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Muldoon Try Gives ‘Wegians Massive Boost

Muldoon Try Gives ‘Wegians Massive Boost

A last-gasp Conor Muldoon try secured a dramatic victory for Galwegians to give their survival prospects a massive boost after a typically hard-fought Ulster Bank League derby against local rivals Buccaneers at Crowley Park.

The stakes were extremely high for Galwegians coming into this game, as they found themselves in a relegation dogfight with UCD and Bruff to avoid the dreaded drop to Division 2A along with the already doomed UCC.

The Blues came into this game shorn of confidence and missing some key players, not least injured captain and talisman John Cleary. And in truth a home win seemed a most unlikely outcome for a very long time in this contest.

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Overall it was a game lacking in quality, not too surprising with so much at stake, as Buccaneers also had something to play for with a mathematical possibility of promotion still in their sights.

But whatever about the quality of the fare, drama was almost guaranteed, and indeed this was the third year running that this particular fixture has been settled in the very last minute.

'Wegians made a very shaky start and Buccs dominated the opening exchanges, with out-half Jack Carty giving them a 3-0 lead with a sixth minute penalty.

The hosts were getting on the wrong side of referee Dave O'Flynn from early on, with number 8 Eoin McKeon earning a yellow card as early on as the 10th minute.

And while down to 14 men, 'Wegians were made to suffer as they coughed up turnover ball inside their own half, and some quick hands sent Buccs centre Paul Harte clear to score the game's opening try near the left corner.

Carty's conversion gave the visitors a 10-0 lead after just 16 minutes, and seemingly a very commanding position.

Things went from bad to worse for the Galway outfit at the start of the second quarter, as blindside flanker Ross Fitzgerald also saw yellow for hands in the ruck.

But Carty was off target with his penalty attempt and despite a mounting first half penalty count of 8-1 against them, the Blues were somehow able to keep their line intact and prevent Buccs putting any further daylight between the sides.

The first half was disrupted by a lengthy stoppage to 'Wegians stalwart prop Jamie Stephens who was unfortunately carried off in his last ever appearance for the Blues.

However, the hosts seemed to regroup better and they ended the half in the ascendancy. Full-back Tadhg Leader opened their account with a well-struck penalty on the 35-minute mark.

Then some good territory and patient build-up play was rewarded just before the half-time whistle, when scrum half Dave Moore tapped a quick penalty near the posts.

Three phases later, centre Brian Murphy somehow barrelled his way over in the right hand corner for a heartening try, with Leader landing an excellent conversion to level the game at the break – 10-10.

Although playing against the breeze, 'Wegians now seemed to have the momentum in their favour, but they were dealt a blow in the 45th minute when a good breakaway move by Buccaneers resulted in Harte grabbing his second try.

Carty landed a peach of a conversion to restore the Pirates' seven-point lead, only for Galwegians to hit back impressively.

Colm Rigney's men took the game to their opponents, and the pressure told when Buccaneers lock James Tormey went into the sin-bin for killing the ball near the line. Leader's accurate kick reduced the deficit to 17-13.

With 25 minutes left, it was now all to play for. The game was characterised by 'Wegians playing most of the rugby, with Buccs soaking up the pressure and visiting half-backs Mark Dolan and Carty using the elements to good effect to clear their lines.

With time running out, it looked like 'Wegians had finally taken the lead when the dynamic prop Ja Naughton gathered a loose ball and dived over near the left corner. But referee O'Flynn took the advice of one of his touch judges and disallowed the try for an off-the-ball tackle.

But just when it seemed the chance was gone, the Blues' never-say-die spirit finally came good in the very last play of the game.

Their inspirational scrum half Moore made a half break which sent winger Ronan Burke clear, and although the supporting Murphy almost finished the move himself, the Blues pack arrived to camp on the try-line.

And following a series of pick and goes, hooker Conor Muldoon managed to cross the whitewash amid a forest of bodies. Leader's successful conversion was the last kick of the game, signalling much jubilation among the home team and fans.

While still not certain of safety, Galwegians now lie a crucial four points ahead of second-from-bottom UCD with the final round of matches taking place next weekend.

A losing bonus point away to mid-table Ballynahinch would suffice for 'Wegians, while UCD host in-form and promotion-chasing Dungannon.

And Bruff are also not out of danger as they lie two points adrift of 'Wegians, but they host uccaneers. So it will all come down to the final day's play.

Referee: Dave O'Flynn (IRFU)