Westport make statement of intent
Pen: S Wade
Try: A Cusack
Pens: E Molloy (2)
IT was undoubtedly the clash of the round but unfortunately conditions didn’t allow for the fleet-footed free-flowing game one would have liked last Saturday. To their credit, both sides tried to run the ball but with a strong wind blowing, the odd heavy shower of rain and very soft underfoot conditions, it was extremely difficult.
Westport were controlled, composed and organised without actually being brilliant on the day. They controlled this game for large periods and to be honest never looked like they were going to be beaten.
The home side had one very good spell midway through the second half when they set up camp in the Bulls’ red zone but only came away with a measly three points thanks to some resolute defending from the visitors.
Ballina should have tried to get the ball to their midfielders more often as David Newman was deprived of any decent ball and he possesses the talent to be a genuine game-breaker but it wasn’t to be.
The home side found themselves trailing by six points to nil after just nine minutes as player/coach Eamonn Molloy coolly slotted two penalties, the first a wonderful strike from 40 metres. Midway through the half winger, Danny O’Toole (who was one of best players on show) broke clean through the Ballina defence but was brought back for offside.
Ballina came to life for the following ten minutes and produced some very good multi-phase rugby with forwards and backs intermingling but their quest for their opening score proved fruitless.
As the half drew to a close, Westport, with the wind at their backs, fired a penalty into touch ten metres from the Ballina line. Their lineout (which was good throughout given the difficult conditions) was turned into a maul and the blue wedge drove towards the goal line. When the pile of bodies cleared, it was hooker, Alan Cusack, who emerged with the ball for the Bulls’ all-important five pointer.
Simon Wade was off target with an early second half penalty from only 30 metres out and shortly after the resulting 22 drop out came the move of the match. Westport’s Roger Martin broke down the blindside into the Ballina half. Then the Bulls went right with the exciting Eoin Joyce jinking and stepping through the cover before replacement Stephen Keane bulldozed his way further up to the 22. It was a move which deserved a score but the ball was knocked on as the Ballina defence scrambled back.
Much of the remaining period was played in the middle section of the field and was largely uninteresting. Ballina, as mentioned, had their purple patch midway through the half and when Westport infringed at a ruck on 70 minutes, Wade was on target for Ballina’s first and only score.
Westport look strong, organised and have a good bench to call on. They will take stopping in this tournament and should overcome Dunmore in the next round at Carrowholly.
P Staunton, E Joyce, E Molloy, Mark Walsh, D O’Toole, E Walsh, P Jennings. Matthew Walsh, A Cusack, P Conway, S O’Boyle, R Martin, P Corcoran, D Keane, JP Walsh. Subs used: M O’Brien, M Bosman, S Keane.
S Wade, M Clarke, D Newman, I Thornton, R Killeen, A Moynihan, M Murphy. J O’Connor, R Kelly, K Melvin, D Murphy, D Carrabine, C Forde, P Timoney, A McNulty.