IN a massive local derby in front of a large crowd in a basement battle in the Energia All Ireland League, the Well secured a crucial win at Musgrave Park.
A late Fabien Loughrey penalty during a topsy-turvy second half sealed the victory that keeps the Well’s feint hopes of avoiding automatic relegation to the junior ranks alive.
While the Well won the battle; Midleton’s losing bonus point and the Well’s inability to get a fourth try means that the East Cork side are almost certain not to be caught by their Cork rivals. That means they will avoid automatic relegation given their superior points difference. They could still very well be dragged into a play-off with the runner-up of the junior round-robin through.
The Well dominated possession, territory and the penalty count in the first half. However; they couldn’t penetrate a solid Midleton defence who were more clinical when chances arose. Stuart Lee kicked the visitors into an early lead but mounting pressure by the hosts led to a yellow card for opposing lock-forward Ryan Lehane.
The Well opted for a series of scrums; but couldn’t cause a breakthrough and Harry McHenry eventually had to kick to the corner. Midleton regrouped to clear their lines from the resulting line-out.
A pivotal moment soon followed with Lehane still in the bin. Lee put in a massive up-and-under. Denis Hurley was unable to cleanly catch the ball which went bouncing loose inside the 22. Cillian Lynch raced clear to gather the ball cleanly and touch down to give the visitors an eight-point lead at the break.
Sunday’s Well needed a big opening to the second half and they certainly got that. Ross Taylor was introduced to add some dynamism to their attack. A strong line-out maul led to a penalty under the posts. The Well took a quick tap and Cormac Kelliher surged over.
The Well were immediately on the offensive, spreading the ball from touchline to touchline. A chip through looked as if it was meant for Denis Hurley but the bounce on the goal line went in the other direction and Centre Eoin O’Sullivan was on hand to gather and score. Fabien Loughrey converted both tries and the hosts were 14-8 up after 48 minutes.
Midleton regained some of the momenta with a penalty at a scrum that Stuart Lee struck over to reduce the arrears. This was then followed by player-coach Denis Hurley being sin-binned for the Well for taking out a player in the air.
The pressure was building and a great break by Aaron Leahy bought play right up to the line and with superior numbers; Lee managed to squeeze over for a try that he superbly converted.
The game developed a real ebb and flow with the Well this time responding. A line-out again saw a big drive, some strong forward carries and Conor O’Brien off-loaded to Kelliher for his second try. Loughrey added the extras.
Midleton had chances to level but went for the jugular with 10 minutes remaining. The maul seemed to be driven back but scrum-half Kyle Read broke on the blind side to smartly finish and give the visiting side a 23-21 lead.
Inevitably, the Well then went on the attacking with time closing out. From a Midleton scrum, the Well earned a penalty and captain Conor O’Brien opted for a kick at the posts with a try-bonus point beckoning. Loughrey struck it over to give the Well the win.
C Kelliher (2), E O’Sullivan tries; F Loughrey pen, 3 cons.
S Lee try, 2 pens, con; C Lynch, K Read tries.
D Hurley; G Downey, E O’Sullivan, R Geary, S Keevers; H McHenry, F Loughrey; E O’Connell, J McHenry, M McCarthy; A Mintern, K Holland; C Kelliher, D O’Brien, C O’Brien (c).
A Brown, D Hourigan, R Taylor, F MacFhlannchadha, K Maye.
A Malone; J Power, A Leahy, J Colbert, C Lynch; S Lee, K Read; M Corby, D O’Sullivan (c), C Smiddy; R Lehane, M Stanton; F McCarthy, C Walsh, R Hickey.
E Lordan-Bailey, F O’Connell, J Deady, R Daly, G Collins.
B O’Connell (IRFU)