Old Wesley put an end to their two-match losing streak by winning a tightly-contested south Dublin derby 36-22 at Donnybrook on Saturday.
In dry conditions, after a morning of heavy showers and with little or no wind, this Ulster Bank League Division 1B tie promised to be an open affair between two teams that like to play open running rugby. The crowd were not disappointed with 58 points being scored and seven tries.
The game started with Wesley playing at a high tempo and applying pressure which led to an early penalty with just two minutes on the clock, Barry McLaughlin duly slotting over to put the hosts ahead.
However, Blackrock were on the scoreboard soon after. They were awarded a penalty which full-back Alan Hughes sent over in the fifth minute.
Wesley again went on the attack but after a period of scrappy play, 'Rock won a turnover on their 22-metre line and moved the ball to the impressive Sean Coughlan, who made a lovely break to put his centre partner Hugo Godson Treacy clear to run in from halfway for a fine try. David Scott-Lennon missed the conversion.
Entering the second quarter, Old Wesley suffered a blow when their industrious number 8 Darren Horan went off injured and was replaced by young lock Mark Robinson, who was making his league debut. Robinson took up his normal position in the second row with Josh Hinde moving to number 8.
Almost immediately, Morgan Lennon's side went on the attack and were awarded a penalty just inside the Rock half and again McLaughlin split the posts for an 8-6 advantage.
Then, in the next passage of play, Hinde took a clean lineout, drove forward and presented clean ruck ball, which was transferred quickly to Garry O'Brien. He made a lovely break and then offloaded to the supporting David Rowley who broke two tackles to run in and touch down for an excellent try close to the posts, with McLaughlin converting.
As half-time approached, Wesley gave away a penalty for holding on in the ruck. David Scott-Lennon hit the upright with his place-kick which rebounded into 'Rock hands and after a couple of phases, Coughlan went over for a try which was converted by Scott-Lennon.
In the dying moments of the half and with the Wesley scrum becoming more and more dominant, 'Rock were penalised and goal-kicking winger McLaughlin obliged with the three points to make it 16-15 to the hosts at the interval.
After a somewhat scrappy start to the second period, the Wesley pack, with Hinde adapting well to the number 8 position and ably assisted by Rory Kerins and Martin Gately, won a turnover.
Scrum half Ian Cassidy attacked the blindside, the ball moving out to Billy Ngawini who totally confused the 'Rock defence before passing back to Alan Large who put in a grubber kick. At the ensuing ruck, the visitors were penalised for holding on and McLaughlin duly extended the lead to 19-15.
Wesley again soaked up some pressure and Blackrock were beginning to win ball and run at the Wesley defence. However, Wesley stood firm and put pressure on the opposition attack, which lead to an intercept by out-half Large who ran from inside his own half to dot down close in.
McLaughlin converted for 26-15 and with some fine tackling, Wesley again forced a penalty which was advanced due to back chat. Instead of going for the posts, the home side decide to go for the corner and following pressure, they won a scrum close to the line.
Back rower Stephen Boyle broke from the scrum before finding the influential Robinson on his inside who managed to burrow his way over for Wesley's third try of the afternoon.
Again, to their credit, 'Rock never gave up and after some good play by both backs and forwards, in particular their busy scrum half Billy Glynn who had a fine game throughout, they scored a try with lock John Burke going over close to the touchline. Scott-Lennon duly added the points with a terrific conversion.
The scoreline was now 31-22 with 10 minutes to go and the result still not assured. Blackrock came back again and Wesley replacement Ken Knaggs was penalised for a no arms tackle. However, the Wesley pack reacted well and won some good possession for the backs who ran the ball in search of the all-important bonus point try.
Following a high tackle, Wesley were awarded a penalty and again went for the corner. From the resulting lineout, the ball was transferred swiftly across the back-line for McLaughlin to squeeze over in the corner. That brought his tally for the afternoon to 21 points, and his handsome haul for the league season so far now stands at 103 points after seven rounds.
Referee: Sean Gallagher (IRFU)