Westport 17 beat Galwegians 13

Tuam hosted the eagerly-awaited Connacht Under17 Division One league final on Saturday, Westport emerging worthy winners four points clear.

It was a textbook finish to a high-octane winter for the Under17s and showcased all that is good about Connacht youths rugby. Bone-crunching tackles, undying commitment, skill, tenacity and flair combined for the grandest of finales. Partisan support camps and excellent refereeing throughout only added to the spectacle.u17final1_640x459

Both teams struggled early as nerves affected handling, but as they acclimatised to the occasion 15minutes in, each gave all those attending ample cause to cheer.

Galwegians asserted ascendancy at scrumtime gifting their backs go-forward ball to attack from deep. Dwayne Corcoran in the Westport midfield rose to the challenge however, and snuffed out the first promising foray by the baby blues, latching on to an intercept and making short work of the space between the ball and the goal-line to put Westport 7-0 ahead.

The early wake-up jolted ‘Wegians into action. Galwegians hooker Kieran Gavin rallied his troops and ably-backed by Harry Power and flanker Liam McKnight fought their way into Westport territory and won a penalty. It went unconverted.

Good field position heaped further pressure on Westport and in the ensuing passage fullback Eamonn Brannigan scorched over in the corner to squeeze the deficit to two. Rory Murphy and Edward Dunning in Westport’s second-row countered from the restart leading the charge into ‘Wegians territory, and won a penalty for their toil. The failed radar which plagued Galwegians’ first two shots was back on track for Westport who stretched the lead to five.

The tide surged back ‘Wegians way immediately as play camped deep in Westport territory. Only resolute defence from prop Pat O’Toole and hulking eight Michael O’Grady denied them any points. Brannigan for Galwegians managed another three before the break, 10-8 Westport’s way at half-time.

u17final2_640x474Westport outhalf Sean Tobin and centre Patrick Galvey shone in defence for the Mayo men but a fleeting chink in the armour saw Galwegians lock Eoghan Hannon charge down the clearance, regather and score for the Glenina youngsters.

Galwegians went three ahead 13-10 as a result, their first time in front.

Westport’s response was swift and devastating.

Kieran Coughlan fielded the restart and surged 20metres through the oncoming defence, offloaded to Dwayne Corcoran at his shoulder who steered clear of the cover for a peach of a try. Converted, the score pushed Westport four points clear 17-13 – as it remained till the finish.

Galwegians made a late and desperate rally in the final quarter launching 5m scrum after 5m scrum and tap penalty assault against stoic Westport defence.

Westport advance now to the All-Ireland series in April where league winners from around the country will compete for national honours. On Saturday’s form, Westport has all the makings of a champion outfit.

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