With Banbridge edging out Sunday’s Well in a high-scoring encounter at Rifle Park, there are now three Ulster teams in the top-three of All-Ireland League Division 3. Unbeaten Instonians continue to lead the way, closely followed by City of Derry.
ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE DIVISION 3 RESULTS: Saturday, November 27
Banbridge 35 Sunday’s Well 30, Rifle Park
City of Derry 25 NUIM Barnhall 22, Judge’s Road
Connemara 11 Suttonians 45, Monastery Field
Greystones 39 Wanderers 5, Dr. Hickey Park
Highfield 13 Instonians 18, Woodleigh Park
Naas v Nenagh Ormond, Forenaughts (match postponed due to unplayable pitch)
Navan 13 Rainey Old Boys 44, Balreask Old
Seapoint v Ards, Kilbogget Park (match postponed due to unplayable pitch)
Six games survived the bad weather and the result of the day was at Monastery Field where Suttonians secured their first win of the league campaign, beating hosts Connemara by 45-11.
The Sutton side ran outscored Connemara by six tries to one, with elusive centre Ronan Murphy scoring a hat-trick. Scrum half Adam Griggs converted all six tries and landed a penalty for a 15-point haul.
Connemara, who remain bottom of the table, remained committed throughout – particularly their young and improving pack – and were rewarded with a try from lock Martin O’Malley.
Table toppers Instonians also won away from home, overcoming Highfield on an 18-13 scoreline at Woodleigh Park. A second half try from winger Robert Kirk, which full-back Scott Brown converted, proved crucial for Clem Boyd’s side.
Instonians were made to fight all the way for the win however, having lost props Alan Whitten and Gary Mitchell to the sin-bin after the break.
Highfield, who lie seveth in the standings, mustered a try in each half from lock Mick Dillane and flanker Miah Cronin.
At Judge’s Road, a try from centre David Funston with four minutes left on the clock sealed the bonus point for City of Derry as they got the better of NUIM Barnhall.
The Kildare side tested out the Derry defence in the opening minutes, but the hosts took the lead when winger William McCleery dived over in the corner after a clever chip kick from out-half Richard Peoples had unlocked the NUIM Barnhall defence.
Two quick-fire tries from number 8 Barry Dunn and centre Conor Feeney saw NUIM Barnhall respond in stunning fashion.
Dunn made the breakthrough after a series of forward drives and winger Adam Hughes converted. Just two minutes later, out-half and captain Eoin Hogan kicked forward and the Derry defence dithered, Feeney crept in to score by the posts.
Hughes’ conversion attempt cannoned back off the crossbar and Derry managed to get back on terms, 12-12, before half-time. The visitors’ hooker Ben Harrison was sin-binned, and from a blindside break, full-back Peter Henderson crossed for a seven-pointer.
Derry dominated a third quarter during which NUIM Barnhall suffered a second sin-binning. Peoples potted a penalty but Bevan Lynch’s side failed to turn their possession into points.
They were rocked back onto their heels when NUIM Barnhall ran in a 70-metre intercept try and with Hughes converting, Derry were suddenly 19-15 in arrears.
Derry replied with a well-worked team try – Tom Patton, Stephen Corr and number 8 Richard Baird were all involved before Funston put McCleery through for his second touchdown.
In an exciting climax, Hughes was denied by some scrambling Derry defence before Hogan dropped a 75th minute goal to send NUIM Barnhall back in front (22-20).
But Derry produced the match-winning try just a minute later. Winger Simon Logue gained ground and he found the supporting Sam McAuley who passed for Funston, on the wing, to run in from 20 metres out.
Speaking afterwards, Derry coach Bevan Lynch said: “We struggled to play our usual game today and we gifted the opposition two easy scores which allowed them to take the lead each time.
“There was no great elation after the game as the players and coaches were disappointed in the performance in front of our own supporters. We will have to improve if we are to go to Seapoint in Dublin next Saturday and get anything from that game.”
Meanwhile, Banbridge needed two late converted tries from replacement prop Michael Combie and number 8 Dale Black to see off Sunday’s Well in a 35-30 thriller at Rifle Park.
Sunday’s Well had the bonus point in the bag with nine minutes to go, leading by 30-21. Prop Jack Bransfield scored an early try and centre Willie Devane completed the first half’s scoring by taking advantage of a missed tackle to touch down and make it 13-11 for half-time.
The ‘Well moved further ahead when winger Chris Spearman gobbled up a perfectly timed offload from number 8 Marty Collins to race through for try number three, which out-half Danny O’Shea converted.
Out-half Robin Thompson kicked a penalty and then jinked his way over for a converted try in the 48th minute, seeing Bann nip back in front at 21-20. A yellow card for scrum half Ruairi Geary had left the Cork side short handed.
And while the ‘Well were able to bounce back with an O’Shea penalty and a second seven-pointer from Devane, Bann showed great heart and battling qualities in the final minutes to wrestle back the win.
Hooker Jonny Murphy tapped a penalty and following a furious passage of play, Cromie scored from close range and Thompson’s conversion left just two points between the sides.
Thompson missed a kickable penalty, but Bann conjured up the decisive try when the hard-working Carson took a pass and muscled his way past two defenders to score from 25 metres out.
Rainey Old Boys enjoyed their second league win of the month as number 8 Michael Shiels and winger Andrew Campbell scored a brace of tries each in a 44-13 dismissal of Navan at Balreask Old.
And, at Dr. Hickey Park, Greystones continued their good run of form by overwhelming Wanderers for a bonus point 39-5 victory.
Reggie Corrigan’s side have now won four of their last five league games and entertain Suttonians next weekend in their final Division 3 fixture before the Christmas break.
Tries from scrum half Cian McNaughton, back rowers Alan O’Toole and Rob Smith and winger Ronan Caroll (2) did the damage for them against Wanderers, whose only try came from former ‘Stones player David Popplewell.