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Ulster Bank League: Division 2B Review

Ulster Bank League: Division 2B Review

Highfield won a hard-fought Division 2B top of the table clash with Armagh, coming from six points down to take a 16-12 verdict in front of a large Palace Grounds crowd.

Highfield player-coach Timmy Ryan scored a crucial try with Tim Clifford’s conversion edging the Corkmen ahead at 13-12, and a closing penalty from Clifford – adding to two first half efforts from Paddy O’Toole – settled the issue.

Armagh have slipped down to fourth place but are just four points off the top, with Sligo and Bruff now residing in second and third respectively.

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Sligo are always a tough proposition at Hamilton Park and Wanderers’ trip out west on Saturday duly ended in defeat – 24-16.

Gavin Foley’s home side were catapulted into an early lead when Mark Rooney raided through the Wanderers defence to reach the 22. Quick ball was moved from left to right for centre Aaron Spring to go over and Conor Kerins converted.

On the half hour mark, Sligo were awarded a penalty try after Wanderers encroached as the hosts’ front row of Ross Mannion, Tadhg Power and Conor Mitchell powered forward in a scrum ten metres out.

Full-back Kerins tapped over the conversion but Wanderers managed to respond just before half-time, a penalty from Peter Brougham coming after Sligo’s David Heath was sin-binned for persistent team infringements at the breakdown.

The Dubliners kept the pressure up for the start of the second half, scoring a try five minutes in with a sniping run from scrum half Michael McLoughlin to finish off a spell in the hosts’ 22.

Indeed, Wanderers went on to take the lead thanks to Brougham’s conversion and then two successful penalties in the 55th and 60th minutes, leaving Sligo 16-14 behind.

The visitors were convinced they had a penalty try for a pushover effort in the scrum too, but referee Tommy O’Donoghue felt otherwise. After the reset, Sligo reintroduced prop Mitchell, who had been temporarily replaced, and he made an immediate impact in steadying the scrum and forcing a turnover.

Kerins kicked Sligo back in front and in a decisive moment in the 70th minute, Wanderers knocked on near halfway due to a well-organised Sligo kick chase. Flanker Matthew Cosgrove gobbled up the loose ball and his excellent burst of pace took him clear to touch down by the posts.

Kerins added the extras for a 24-16 scoreline and Wanderers’ late rally failed to produce any scores as Brougham’s last-gasp drop goal attempt was blocked down.

De La Salle Palmerston won away from home for the first time in this season’s league with a 29-13 dismissal of Boyne at Shamrock Lodge. The result, which earned ‘Salmo forwards coach Victor Ball a Twitter shout-out from John Afoa, has moved them up to tenth in the standings.

An intercept try from centre Adam Philpott, who scored straight from his own 22 in the 38th minute, put DLSP 14-6 clear at half-time. Boyne’s last points of the half came from a monster penalty by number 8 Karl Keogh.

However, the Co. Meath side lost their concentration at vital stages and three yellow cards over the course of the game really hampered them.

An attempted clearance by Boyne went straight to DLSP replacement winger Martin Smith who darted away from 25 metres out to score an unconverted try.

‘Salmo had to cope with two yellow cards of their own – prop Keith Taite (60 minutes) and winger Ian O’Connor (72) – and Boyne deservedly won a penalty try five minutes from the finish.

But DLSP still had time to register their bonus point score when out-half Scott Finlay sprinted over in the 80th minute to complete a somewhat flattering 16-point victory.

After losing back-to-back games to Highfield and Armagh, Greystones succeeded in getting back on track with a 27-20 triumph over Midleton at Dr. Hickey Park.

Sunday’s Well also got back to winning ways by overcoming hosts Navan 15-0 at Balreask Old. Out-half Shane O’Riordan starred with a match-winning haul of five penalty goals.

The Well’s dominant lineout and gutsy defence were key factors as Navan fell to their second league defeat. The visitors almost had a try in the opening minutes via a pushover effort from the pack, while wingers Alex O’Neill and Cathal Quinn also came close to crossing the whitewash.

9-0 down at half-time, Navan enjoyed a purple patch when they hammered away at the Well pack in a series of five-metre scrums. But the Cork side, and replacement front rower Paul Daly in particular, stood up to the task and a Well penalty lifted the siege.

O’Riordan clinched the result with two more penalties and in keeping Navan both try-less and scoreless, Sunday’s Well have leaked just one try and 11 points in all during their last three games.

Old Crescent recorded their second win in three league outings by edging out Tullamore 7-6 at Rosbrien. Rory Cunningham scored the all-important try which Shane O’Brien converted.

Bruff won their ‘Friday Night Lights’ derby clash with Richmond which was the Limerick rivals’ first competitive league meeting since a 2004 Munster Junior League tie.

Dave O’Grady was rewarded for a clever early break with a third minute try which Declan Bannon converted. Bannon, Bruff’s goal-kicking winger, added a penalty seven minutes later for a 10-0 lead at Kilballyowen Park.

Tony Cahill’s quick tap penalty in the 25th minute launched the hosts forward for their second try of the game, the ball being transferred out to the right where O’Grady grabbed his second converted effort.

Try number three followed just after half-time. A strong tackle dislodged Richmond possession, the ball was hacked on into the visitors’ 22 and Sean Darcy’s determination in the chase led to out-half Bannon touching down for 22-0.

Richmond sparked a revival with a Brian Collins try on the hour mark, following a five-metre lineout, and winger Stephen Collins notched their second with 15 minutes remaining.

In a tense finale, the errors and nerves increased before Bruff bagged their bonus point late on. A great chase of a kick by replacement out-half Paul Downes saw Bannon reach the ball first and he dribbled it through for Mike Cooke, who was up in support, to score a final unconverted try.

Ards’ heavy 45-12 loss to Kanturk saw them swap places with Richmond at the foot of the table. The Corkmen cruised to victory at Knocknacolan with their seven tries shared out by Sean Cremin, Paul O’Keeffe, Kealan Buckley, Dan McCabe, who was playing his 100th game for Kanturk, Matt Gandy, Johnny O’Sullivan and John Duggan.

– With thanks to photographers Janusz Trzesicki, Conor Griffin and Pat O’Leary

ROUND 5 RESULTS:

Armagh 12 Highfield 16, Palace Grounds
Boyne 13 De La Salle Palmerston 29, Shamrock Lodge
Greystones 27 Midleton 20, Dr. Hickey Park
Kanturk 45 Ards 12, Knocknacolan
Navan 0 Sunday’s Well 15, Balreask Old
Old Crescent 7 Tullamore 6, Rosbrien
Sligo 24 Wanderers 16, Hamilton Park
Bruff 27 Richmond 12, Kilballyowen Park (played on Friday)