Two Kildare clubs – NUIM Barnhall and Naas – are riding high at the top of Ulster Bank League Division 2A following the opening round of action.
In fact, four teams began the league campaign with bonus point wins last Saturday with Thomond and Banbridge joining leaders NUIM Barnhall and second-placed Naas in the top four.
NUIM Barnhall gave relegated Blackrock College quite a welcome to Division 2A rugby, running in five tries to defeat the Dubliners 35-8 at Parsonstown. Winger Michael Mellett scored a hat-trick on his debut for the Blue Bulls.
UCC had no answer to Naas’ firepower at Forenaughts where a 65th minute penalty try completed a 29-6 success, adding to earlier tries from Henry Bryce, captain Andrew Kearney and Jeff Delaney.
Darragh O’Neill’s bonus point try put the seal on Thomond’s impressive 32-20 home win over Queen’s University, as the Soda Cakes – promoted via last April’s Division 2B play-off – enjoyed a dream start to the league.
Although Cashel’s rolling maul was a real weapon in their opener, Banbridge’s outside backs were the key to their 38-28 victory over the Tipperary side on their new pitch at Rifle Park.
Full-back Adam Doherty scored a try, caught some terrific high balls and had a spell in the centre in the second half. He was Bann’s man-of-the-match and ably assisted by try-scoring wingers Adam Ervine and John Porter.
At Hatrick Park Scott Gibson was another debutant to catch the eye, conjuring up a game-changing try for Rainey Old Boys in the second half of their 20-19 derby win over City of Derry.
Gibson, who hails from Wales and previously played for Ballymena, took a quick tap on halfway and burst clear for a converted try that put Rainey 14-7 up. Quite a feat for a man who only arrived back from Australia the day before!
Two penalties from full-back Ross McCloskey pushed the Magherafelt men over the finish line, and a word too for Tim Barker’s influence in the forward exchanges – the ex-Ulster lock is back playing after a long break from the game.
Bective Rangers began life on the new 4G surface at Donnybrook by beating Seapoint 17-3 – a solid result for new head coach Barry Gibney to get his tenure under way – and reigning Division 2B champions Nenagh Ormond were also celebrating in Dungannon following their 17-8 victory over the Ulstermen.
Nenagh, who are now led by player-coach Anthony Kavanagh, made sure the long trip north to Stevenson Park was a fruitful one with converted tries from hooker Peter O’Connor and in-form winger Ruaidhri O’Brien.
The Division 2A season was officially opened by Skerries and Old Wesley at Holmpatrick last Friday night, with the visitors coming out on top – 22-0.
The match marked Wesley captain Alan Large’s 100th All-Ireland League appearance and his side established an 8-0 half-time lead thanks to an Ivan Campbell try and a penalty from winger Barry McLaughlin. Skerries had forwards Dave Reilly and Wayne Aquila sin-binned before the break.
Mark Rowley – a new signing at number 8 – crowned his man-of-the-match display with a second half try and a 50-metre intercept effort from McLaughlin sealed the result.
ROUND 1 RESULTS:
Skerries 0 Old Wesley 22, Holmpatrick (played on Friday)
Banbridge 38 Cashel 28, Rifle Park
Bective Rangers 17 Seapoint 3, Donnybrook
Dungannon 8 Nenagh Ormond 17, Stevenson Park
Naas 29 UCC 6, Forenaughts
NUIM Barnhall 35 Blackrock College 8, Parsonstown
Rainey Old Boys 20 City of Derry 19, Hatrick Park
Thomond 32 Queen’s University 20, Liam Fitzgerald Park