Tullamore, Midleton, Bruff and Wanderers all made moves in the top half of the Division 2B table over the weekend, while another bonus point win keeps Highfield just ahead of Armagh at the summit.
Richmond’s fourth successive defeat – a 33-6 reversal away to Tullamore – saw them drop to the bottom of the standings following a disappointing showing at Spollanstown.
Having lost to Sligo last time out, Tullamore were eager to bounce back and they did just that, securing a bonus point thanks to tries from Brian Geraghty, John Hayes, Leon Martin and a brace from Jordan Conroy.
The Offaly outfit, who are up to fourth in the table, will travel next weekend to Old Crescent who are smarting from a 24-0 loss to fifth-placed Midleton. A dogged performance in very wet and windy conditions at Towns Park saw Midleton make it three wins in four league outings.
The Corkmen had to soak up some early pressure, facing into the breeze, before a knock-on gave the hosts a 25th minute scrum close to the Crescent posts and Rob Smyth duly dotted down.
Paul Daly converted the try and then tagged on a penalty, ten minutes into the second half, and Midleton’s ability to frustrate Crescent in defence kept the visitors scoreless.
A second try followed from a lineout maul with Darren O’Keeffe getting the touchdown for Daly to convert and make it 17-0. Daly also added the extras to Louis Farnham’s final try from a speedy burst along the wing.
Meanwhile, Bruff condemned De La Salle Palmerston to their third defeat, scoring the only try of the game for a 10-3 victory in inclement weather at Kirwan Park.
Winger Declan Bannon cancelled out an earlier ‘Salmo penalty to bring Bruff level by half-time, and the visitors pressed for the win after a missed DLSP penalty in the 65th minute.
Jake Considine and David Horan returned to the fray having been replaced earlier. The influential pair boosted Bruff at a crucial juncture and they should have profited from a great run by prop Colm O’Sullivan into the DLSP 22.
‘Salmo held out until the final minute when sustained pressure, including forceful carries from Considine and Danny Keogh, led to the decisive try. Scrum half Tony Cahill’s brilliant reverse flick pass sent back rower Mike Carroll storming over the whitewash with Bannon converting for a seven-point winning margin.
All the scoring was done in the first half at Musgrave Park as Sligo emerged as 8-3 winners over Sunday’s Well, with Mark Rooney scoring the all-important try. In the end, the 14-man visitors stood firm despite playing into a big wind in very wet conditions during the second period.
Ards lost their rescheduled game against Bruff last month (29-12), and they were beaten too by Navan in round 4. There was no home comfort for the Hamilton Park outfit as Navan prevailed 11-3.
A blustery wind and driving rain made conditions particularly tough and the Meath men were pleased to open their account inside six minutes, with player-coach Alan Kingsley slotting home a penalty.
Kingsley doubled Navan’s lead by half-time, using the wind to his advantage from 45 metres out, but Ards enjoyed some purple patches and deservedly got off the mark with half an hour remaining.
Nonetheless, Kingsley’s charges slammed the door shut when scrum half David Delahunt touched down from an advancing five-metre scrum. Credit to back rower Leigh Jackson for his work in the build-up, as he powered through the Ards defence and followed up his chip with a scrum-winning tackle.
Armagh made it four wins out of four with a 20-7 triumph at home to Greystones, gaining revenge for a 16-point loss in Co. Wicklow last season.
The sides swapped early tries in this latest meeting at the Palace Grounds, which was watched by Ireland assistant coach Les Kiss. Cormac O’Donoghue cancelled out Armagh lock Willie Martin’s opening score and 7-all is how it stayed for half-time amid a heavy downpour.
But Armagh got on top over the closing 40 minutes. Replacement Lorcan McGillan landed a penalty after a Greystones yellow card, and then Armagh flanker and captain Mark Riddell raided through for a second converted try.
McGillan took his scoring contribution to eight points with a closing penalty after ‘Stones were pinged for coming in at the side of a ruck. Armagh face a fascinating home clash with league leaders Highfield next Saturday, the clubs’ first encounter since the 1997/98 season.
Armagh head coach Andy Hughes told the Newsletter: “The set piece, which has come in for some criticism recently, was excellent (against Greystones) and once again our defence was outstanding.
“Although we left some points out there I was pleased with the chances we created and the patterns we have been working on in training are now starting to show.
“We face a massive challenge next Saturday against Highfield, but if we can repeat this performance with a little more precision we should be okay.
“We are not yet the finished article but we are slowly getting there. I would also appeal to the Armagh public to come out and support us – you were brilliant (today) but we will need you even more next week.”
Pace setters Highfield have been racking up some big scores this season – 30 points against Old Crescent and 40 against Greystones – and they continued that trend with a 50-3 thrashing of a young Boyne side at Woodleigh Park.
The bonus point win leaves Tim Ryan’s men a point clear of Armagh at the top of the table. Highfield were far more physical in the forwards and that was a key factor in the heavy rain.
The unbeaten Cork club hit the half-century thanks to seven tries – a penalty try plus efforts from Martin Gately (2), Ben Murphy, Dave Kelly, James Daly and Miah Cronin, while out-half Paddy O’Toole was successful with six conversions and a penalty.
Following on from their recent qualification for the Leinster Senior League Shield final, Wanderers maintained their winning form with a hard-earned 25-20 success against Kanturk at Merrion Road.
Wanderers beat the Cork side by a point in last April’s Round Robin qualifier and they had to show immense grit again, defending manfully right to the final whistle despite having two players sin-binned in the closing stages.
The Dubliners built an 11-3 interval lead courtesy of an unconverted try from prop Serban Moldoveanu, straight from a rolling maul, and out-half Ciaran Wade’s brace of penalties.
Wade’s half-back partner Michael McLoughlin touched down in the 42nd minute to tighten Wanderers’ grip on the game, or so it seemed.
Kanturk got back into contention following a 57th minute try from Barra Buckley, the older of the Buckley brothers, and five more points from the boot of promising 18-year-old out-half Paul O’Keeffe.
Back came Wanderers with loosehead Moldoveanu completing his brace of tries with 15 minutes left, and Wade’s conversion made it 25-13.
The match went right down to the wire, though, as centre Luke McCabe’s converted effort cut the gap to just five points with nine minutes remaining. Wanderers’ hard graft in defence saw them eventually squeeze over the finish line, staving off the visitors’ brave comeback bid.
ROUND 4 RESULTS:
Ards 3 Navan 11, Hamilton Park
Armagh 20 Greystones 7, Palace Grounds
De La Salle Palmerston 3 Bruff 10, Kirwan Park
Highfield 50 Boyne 3, Woodleigh Park
Midleton 24 Old Crescent 0, Towns Park
Sunday’s Well 3 Sligo 8, Musgrave Park
Tullamore 33 Richmond 6, Spollanstown
Wanderers 25 Kanturk 20, Merrion Road