Just two points separate the top seven teams in Ulster Bank League Division 2B heading into the early season break. Highfield’s bonus point win away to Greystones has them top of the pile, level on points with Armagh who are the only side still with a 100% winning record.
James Cronin’s opening try sent Munster on their way to victory against Leinster on Saturday night, and his younger brother Miah did likewise for Highfield earlier in the day.
Flanker Miah, the former Munster Under-20 captain, touched down in the third minute of Highfield’s 40-26 victory over hosts Greystones at Dr. Hickey Park.
Paddy O’Toole and player-coach Tim Ryan added further tries as the Corkmen cruised into a 20-0 lead. Previously unbeaten Greystones responded with two tries of their own to cut the gap to 23-12 by half-time.
However, Cronin put his name to the bonus point score and Paul Stack notched a fifth try as Ryan’s charges claimed a notable scalp on the road.
Second-placed Armagh recorded their third successive triumph when they visited league newcomers Kanturk at Knocknacolan.
The Ulstermen had been narrow winners at home to Navan last week and they showed their mettle again in winning by a tight margin (17-14) in Cork. They had to do it the hard way, recovering from the concession of Kealan Buckley’s second-minute try.
Despite Armagh getting the edge in the scrum where man-of-the-match Simon Carlisle impressed, Kanturk went close to scoring a second try from a charge down. The visitors recovered and a spell of pressure led to influential back rower Neil Faloon crossing for a converted try.
Kanturk fell 14-7 behind when Armagh winger Robbie Faloon scored close to the posts, and they began the second half with just 13 players following yellow cards for Peter Earlie and former Munster and Ireland prop Tony Buckley.
Indeed, the referee sin-binned five players by the end of the game. The home supporters, having ran for shelter from a heavy rain shower, returned to watch hooker Mike Cronin go over from close range with Paul O’Keeffe’s conversion bringing Kanturk level again.
However, Armagh worked their socks off in defence and a ruck infringement gave replacement out-half Andrew Magowan the opportunity to slot a decisive three-pointer and consign Kanturk to their first home league defeat since February 2008.
Elsewhere, Boyne opened their win account at the third attempt when overcoming Ards 24-20 at Shamrock Lodge – and they have a familiar face to thank for this latest success.
Replacement winger Cormac Brodigan finished off a fantastic try in the corner to win it in the last play of the game. Ards must be sick of the sight of Brodigan as he bagged two tries against them last season as Boyne successfully avoided relegation.
Sunday’s Well also won for the first time this season when getting the better of hosts Bruff on a 7-3 scoreline. It was a gritty triumph for Robbie Doyle’s men who had two front rowers sin-binned before half-time.
Declan Bannon’s penalty gave Bruff the lead, five minutes into the second half, but the Well grabbed the all-important try when captain Aidan O’Reilly burst through midfield and his neat offload created the opening for try scorer Ross O’Mahony, who formed a strong centre partnership with Cyprien Jouve.
Sligo made it two wins in three games by beating Tullamore 27-10 at Hamilton Park, bagging a bonus point in the process as they climbed to third in the table.
Tullamore had other ideas when they blazed into a 10-0 lead on the back of centre Michael Brazil’s seventh-minute try, but Sligo went on to dominate possession and their superior scrum was rewarded with two penalty tries. Wingers Michael Allen and Mark Rooney also touched down.
Navan are one of four clubs that have amassed 10 points from their first three league fixtures. The Meath club’s latest outing saw them hand Midleton their first defeat (26-19) at Balreask Old.
The Cork side led 19-12 at the interval and forced the issue late on, but tries from Brian McKeever, Alan Kingsley, Simon Hogan and Riaan van der Vyver guided Navan to a valuable home victory.
A much improved performance saw Wanderers win for the first time since their return to the Ulster Bank League, as they ran out 37-3 bonus point winners at Richmond. Out-half Peter Brougham kicked 17 points with the tries shared out by centre Robert Clune (2) and forwards Owen Grennan and Eoghan Nihill.
Old Crescent joined De La Salle Palmerston on six league points following a convincing 31-11 win over previously unbeaten ‘Salmo at Rosbrien.
It was Crescent’s first league success under their new management team – headed up by director of rugby Eugene McGovern and head coach Joe Nix – and a stellar display by Sean McGee saw him win the man-of-the-match award.
– Thanks to photographers Conor Griffin, Janusz Trzesicki, Judith Chalmers & Sligo RFC
ROUND 3 RESULTS:
Boyne 24 Ards 20, Shamrock Lodge
Bruff 3 Sunday’s Well 7, Kilballyowen Park
Greystones 26 Highfield 40, Dr. Hickey Park
Kanturk 14 Armagh 17, Knocknacolan
Navan 26 Midleton 19, Balreask Old
Old Crescent 31 De La Salle Palmerston 11, Rosbrien
Richmond 3 Wanderers 37, Richmond Park
Sligo 27 Tullamore 10, Hamilton Park