First away victory for Wexford Eagles
It was another day of firsts for the Wexford Eagles when they travelled to Belfast to take on the Razorbacks of Northern Ireland recently.
Wexford Eagles 27 Razorbacks 6
In spite of a series of setbacks, the Eagles once again dominated the opposition in all facets of the game and eventually emerged 27-6 victors. The win marked the first away victory, the Eagles' first international match, and a number of firsts for some of the Eagles players.
The Razorbacks won the toss but elected to let the Eagles receive the opening kick-off. Almost immediately, it appeared the Razorbacks had made the wrong decision.
Wexford's Terry Carey took the hand-off on a reverse run and had already gained approximately 35 yards when the ball came loose. A relieved and grateful Razorbacks defence recovered the fumble.
Having had no joy moving against an outstanding Eagles defence, the Razorbacks punted, and the Eagles were pinned back on their own nine-yard line. However, in a situation already becoming familiar to Eagles followers, quarterback Sam Doran found receiver Darren Greene with a pass to the right sideline. Evading a number of tacklers and showing remarkable speed for a man of his size, Greene raced the length of the field for the opening score.
The snap for the extra point was too high, and Doran had no choice but to gather the ball and look for a receiver. Under enormous pressure, he threw into the endzone, where that man Greene was again waiting. His catch gave the Eagles a two-point conversion, making the score 8-0.
The Eagles defence continued to pressure a harried Razorbacks offence. Led by defensive captain Artur Guz at linebacker, Wexford regularly penetrated the line of scrimmage, forcing the Razorbacks quarterback into hurried throws and broken plays.
On offence, Eagles running back Craig Broom made a number of outstanding runs, consistently putting Wexford into good field position. The next score came on another reverse run, with Greene taking the ball from Doran and sprinting into the end zone. This time Carey kicked the extra point, giving the Eagles a 15-0 lead.
Before the half was over, Carey would kick another three-point field goals, giving the Eagles a commanding 18-0 lead at half-time. However, it was not all good news for the Wexford side, as by the mid-game interval, the team had lost Shane Marron (centre) and Dylan Gregan (defensive tackle) to injury.
Those injuries, coupled with the absence of a number of other players, meant several Eagles players had to step into unfamiliar positions.
In the second-half, the Eagles defence took over the game. The Northern Ireland squad fumbled the third quarter kick-off, and Wexford's Thomas O'Reilly recovered. Carey then landed another field goal, pushing the score to 21-0.
It appeared the Razorbacks had run out of ideas, while Wexford controlled both sides of the line of scrimmage. Then, a series of penalties were called against the Eagles, giving the Razorbacks the opportunity they needed to punch the ball into the endzone. Their attempt at a two-point conversion was snuffed out, leaving the score at 21-6.
The final score came late in the game. After another penalty was called on the Eagles offence, they were forced to punt. Greene lofted a high kick which the Razorbacks return man unwisely attempted to field.
The fumble was recovered by the Eagles' Henry Foxton and, two plays later, running back Liam McLaughlin scored his first Eagles touchdown.
The extra point was blocked, making the final score 27-6 to the visiting Wexford side.
As well as the historic first away win and McLaughlin's first touchdown, Eagles' defensive safety Paulie O'Brien also collected his first pass interception.
'The game was exactly what we expected it to be,' said coach Ivan Lynch. 'We knew this team would hit hard and try to stop us from playing our own game. But that didn't happen. Our team stuck with the task in hand, and we played our own game.
Coach Kevin Klatt agreed. 'We faced an enormous amount of adversity in that first-half today, given the injuries and circumstances. Our players never once stopped believing, and they showed incredible strength of character.'
The Eagles' next game is Sunday, May 29, when they host the Galway Warriors at the Garden City G.A.A. grounds in Gorey. Kick-off will be at 2 p.m., with free admission.
Team roster: John Kavanagh, Terry Carey, Sam Doran, Daniel Noctor, Tony Skranc, Craig Broom, Karl Oispuu, Michael Hassett, Craig Morrell, Liam McLaughlin, Jonny Reynolds, Killian Magee, Pádraig de Brúin, Luke Kenny, Carl Coates, Thomas O'Reilly, Artur Guz, James Crean, Graham Jenkinson, Paddy Bissett, John Lynch, Darragh O'Brien, Shane Marron, Dylan Gregan, Declan Scott, Paulie O'Brien, Darren Greene, Henry Foxton, Seán Griffiths.