Grealish edges NUIG to development title
A crucial Jack Grealish conversion gave NUIG rugby academy U-18.5s the edge in their 15-14 victory over Monivea to seal a third Connacht development league title for NUIG in the space of four years.
NUIG were 8-0 up at half-time, playing some open and expansive rugby.
Flanker Liam Melia and centre pairing Conor Briscoe and Marcus Burke made some great line-breaks early on and this eventually led to a well-worked team try by David Wall in the corner.
A hard-working Monivea pack, led by Nathan Hansberry, fought their way back into the game in the second half. Hansberry went over for a vital score after a lineout maul with Niall Sweeney converting.
Monivea captain Brian McDonnell led by example and soon his team continued their onslaught on the NUIG line.
Hansberry again marshalled his pack and they got over for a second try 20 minutes into the second half. Sweeney again converted a difficult kick, off a slippery surface, putting Monivea 14-8 ahead.
But the NUIG lads just never gave up and as the referee called last play, NUIG scrumhalf Rú Durkin broke free. He carried and pinned Monivea into their own 22.
Wing-forward Jason Kelly picked from the resulting ruck, skipped around the Monivea defensive pillar and with a strong hand-off broke into space and sprinted the remaining 20 metres to finish under the posts.
Grealish kicked the crucial conversion to leave a proud Monivea team heartbroken and NUIG as Connacht champions.
The NUIG win was all the more special as this group of players were the first underage team (at U-13) to start up the newly-formed NUIG rugby youth academy back in 2012.
A large number of these players had been playing together since their mini rugby days in Na Bairneachaí - Barna Knocknacarra Rugby Club.
Meanwhile, the Buccaneers U-17s are four-in-a-row league champions having gone through the league campaign unbeaten.
A memorable season was finished with a flourish thanks to a 34-0 win against Loughrea in Dubarry Park last weekend.
Adam Murtagh, Jenson Nagle, Darren Browne, Mathias O' Neill and Dara Mulvihill were the try-scorers with Nathan Horan and Adam Murtagh kicking a conversion each.
The combined Connemara/Oughterard U-15s team also picked up silverware last weekend as they defeated Loughrea 15-12 in the final of the U-15 Connacht Development League.