Division 3 leaders Instonians made it eight wins in eight matches with a well-judged victory at Wanderers, while Banbridge broke into the top-four on the back of a gripping defeat of fellow promotion hopefuls Greystones.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 3: Saturday, January 29
Banbridge 26 Greystones 25, Rifle Park
City of Derry 31 Navan 10, Judge’s Road
Connemara 6 Seapoint 35, Monastery Field
NUIM Barnhall 6 Naas 9, Parsonstown
Rainey Old Boys 11 Nenagh Ormond 17, Hatrick Park
Suttonians 22 Ards 11, JJ McDowell Memorial Grounds
Wanderers 12 Instonians 27, Aviva Stadium back pitch
Sunday’s Well 15 Highfield 3, Musgrave Park (played on Friday)
Instonians were made to work hard for their eighth successive league win, coming from 12-8 behind and surviving two sin-binnings and a sending off on the back pitch at the Aviva Stadium.
Wanderers’ Andy Wallace kicked three penalties for a 9-8 half-time lead and added a fourth before ‘Inst hit back with 19 unanswered points, including a brace of tries from hooker and captain Stephen Douglas.
David Bradford, who ran in an intercept score in the first half, and Scott Browne, who powered forward from full-back, were the visitors’ other try scorers.
Seapoint kept pace with ‘Inst at the top of the table, thanks to a bonus point 35-6 victory at Connemara. Out-half Sean Joyce kicked two penalties for the Galway men, who remain bottom of the table.
Winger Conor Byrne scored two of Seapoint’s five tries, with winger Ben Focas, flanker Carl de Chenu and captain Des Doyle also crossing the whitewash.
Musgrave Park was the venue for the ‘Friday Night Lights’ clash of Cork rivals Sunday’s Well and Highfield. After a titanic tussle, the ‘Well took a 15-3 verdict to claim their first win of 2011 and move up to seventh in the table.
Defences were on top for most of the game, which was watched by a sizeable and vocal crowd. Out-half Danny O’Shea kicked four penalties for the victors before knocking over the clinching drop goal in the closing minutes.
His opposite number, Colin Mahony, kicked his lone penalty to make it 3-3 for half-time, and while Highfield showed an improvement from their defeat to NUIM Barnhall last weekend, the hosts proved too strong.
The ‘Well had the better of the game as they looked to get Willie Devane punching holes in the Highfield defence on the crash ball, while dual status player Aidan Dwyer from Thurles also put in a big effort beside him.
Highfield, who remain 11th in the standings, also had their moments with some strong mauls and John Moloney proved to be a massive asset for them in the lineout.
At Judge’s Road, City of Derry ran in five tries during their 31-10 triumph over Navan. But their forwards coach Mark Nicholl admitted afterwards that the overall performance was not up to scratch.
“The players are disappointed with their performance today, but when you score five tries to one and get your bonus point and are still not happy – that tells you a lot about this squad,” he said.
“We definitely were a bit rusty out there but that was to be expected considering the few games we have had recently, Navan have had more games than us over the last month and it showed.
“I was delighted that we got everyone on the pitch today and with our second team winning away at Ards by close on 40 points, we have everyone in the senior squad healthy and available for selection next week.”
It was an important win for third-placed Derry after their recent loss to Seapoint. They fell behind to a 30-metre penalty from Navan out-half Martin Coll, but edged ahead in the 30th minute when full-back Peter Henderson touched down and out-half Richard Peoples added the conversion.
Derry increased their advantage to 12-3 for half-time, a break from captain Sam McAuley sparking them into life and Henderson passed for centre David Funston to run in an unconverted score.
Navan, who lost their lock and captain John Duffy to a yellow card, then leaked an intercept try to flanker Tom Patton and a well-worked bonus point score from winger Simon Logue.
Coll reduced the arrears for the Meath side with a converted try, making it 26-10, but Derry had the final say in the 65th minute when a slick lineout drive set up flanker Stephen Corr for the final five-pointer.
Greystones were left stunned at Rifle Park by a terrific fightback from Banbridge, who battled to a 26-25 win which has moved them into fourth place.
‘Stones led 13-9 at the interval and pushed on by adding two more tries to their tally, leaving Bann with a 16-point deficit.
Bann out-half Robin Thompson kicked penalties after 3, 11 and 28 minutes, but tries from centre Simon Malone and winger Andrew Kealy saw the visitors set out their stall in the opening quarter-of-an-hour.
Prop Bobby Clancy, who made some forceful carries, offloaded for lock Ben Armstrong to run in Greystones’ third try, after the restart, and a neat cross-field kick from out-half Ross Spillane set up the fleet-footed Kealy for his second of the afternoon.
Trailing 25-9 and with time running out, Banbridge got straight back on the attack and after some pressure on the visitors’ half, flanker Ryan Patterson stretched over for their opening try. Thompson converted and tagged on a 36-metre penalty to make it 25-19.
Suddenly, an unlikely victory was within the home side’s reach. Man-of-the-match Thompson delivered the final blow, creating a gap for himself to ghost through and dive for the try-line. The conversion followed, taking his haul to 21 points and giving Bann a one-point buffer.
Greystones spent the remaining minutes on the attack, but Spillane’s last-gasp drop goal attempt sailed wide of the uprights and Bann held on for a spirited win.
Meanwhile, full-back David Aherne kicked two penalties and a drop goal to guide Naas to a deserved 9-6 win over Kildare rivals NUIM Barnhall at Parsonstown.
Barnhall scrum half Rob Holt kicked a penalty in each half, but the decisive score came in the 76th minute when Aherne dropped a goal from the visitors’ 22 after centre Steve Mulhall had made a break from the halfway line.
Nenagh Ormond climbed to eighth in the standings following a 17-11 defeat of Rainey Old Boys at Hatrick Park. Winger Ger Harmse grabbed a late intercept try to decide this well-contested clash.
At the JJ McDowell Memorial Grounds, Suttonians posted their second win of the campaign as three tries, including one from experienced lock Aidan Kearney, helped them see off Ards on a 22-11 scoreline.