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Old Wesley Go Top Following Ten-Try Thriller
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Old Wesley Go Top Following Ten-Try Thriller

Old Wesley Go Top Following Ten-Try Thriller

Old Wesley shot to the top of Ulster Bank League Division 1B as they secured a bonus point win for the second week running, triumph in a hugely entertaining game against Buccaneers that produced 10 tries and 80 points in total.

Overall, this Donnybrook encounter was a wonderful advertisement for club rugby. Dull but dry weather conditions were ideal and the artificial surface encouraged both teams to play at a high tempo, albeit the hosts were more familiar to its nuances.

The match commenced at a frenetic pace that never relented in the first half. Old Wesley had a scoring opportunity in the opening minute, but Barry McLaughlin's long range penalty went wide.

Four minutes later, Buccs took the lead when Ben Carty sent Rory O'Connor scurrying down the right flank where the winger wrong-footed covering full-back Rory Stynes to continue his impressive sequence of tries. Conor McKeon converted but McLaughlin replied with a penalty after nine minutes.

Lock Michael Mannion was yellow carded for a foot trip on the quarter hour mark and Wesley promptly punished Buccs. After the penalty was punted to the left touch, Ian Cassidy profited from good lineout possession to get over between the posts for a try which McLaughlin converted.

However, Buccs responded spectacularly with Shane Layden's break at the end of the opening quarter yielding a penalty on halfway. Like the home side, Buccs worked the line. Following the lineout, good interplay was finished strongly by centre Alan Gaughan for a try.

The Pirates held onto the momentum as just two minutes later, O'Connor made a snipe in midfield before sending Layden steaming down the left for a well-executed try. McKeon converted both touchdowns, giving Brett Wilkinson's men a 14-point haul while temporarily down to 14 players and a 21-10 lead.

Old Wesley responded four minutes later when, following a fine maul, winger Niall O'Brien finished smartly for a seven-pointer. Soon Buccs were back on the offensive when the impressive Layden darted down the left. With Old Wesley not rolling away, Buccs again went for touch from the resultant penalty.

A superb maul followed the lineout before McKeon kicked diagonally to the right corner where O'Connor swooped to gather possession and dive over the home line all in one movement for a magnificent finish. McKeon added a terrific conversion to this bonus point try.

It got even better for Buccs three minutes before half-time when big number 8 Kolo Kiripati intercepted on halfway and thundered through for a try at the posts. McKeon maintained his perfect place-kicking record with the conversion to put the Athlone outfit 35-17 clear at the interval.

The midlanders had lost two in-form players, David Butler and Jacob Walshe, to injury in the first half and introduced scrum half Conor Lowndes for his debut on the resumption. They really needed to ensure Wesley did not score in the ten minutes after the break but, within a minute, Morgan Lennon's charges had scored a try that lifted their hopes.

Scrum half Cassidy had regularly sprayed raking diagonal kicks throughout the first half and the reasoning behind this ploy was evident in creating this tonic score. An unfavourable bounce of the ball on the synthetic surface wrong-footed full-back Layden, allowing his opposite number Stynes to scamper in for a try.

Although McLaughlin was unable to convert, he landed a penalty just three minutes later and it was game on again at 35-25 to the visitors. Four minutes later, the margin was reduced to just three points. Old Wesley punted a penalty to touch on the left and with lineout possession safely secured, new centre Billy Ngawini had the strength to get over for a try to mark his home league debut. McLaughlin duly converted and then added a 52nd minute penalty to level matters at 32-all following an excellent return of 18 points in just a dozen minutes.

Buccs lacked leadership and composure in this pivotal third quarter and they really needed to shore matters up through the middle. A neat 56th-minute drop goal from McKeon fashioned by another fine Layden thrust nosed the visitors ahead again but was not enough to fully steady the ship.

James Burton bulldozed over for a 67th minute try and McLaughlin's conversion was to be the final score. Buccs had switched off for too long and a belated revival was boosted when Wesley number 8 Mark Rowley was sin-binned for slowing the ball.

But Buccs had a severe dent to their hopes when their chief threat Layden sustained a knee injury that forced him off with six minutes remaining. O'Connor appeared to be impeded as he chased a Lowndes kick ahead but no whistle accrued, while Carty did well to block down Garry O'Brien's drop goal attempt.

As the midlanders scrapped to retrieve the situation, replacement Ivan Campbell became the second Old Wesley player yellow carded in a frantic finish. However, the home side remained resolute to hang on for a nail-biting four-point victory that elevates them to the top of the table.

Ireland Sevens international Layden was Buccs' star performer and his injury will be a real concern for the Pirates, while the mobile Walshe was a big loss early on. O'Connor is a true try poacher and McKeon made a tidy contribution from number 10. The Buccaneers forwards needed to vary their play and put some ball up their jerseys in the second period, a lack of cunning and hardness costing them at key stages.

Old Wesley solved their own issues for the closing half and built their momentum with their Limerick contingent of the Rowley brothers, Ger Finucane, Burton and crucially Darren Horan all making significant contributions as did Cassidy and McLaughlin in this the third ever competitive meeting between the clubs.

Referee: Frank Murphy (IRFU)

Lineups Scorers

Match Lineups

Home Team

Rory Stynes; Barry McLaughlin, Billy Ngawini, Ger Finucane, Niall O'Brien; Alan Large, Ian Cassidy (capt); Martin Gately, Dave Rowley, Oltian Dervishi, Josh Hinde, Iain McGann, Darren Horan, Stephen Boyle, Mark Rowley.

Replacements used: Ivan Campbell for Horan (3-12 mins, temp sub), Eoin Stynes for N O'Brien (57 mins), Campbell for Boyle, Craig Telford for D Rowley (both 62), James Burton for Dervishi (all 62), Garry O'Brien for Cassidy (71).

Away Team

Shane Layden; Rory O'Connor, Alan Gaughan, Ben Carty, David Butler; Conor McKeon, Graham Lynch; Jacob Walshe, Shane Delahunt, Martin Staunton (capt), Daniel Qualter, Michael Mannion, Stephen McVeigh, Rory Moloney, Kolo Kiripati.

Replacements used: Callum Boland for Butler (6-19 mins, temp sub), Ryan O'Meara for Walshe (26 mins), Boland for Butler (29), Conor Lowndes for Lynch (half-time), Barra Farrell for McVeigh (52), Scott Flanagan for Delahunt (68), Lynch for Layden (74).

Match Scorers

Home Team

Tries: Ian Cassidy, Niall O'Brien, Billy Ngawini, Rory Stynes, James Burton; Cons: Barry McLaughlin 4; Pens: Barry McLaughlin 3

Away Team

Tries: Kolo Kiripati, Alan Gaughan, Rory O'Connor 2, Shane Layden; Cons: Conor McKeon 5; Drop: Conor McKeon