow winger Lowndes missed a penalty.

A Josh Pentland penalty brought Malone closer at 12-8, but the home side took control again in the lead up to half-time. Lowndes crossed the whitewash, out wide on the left, in the 29th minute after a Gaffney garryowen and neat offload from lock Marty Cummins.

Galwegians captain Ja Naughton then rumbled over from a lineout maul for the bonus point try and a 22-8 lead on the stroke of half-time, although Malone were much improved after Jacques Benade's team talk.

The Belfast outfit came out firing as promising winger Adam Liddell (pictured below) showed impressive finishing skills to run in two tries out wide in the 42nd and 48th minutes, rewarding his team-mates for some solid approach work. Centre Pentland increased his own contribution with two well-taken conversions.

Suddenly, it was all-square and as Malone continued to prosper from their increasing share of possession, their Ulster Under-20 out-half Josh Bingham nudged them ahead with a 54th minute drop goal.

However, Matt Brown's Galwegians side stunned Malone with two lightning quick tries around the 65-minute mark.

Lowndes completed his brace by scoring in the corner for 25-23, breaking onto Gaffney's chip through after an initial loose clearance kick from Malone number 8 Conor Joyce.

Shortly afterwards, replacement winger Matt Dever intercepted a chip from his opposite number, doing well to hold onto the ball and race clear for a cracking opportunist effort which Gaffney converted with aplomb.

As expected, Malone came with a late rally as they tried desperately to score another try, which could have given them two bonus points to take back home, but the disciplined 'Wegians defence defiantly kept them at bay.

Referee: Andy Brace (IRFU)