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
BANBRIDGE 0 BRUFF 22, Rifle Park
Scorers: Banbridge: –
Bruff: Tries: Brendan Deady 2, John Malone; Cons: Brian Cahill 2; Pen: Brian Cahill
Already promoted, unbeaten Bruff produced another shut-out to see out the regulation phase of Division Three as the table toppers and Union plaque winners.
The Limerick side accounted for Banbridge as they notched their 14th win in 15 games in this season’s league – they drew 10-10 with Ards in February.
Bann’s three-match winning run came to an end but they had done enough over their previous 14 games to secure fourth spot in the table and a place in the semi-finals.
Unfortunately for Andre Bester’s men, they will have to travel to Kilballyowen Park in two weeks’ time for a semi-final clash with Bruff.
Bann failed to create a real try-scoring chance in Saturday’s game and also could not win any kickable penalties as they endured a tough day at the office.
Bruff, aided by a strong wind in the first half, were 15-0 ahead after a quarter-of-an-hour’s play at Rifle Park.
They wrapped up the win with full-back Brendan Deady’s second try, scored five minutes into the second half. Deady was taking his try haul for the league campaign to nine.
Although they held the edge all around the pitch, the visitors were particularly prolific at the breakdown, winning a total of ten turnovers.
Bruff’s scrum and lineout were as solid as ever and Eugene Murnane’s charges, benefiting from this season’s switch to three nights of training, maintained their incredible defensive record.
Overall, Bruff conceded only 56 points in their 15 league games, making them the best defenders across all three divisions in the AIB League.
Their unbeaten run includes some stunning statistics – they kept their opponents to ‘nil’ in seven games, won 65 points out of a possible 75 and have conceded only four tries in the campaign to date.
COUNTY CARLOW 28 RAINEY OLD BOYS 15, Oak Park
Scorers: County Carlow: Tries: Clive Gee, Wes Whitten, Feliti Loholea, Sean Hennessy; Con: Greg Jacob; Pens: Greg Jacob 2
Rainey Old Boys: Tries: Jody McMurray, Mark Glendinning; Con: Michael Glancy; Pen: Michael Glancy
In the sides’ first ever AIB League meeting, County Carlow secured their first try-scoring bonus point of the season as they got the better of Rainey Old Boys at Oak Park.
Carlow, coached this term by Australian Jason Jones, were determined to make up for losing a tight game at home to Connemara last week.
Rainey did not have the services of their captain Neil O’Kane, who was suffering from a leg infection, and their trip south was not a smooth one.
The men from Magherafelt’s bus broke down on the way down and the kick-off had to be put back by 20 minutes.
And although they leaked an early penalty to Carlow kick Greg Jacob, Rainey gained the game’s opening try.
Facing into a strong wind, they played some good possession rugby and ten minutes in, Michael Glancy and Jerome McMurray combined to put the latter’s brother Jody over for the touchdown.
Glancy converted and after the home side had hit back with a try from hooker Colin Gee, the Rainey out-half landed his first penalty for a 10-8 score-line.
The nip-and-tuck nature of the game, which had a real end of season feel, continued with Carlow shunting their back rower Sean Hennessy over the whitewash for their second try.
Matters improved further for Carlow when their Australian centre Feliti Loholea broke into space and powered over, allowing Jacob to tap over the conversion.
A break off a ruck from flanker Andy Kerr led to second row Mark Glendinning nabbing an unconverted try, before half-time, for Rainey.
But there was still time for Jacob to kick an injury-time penalty after Richard Paul was whistled up for not releasing on the deck.
That left Carlow 23-15 ahead at the interval and despite losing two forwards to yellow cards for killing the ball, the midlanders kept ahead.
Rainey just not take their scoring chances and frustratingly, from a scrum close to the Carlow line, they messed up the heel with a two-man advantage in the pack.
Rainey then had Glancy sin-binned for some over zealous play at a ruck and Carlow, although still down to 14 men, wrapped up the spoils with second row Wes Whitten touching down after a short spell of pressure.
CORINTHIANS 12 OLD WESLEY 14, Corinthian Park
Scorers: Corinthians: Tries: Hugh Griffin, Darin Claasens; Con: JP Hartigan
Old Wesley: Tries: David Bursey, Brian Doherty; Cons: Alan Large 2
Corinthians, former play-off contenders, ended their league run on a disappointing note as they were edged out by Old Wesley at Corinthian Park.
Having already secured their Division Three status for another year, the Dubliners ventured west looking for their third win in four league games.
But the hosts got off to a flying start when poor handling off the kick-off saw Wesley concede a lineout close to their try line.
Corinthians gobbled up the throw and they were able to drive Under-20 squad member Hugh Griffin over for an unconverted try.
Having opted to play into the wind, Wesley succeeded in turning things around and they had the better of the first quarter, with flanker Chris McClean their stand-out player.
After breaks by himself and his half-back partner Paul Campbell, Wesley out-half Alan large missed a 16th-minute penalty attempt.
But despite losing two players to the sin-bin, the Galway men managed to hold their 5-0 lead up to half-time.
Slightly against the run of play, Corinthians went 12-0 in front just a few minutes after the resumption.
They won turnover ball and launched a thrilling counter attack from their 22 which ended with winger Darin Claasens scorching over close to the posts for a converted try.
That was Claasens’ 12th try of the league campaign and it had the home support in raptures as they contemplated a first win in five league games.
However, Wesley struck back shortly after when experienced lock David Bursey barged his way over for a try which Large converted.
The Dubliners sensed the win was on and their backs, including the 19-year-old Nigel Kinlan, who was making his league debut, came more and more into the game.
Large, Kinlan and Brian Hastings were all involved in the build-up that led to full-back Brian Doherty’s 71st-minute try, scored wide out on the right.
Large thumped over an excellent conversion kick to see Wesley nip in front and that is how it stayed, with the visitors almost getting in a third try in injury-time.
Winger Graham McCoy missed out on the touchdown when he was pinged for a double movement.
INSTONIANS 40 CONNEMARA 10, Shaw’s Bridge
Scorers: Instonians: Tries: Richard Fegan 2, Darren Lyttle, Adam Telford, Chris Goode, Wilbur Leacock; Cons: Niall Malone, Owen McMurray; Pens: Niall Malone, Owen McMurray
Connemara: Try: Aden Kelly; Con: Troy Nathan; Pen: Troy Nathan
After ten seasons in Division Three, Instonians have belatedly secured promotion into the second tier of the AIB League for next term.
This result confirmed Inst’s second place finish in the table, a home draw for them in the semi-finals and it also completed an impressive home record for them in the league this season – seven wins from seven outings at Shaw’s Bridge.
Speaking afterwards, Inst coach Clem Boyd said: “It has taken us a few years to get where we are and we’ve done it now. It’s pleasing and we’ll enjoy it.
“Winning the Queen’s game by a point was excellent and coming from behind against Carlow was a good result.
“But then that can be balanced out by Bruff where we lost by a point but, on the balance of play, should have won and we lost at Waterpark by a point,” he added.
Connemara’s win in last season’s corresponding game was their first success over Inst in five years.
With their divisional status already secured, the Galway men had little but pride to play for in Belfast – nonetheless they were a committed outfit from the first-minute until full-time.
Still, they could only manage one try through lock Aden Kelly with his fellow New Zealander Troy Nathan kicking a conversion and a penalty.
By half-time, Inst had their bonus point chalked up. Richard Fegan helped himself to two tries, Adam Telford finished off a break from Davy O’Hara to register his 11th try of the campaign and Darren Lyttle also muscled over off a five-metre scrum.
Tries from Chris Goode and Wilbur Leacock followed after the break as Inst, who finished fourth in the table last season before losing in the semi-finals, saw out the regulation phase on quite a high.