The 15th and final round of matches in AIB League Division Three took place on Saturday, with Bruff and Instonians securing promotion, Banbridge and Queen’s University joining them in the semi-finals, Waterpark set for a relegation play-off and City of Derry dropping down to the junior ranks.
AIB LEAGUE: DIVISION THREE: Saturday, March 29
MIDLETON 21 SUNDAY’S WELL 11, Towns Park
Scorers: Midleton: Tries: Eddie Tobin, Kieran Barry; Con: Jeff Hitchmough; Pens: Jeff Hitchmough; Drop: Jason Holland
Sunday’s Well: Try: Tumaile Tasola; Pens: Eamon Buckley 2
Having lost last week at home to Banbridge, Jason Holland’s Midleton side got back to winnings with the player-coach kicking a drop goal in this Cork derby success.
With both sides set for mid-table finishes, there were little more than pride on the line at Towns Park and it was the hosts who claimed the local bragging rights.
Still, this was a fiery encounter with neither team wanting to lose to a local rival on the final day of the league season.
Midleton opened the scoring courtesy of a Jeff Hitchmough penalty but Sunday’s Well grabbed the game’s first try after a quick turnover in midfield.
Alan Long managed to make a half-break before Andy O’Brien took the ball on and offloaded in good time for the supporting Tumaile Tasola to dash over for the score.
The Tongan flanker’s fifth try of the campaign was not converted but Eamon Buckley did add a penalty, soon after, for an 8-3 lead for the visitors.
Sterling defensive work from Midleton’s Karl Rothwell and Joe Moynihan preventing the ‘Well from adding another try and it was the home side who succeeded in scoring before half-time.
Outside centre Eddie Tobin spotted a sliver of space to squeeze over the whitewash from close range with Hitchmough converting for a 10-8 interval score-line.
On the restart, Buckley landed his second penalty edge the ‘Well back in front.
However, Midleton found an extra gear in the final quarter with a penalty from Hitchmough being followed by replacement winger Kieran Barry’s try.
Rubbing the visitors’ noses in it, Midleton coach Holland, who started at out-half, stepped forward to boot a brilliant late drop goal and deny Sunday’s Well a losing bonus point.
NAAS 48 ARDS 5, Forenaughts
Scorers: Naas: Tries: Jock Toland 2, Johnny Delaney 2, Aiden Tyrell, Emmett Harney, Brian Fitzgerald; Cons: David Aherne 5; Pen; David Aherne
Ards: Try: David Armstrong
Naas moved up a massive six places in the Division Three standings thanks to this seven-try thumping of Ards, one of the top Ulster clubs in the division.
At a wet and windy Forenaughts, the Kildare side ended a run of two defeats with a power-packed performance that has given Andrew Melville and his men plenty of momentum ahead of next weekend’s rearranged trip to Connemara.
Ards, who will be back playing in Division Three next season for the sixth consecutive year, won the toss and opted to play up the hill in the first half and with the wind at their backs.
The game was just six minutes’ old when hooker Jock Toland, Naas’ stand-in captain, broke off the back of a maul and passed for scrum half Aiden Tyrell to nip over for a try.
Ards’ response was almost immediate as the speedy David Armstrong got to a bouncing ball to score, under pressure from three Naas defenders.
But the hosts reasserted themselves and built up a 22-5 lead for the interval. The impressive Toland touched down twice in the space of four minutes.
Out-half David Aherne converted both tries and also nudged a 26th-minute penalty kick through the uprights to race Naas ahead.
Ards seemed stunned and Naas had the bonus point in the bag just four minutes into the second half.
Centre Johnny Delaney intercepted a pass and had the gas to run almost the length of the field and cross the whitewash for his side’s fourth try.
A scoreless half-an-hour ensued before Naas found top gear again to score three tries in the last six minutes of an entertaining but one-sided encounter.
Delaney dotted down for the second time in the 77th-minute, after getting up to support winger Henry Bryce.
Replacement Emmett Harney tagged on another quick try after some excellent supporting play and inter-linking between Bryce, Leigh Gough and Delaney.
Another flowing move ended with winger Brian Fitzgerald adding his name to the scoresheet in the dying seconds.
QUEEN’S UNIVERSITY 45 NENAGH ORMOND 3, Dub Lane
Scorers: Queen’s University: Tries: Michael Barker 2, Ian Whitten, Matt Arneil, William Stewart, Neil Doak, Gareth Hooks; Cons: Ian Porter 5
Nenagh Ormond: Pen: John Lillis
Queen’s University completed the regulation phase of the AIB League with the win they required to finish third in the table and ensure their presence in the semi-finals.
Agonisingly for the Belfast students, they finished just two points behind second-placed Instonians in the standings, with Inst and unbeaten Bruff the teams to gain promotion.
Brian Robinson’s side could gain some revenge by beating Inst in their semi-final meeting at Shaw’s Bridge in two weeks’ time.
Whatever the score, Saturday’s result was not going to improve Nenagh Ormond’s league positioning as they trailed fourth-placed Banbridge by some distance.
The Tipperary men finished fifth last term and they occupy the same spot after the completion of this season’s games, although Naas, who still have to play Connemara in a rearranged game, could yet pip them for fifth.
A penalty kick from John Lillis, who took his league tally to 87 points, was Nenagh’s only score at Shaw’s Bridge.
The visitors, losing for the fifth time away from home this season, were simply cut to shreds as Queen’s attractive brand of attacking rugby came to the fore.
58-12 winners at home to Sunday’s Well last week, Robinson’s charges continued where they left off in that game.
Former Ireland Under-19 internationals Michael Barker (2) and Ian Whitten helped themselves to tries, while efforts from Matt Arneil, William Stewart, Gareth Hooks and ex-Ulster scrum half Neil Doak completed the rout.
Current Ireland Under-20 international Ian Porter kicked five conversions to take him through the 100-point barrier for the league run and onto 102 points.
WATERPARK 18 CITY OF DERRY 5, Ballinakill
Scorers: Waterpark: Tries: Gary Jones, David Copeland; Con: Gary Jones; Pens: Gary Jones 2
City of Derry: Try: Ian Orr
City of Derry finished one place worse off than last season as they failed to avoid the direct drop down to the junior ranks this time.
Derry were able to beat Armagh in a relegation play-off a little under twelve months ago and preserve their Division Three status.
However, in Neil Stewart’s first year at the coaching helm, the team have admittedly struggled and they were sent down by one of their fellow strugglers, Waterpark, at the weekend.
The hosts, with out-half Gary Jones contributing 13 points, claimed an 18-5 victory to leapfrog Derry in the table.
Waterpark finished 15th overall and must face the winners of the junior clubs’ round robin series in a play-off to decide which team will join the other 15 in next season’s Division Three.
Due to the adverse weather conditions, which included showers of rain, hail and sleet, the kick-off was put back to 3pm on the instruction of referee Kevin Beggs. With the hope that a number of pools of water on the pitch could be cleared.
Derry’s pack started well and were taking the game to the hosts but Waterpark gifted the first scoring chance to their number 10 Jones and he sent over a well-struck fifth-minute penalty for the lead.
Despite losing flanker Dermot Kiely to a knee injury, Jones soon kicked Waterpark into a 6-0 advantage with his second successful penalty.
Derry then lost their experienced out-half Stephen Smyth to the sin-bin for repeated infringements and Waterpark took their cue to move further ahead.
Number 8 John Phelan broke off the back of a scrum, Richard Jones, the nippy scrum half, collected his pass and he fed onrushing winger David Copeland who outfoxed the cover defence to notch the hosts’ first try.
Gary Jones missed the conversion but Derry suffered another blow when their scrum half Andrew Semple was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on, leaving the visitors down to 13 players for a short while.
Waterpark struggled, however, to put together a cohesive attack before half-time and it was Derry who raised their game.
They spurned a kickable penalty in favour of a scrum but nothing came of it and they were left trailing by 11-0 at the interval.
‘Park had to weather an early storm as Derry, restored to their full complement and backed by a gusty wind, battered away at the hosts’ defence with their forwards.
It paid dividends for Derry as Greg Mitchell slipped through a tackle and put Ian Orr over for his side’s only try.
Yet Waterpark moved 18-5 ahead just three minutes later when scrum half Richard Jones broke into space and spun a pinpoint out for his brother Gary to gather and scamper over from 30 metres out for a clinching seven-pointer.
Derry kept plugging away but it was a losing battle and the full-time score left them four points adrift at the bottom of the table. For Waterpark, their survival chances depend on that April 12 play-off.