AIL Division 2A: Galway Corinthians 23 Greystones RFC 26
Two Padraig Geoghegan tries and an unlikely drop goal five minutes from time sealed a crucial win for Greystones in their penultimate league fixture away to bottom side Galway Corinthians on Saturday.
Stones were looking to results elsewhere to close out on any risk of relegation but they failed to get any favours so head into the last match of the regular season this Saturday as one of three sides separated by a single point battling to avoid the dreaded relegation play-off position. Defeat for Corinthians consigned them to Division 2B for next season whilst Stones sit fourth from bottom on 31 points, the same mark as local rivals Blackrock but with a vastly superior points difference while the other Galway side, Galwegians currently occupy the play-off spot above Corinthians just a point behind on 30 points.
With league survival at stake it was to the credit of both sides that they set out to play rugby from the opening whistle with attack deemed to be the best form of defence. As a consequence the score line ebbed and flowed right to the final whistle.
Corinthians opened the scoring with a second minute penalty after Mick Doyle was adjudged to have fouled the scrum half at a ruck but the game truly came alive two minutes later when Con Callen broke from his own half scything his way through the Corinthians lines, evading several tackles before he was dragged down a meter from the line. A simple pop pass to the supporting Paudie Geoghegan allowed the Avondale man touch down for the easiest of finishes. Andrew Kealy added the conversion to give the sizeable Greystones travelling support some early cheer.
Corinthians struck back ten minutes later through a well worked move finished by centre Cathal Evans. Corinthians thought they had scored moments earlier when their pack drove over the Greystones line but the referee declared the ball was held up following great work by the Greystones hooker Ben Tou who positioned himself to block the touch down. From the resulting five meters scrum Corinthians played quick ball and the on running Evans found a gap to cross unopposed. Kieran Joyce added the conversion to give the lead back to the Galway side at 10-7.
This was extended by a Joyce penalty after 20 minutes, cancelled out by Kealy with a shot of his own five minutes later.
The second quarter was played out in a typical west of Ireland downpour that made handling difficult and play punctuated by errors.
Con Callan continued to torment the Corinthians defence with his side steps and burst of acceleration constantly finding gaps with Jack Keating doing likewise from his right wing but Corinthians held firm.
As half-time approached Corinthians almost had a break through when second row Aaron Broderick stepped right through a gap in the Greystones defence on the ten meter line and headed for the posts.
Lacking the confidence to go all the way he looked around for support and found one of the prop forwards up with him but played his pass just as the scrambling Greystones defence reached them and the ball was knocked on. Despite this scare Greystones edged the first half in terms of possession and territory but Corinthians held on to the half time advantage at 13-10.
The second half saw the rain clear and rare sun shining through and Greystones upped the tempo and pressure. This yielded an early penalty that Kealy opted to play into the corner instead of taking the three points on offer. The clean line out was won by Eoin Marmion and following strong drives by Conor Pearse and Oisin Lennon the ball was switched back to Geoghegan on the blind side wing who powered his way through the tackler to touch down in the corner. The difficult conversion drifted wide but 'Stones had a narrow 15-13 lead.
In a topsy turvey match that was not good for the blood pressure levels of either set of supporters the lead changed hands again when Corinthians who continued to play the ball through the hands constantly running at Greystones manufactured a three on one overlap for McDermott to touch down.
Joyce, with an impressive display off the tee, nailed the conversion to put Corinthians back into a five pint lead.
Con Callan levelled the match again when he finished a lovely move from a Greystones line out on the Corinthians 22.
With the ball played to the back of the line scrum half Andy Roberts fed quick ball to Barry Lynn who moved it through the hands for Callan to pick a lovely line through to score.
Kealy then gave Greystones the lead on 65 minutes with a monstrous penalty from the half way line but Joyce cancelled it out to level again three minutes later before Geoghegan's match winning drop goal moment.
With less than five minutes to play, referee Richard Hogan had signalled a penalty advantage to Stones as they attacked the Corinthians 22 but Roberts spotted Geoghegan in position to strike a 40-meter drop goal effort. Not quite in the Jonny Sexton mode from Paris but every bit as effective as it sailed just over the cross bar to give Stones a lead they would cling to till the end.
Both sides continued to threaten and the result was never secure until the final whistle that came to the delight of Greystones and the despair of their hosts who knew the fate was sealed.
Everything now comes down to the final match next Saturday. City of Armagh travel to Dr Hickey Park with a mathematical chance of making the promotion play-offs and seeking to finish on a high after letting a big lead go last week and suffering an injury time defeat to Galwegians.
Greystones will be gunning for a win to guarantee their place in Division 2A next season without worrying about other results and cheered on by a big home support this promises to be a pulsating encounter.
Greystones: Andrew Kealy, Jack Keating, Con Callan, Barry Lynn, Paudie Geoghegan, David Baker, Andrew Roberts, Bobby Clancy, Robin O'Sullivan, Mick Doyle, Oisin Lennon, Eoin Marmion, Conor Pearse, Ben Tou, Michael Douglas. Subs: Daniel Norse, Barry Fitzpatrick, Cormac O'Donohue, John Campbell, Conor Byrne.