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AIB League: Division Two Reports Round-Up

AIB League: Division Two Reports Round-Up

The 15th and final round of matches in AIB League Division Two took place on Saturday, with Buccaneers and Young Munster securing promotion, UCC and Belfast Harlequins joining them in the semi-finals and Suttonians and Barnhall being relegated.

AIB LEAGUE: DIVISION TWO: Saturday, March 29

BALLYNAHINCH 15 CLONAKILTY 23, Ballymacarn Park

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Scorers: Ballynahinch: Tries: Michael Graham, Jonny Cullen; Con: Harry McAleese; Pen: Harry McAleese

Clonakilty: Try: Shay O’Donovan, Joe Crawley, Gary Cribb; Con: David Lombard; Pens: David Lombard 2

In wet and windy conditions at Ballymacarn Park, Clonakilty secured their ninth win of the campaign to finish seventh in the final table.

This was the sides’ first ever AIB League clash and wind-backed Clon made a strong start.

Top-scoring out-half Gary Cribb dinked a kick through to the corner where winger Shay O’Donovan beat Jonny Cullen to the ball for an unconverted try.

‘Hinch, who were missing some key players, opened their account in the 11th-minute when former Ireland Under-19 international Harry McAleese kicked a penalty.

But Clon tightened their grip on the game soon after when the home side’s Davy Harris was intercepted in midfield and scrum half Joe Crawley had the pace to run in the touchdown for the Corkmen from the halfway line.

David Lombard converted and the Clon captain also fired successive penalties – after 28 and 37 minutes – through the posts to give the visitors an 18-3 half-time lead.

‘Hinch, turning around with the elements at their backs, made a good start to the second half with Michael Graham muscling his way through in the 51st-minute and sliding over for a well-taken try.

McAleese missed the conversion but ‘Hinch were turning things around, in terms of possession and territory, and had they shown more composure in the backs, they may have nabbed more tries.

The County Down side were stung in the 68th-minute when Clon burst out of their 22 on the counter, stringing together some excellent passes before Cribb crashed over the whitewash for an unconverted try.

That put the game beyond ‘Hinch but they did put Cullen over for a late consolation try, which McAleese converted.

BELFAST HARLEQUINS 38 BARNHALL 3, Deramore Park

Scorers: Belfast Harlequins: Tries: Stuart McComb, Shane Stewart, David Creighton, Andrew Gillespie, Paul McKenzie, Colin Atkinson; Cons: Darren Cave 4

Barnhall: Pen: Jamie Kavanagh

After seven seasons in Division Two, Kildare club Barnhall have been relegated with Saturday’s heavy defeat to Belfast Harlequins sending them down.

This was very meaningful game for both teams. Harlequins were hoping to grab a bonus point win and give themselves a last chance at gaining promotion straight back to the top flight.

Other results did not go their way however, and in the final table, third-placed ‘Quins (51 points) finished just behind Young Munster (52) and Buccaneers (53). Nonetheless, Andy Ward’s men will still feature in the play-offs.

For Barnhall, this was a highly-charged and emotional afternoon which ended in tears for a lot of their players and supporters.

Summing it up afterwards, Barnhall President Jack Looby said: “On behalf of all of the Barnhall supporters, we thank all of the boys in blue for the effort, dedication and commitment they have given to Barnhall in this difficult season and for all of our years in Division Two.”

The visitors did get off to a good start with Jamie Kavanagh booting a third-minute penalty, but they missed out on some early scoring chances.

Kavanagh missed a subsequent kick and a quickly taken tap penalty by Paul Burke came to nothing. A poor final pass also eluded Romain Gibert as the Blues Bulls threatened to score a try.

‘Quins managed that feat in the 21st-minute. Stuart McComb burst his way through for a try converted by Ireland ‘A’ international Darren Cave. That left the home side leading 7-3 at the break.

It was an altogether different ‘Quins side that began the second half – they even changed into maroon-coloured jerseys to prevent a colour clash in the muddied conditions.

Pumped up by a half-time team talk from Alan Solomons, the Ulster side ran in five second half tries to rediscover the form which saw them win their previous five league games.

Centre Shane Stewart, scrum half David Creighton, number 8 Andrew Gillespie, winger Paul McKenzie and flanker and captain Colin Atkinson all helped themselves to tries as ‘Quins beat Barnhall for the first time in the league.

Cave, who was kicking in the illness-enforced absence of Willem Slabbert, converted three of those tries.

Barnhall, for their part, battled bravely in a one-sided second half. Their cause was not helped when Dermot Dunne was yellow carded early on and they also lost three of their forwards to injury, including Neil Cotter who was stretchered off with a knee injury.

DE LA SALLE PALMERSTON 10 WANDERERS 17, Kilternan

Scorers: De La Salle Palmerston: Try; Ene Fa’atau; Con: Declan Griffin; Pen: David Elliott

Wanderers: Tries: Paddy Brophy, Kolo Kiripati; Cons: Daithi Fitzgerald 2; Pens: Daithi Fitzgerald

Wanderers won away from home for only the second time in this season’s AIB League as they fought hard to retain their Division Two status.

The Dublin 4 outfit went into this game needing a win to keep themselves in the division, while DLSP were in mid-table safety.

In wet and blustery conditions, ‘Salmo got off to a positive start with their pack gaining good yardage and their backs getting some early ball in hand.

The hosts struck for the game’s first try when powerful back rower and captain Ene Fa’atau barged his way over, with Declan Griffin converting.

Wanderers then dug their heels, exerted some pressure up front and a lovely kick through was gathered by the pacy Paddy Brophy who touched down under the posts.

Daithi Fitzgerald tapped over the conversion and Wanderers were soon 14-7 in front when busy scrum half Brendan O’Brien linked with his back row and the imposing Kolo Kiripati dotted down an excellent try.

Fitzgerald, one of the best place-kickers in the division, again added the extras but his effort was cancelled out by a late David Elliott penalty as DLSP fought back to trail by 14-10 at the interval.

Some clever kicking from full-back Billy Tracey and half-backs Fitzgerald and O’Brien forced ‘Salmo back towards their 22, at the start of the second half.

Territorially, Wanderers dominated the half and that was key to their ability to see out the win. Fitzgerald made no mistake with a penalty, into a swirling wind, to edge his side seven points clear and that is how it stayed.

MALONE 20 HIGHFIELD 5, Gibson Park

Scorers: Malone: Tries: John Anderson 3, Darren Barbour

Highfield: Try: Dave Ryan

Twice table toppers last month, Malone ended their campaign with a bonus point win over Highfield but with the top four also posting victories, the Belfast men have to settle for fifth place.

Highfield had been play-off contenders but lost their last three Division Two matches before this trip north.

At a rain-hit Gibson Park, Malone were determined to end their league run on a high and a superb early try from talismanic lock Darren Barbour set them on their way.

In the end, it was John Anderson who took centre stage with three tries – two in the second half.

Highfield prop and captain Dave Ryan registered his side’s only points, while Ulster development out-half Kieran Hallett had a bad day with the boot, missing all four conversions and a number of penalty kicks.