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Lowndes Kick Proves Decisive For Galwegians

Lowndes Kick Proves Decisive For Galwegians

Galwegians won a tense encounter away to UL Bohemians on the Thomond Park back pitch. They did it the hard way, showing great character and no little discipline to overturn a first half deficit against a dogged and determined home side.

Both teams came into this game on the back of some poor results, with Galwegians suffering back-to-back defeats either side of the Christmas break to see their lead at the summit of Division 1B whittled down to a single point.

Playing with the aid of a stiff first half breeze, 'Wegians started with intent and took an early lead with a third minute penalty from full-back John Cleary. However, instead of settling them down, the Blues seemed to be continuing their recent disappointing form with a ragged display littered by basic errors.

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This lifted UL Bohs who immediately took the game to their opponents, opting for an effective running game playing into the elements. Inspired by full-back Mossy Lawler and scrum half Craig Miller, they were soon causing problems for 'Wegians who were missing too many first-up tackles for comfort.

Having spurned two gilt-edged try-scoring opportunities, it was no surprise when Bohs took the lead on 17 minutes with the first try of the game. Following a period of sustained pressure, their outstanding number 8 Jack O'Donoghue (pictured below) burst clear from a maul on the 22 to power his way over the line. Out-half Shane Airey struck a good conversion for a 7-3 lead.

'Wegians were using the breeze effectively to secure territory and they had some good chances to put points on the board, only to be very wasteful from set pieces.

This lifted the spirits of the home side who worked their way out of trouble, and on the half hour mark they went further in front with a second try.

Again it was that man O'Donoghue who picked and went from a ruck on his own 10-metre line and charged through the middle unopposed. Although he was hauled down just short of the line, the damage was done and winger Darren Moroney was on hand to scamper over the line.

Although Airey was wide with the conversion, this gave the hosts a commanding 12-3 lead despite playing against the elements. 'Wegians needed an immediate response, and this is exactly what transpired.

Winger Matt Dever, who was a very late call-up, reclaimed the restart, and then some swift hands and a superb line taken by Cleary saw him send winger Jerome Harimate clear to touch down near the right for a magnificent try.

Cleary then landed an excellent conversion to reduce the margin to 12-10 and hand the Blues a lifeline. The visitors still had opportunities to take advantage of the elements and claim a first half advantage, but were unable to add to their tally.

After surviving an early second half scare when Bohs almost scored straight from the restart, 'Wegians soon settled down and gained a stranglehold up front. They were also quite fortunate that the wind died down considerably, negating any serious advantage for Bohs.

The visitors had chances to take the lead but Cleary and young out-half Aidan Moynihan were off target with penalty attempts. Nonetheless, the pressure being exerted by the forwards was taking its toll, and referee Stuart Gaffikin eventually lost patience with the hosts, reaching for his pocket to bin O'Donoghue.

It was one of the game's key moments, as the Blues kicked for the corner and their boldness paid off. In the 57th minute they rounded off a quite superb passage of play, when tighthead prop Doron McHugh burrowed his way over after 13 phases. Although unconverted, crucially this gave the Blues a three-point buffer.

UL responded well though as the pendulum swung back momentarily in their favour, and within ten minutes they were on level terms when replacement Robbie Bourke found his range from the 10-metreline, after the normally reliable Airey was off target moments earlier.

With the game delicately poised, it was a case of who wanted it more. And having been found wanting in their previous two outings, Matt Brown's men rediscovered their self belief and managed to dig deep to eek out a deserved win.

The decisive score came after yet another scrum penalty, where the Blues' forward strength in depth was underlined by young front row players Conor Kyne and Ciaran Gavin who both distinguished themselves with important contributions from the bench. This gave another replacement Conor Lowndes the opportunity, and the Connacht Under-20 starlet kept his nerve to split the posts from the right.

This prompted an inevitable siege by Bohs in the closing stages as they came in search of a late victory. They came desperately close, with first Airey charging down only to fumble near the line. Then when they did manage to cross the whitewash, they were held up by a determined and resolute 'Wegians defence who literally threw their bodies on the line.

Despite having to play out the final few minutes without the influential Ja Naughton and Brian McClearn, the Galway side defended admirably and fittingly the game ended with them winning another scrum penalty.

Referee: Stuart Gaffikin (IRFU)