Highfield underlined their title credentials by winning their Friday Night Lights derby clash with Kanturk in convincing fashion, as they moved five points clear at the top of Division 2B.
Highfield player-coach Tim Ryan expected a tough challenge from recently-promoted Kanturk and they got just that, especially in the first half. However, the hosts held too many aces and claimed a bonus point in a 24-5 win.
Munster and Ireland prop James Cronin was among the large attendance at Woodleigh Park, supporting his brother Miah who had the aforementioned Ryan, who started at number 8, alongside him in the Highfield back row.
The game was scoreless until the midpoint of the first half when a powerful lineout maul ominously gained 20 metres for Highfield, with slick handling from the backs putting centre and captain Peter Martin over to the right of the posts.
Six minutes later, lock David Kelly was hugely influential in starting and finishing Highfield’s second try of the night, his brilliant offload sending Martin away on a 40-metre charge and Kelly carried the ball on two more occasions before popping up to supply the finishing touches to the move.
The conversion was added this time by out-half Paddy O’Toole, putting Kanturk 12-0 in arrears for half-time. It would have be worse had Martin not be stopped just short during a 38th minute attack.
Kanturk had some adjusting to do with skipper Johnny O’Sullivan going off injured and their scrum half Paul Cotter was sin-binned early in the second period. A well-struck penalty from his half-back partner Paul O’Keeffe at least lifted the visitors’ spirits approaching the hour mark.
The league leaders did not let up, though, and hooker David O’Hea was driven over for a 60th minute try to make it 17-3. They were made to work hard for the bonus point with Ryan earning a yellow card with 10 minutes left.
Highfeld duly put a couple of missed opportunities behind them when Martin’s centre partner Paul Stack touched down from a kick and chase effort late on and replacement Tim Clifford converted for good measure.
However, this hard-edged Cork derby ended on a sour note as a bout of fisticuffs in injury-time led to referee Chris Harrington sin-binning two Highfield players and one from Kanturk.
Also on Friday night, mid-table Navan picked up their third win in four league outings with a 17-12 defeat of De La Salle Palmerston at Kirwan Park.
A converted first half score from player-coach Alan Kingsley, coupled with a penalty try after the break, did the business for the Co. Meath club, with ‘Salmo striking late to secure a losing bonus point.
Tullamore have gone under the radar a little so far, but they have enjoyed a decent November return with two bonus point victories at home and a losing bonus point on the road.
In their latest game, a late forwards drive resulted in the try which saw the Offaly side prevail 24-23 over Bruff at Spollanstown. The visitors fell just short despite tries on the day from centre Darragh Mulcahy, captain David Horan and winger Paudie Kilcoyne.
Tullamore are now back up to third in the standings, level on 21 points with Sligo just above, while Bruff (18 points) are down in sixth spot.
Second-placed Sligo ceded ground in the title race as they drew 10-all away to struggling Richmond. The Limerick club ended their five-match losing streak with Brian Mullins converting Gareth O’Hanlon’s try to add to Stephen Clancy’s first half penalty.
It had looked good for Sligo early on as they ran a Richmond clearance kick back with interest, and quick hands across the back-line released centre Richard Childs for a try which Conor Kerins converted.
Richmond improved their tactical kicking as the first half wore on and Clancy’s penalty got them off the mark on the half hour, before some gritty defending kept Aaron Spring out as a late Sligo try-scoring chance went a-beginning.
An accurate penalty strike from Matthew Cosgrove improved Sligo’s lead to 10-3, early in the second half, but errors prevented them from adding further scores and Richmond replied with 10 minutes remaining.
A chip through into the Sligo 22 was not properly dealt with by Gavin Foley’s men, and O’Hanlon managed to win the race to the touchdown with Mullins’ conversion ensuring a share of the spoils for Richmond.
Ards remain rooted to the bottom of the table after being demolished 75-19 by a try-hungry Greystones side. Having built a 26-12 half-time lead at Hamilton Park, the visitors really dominated the closing 40 minutes
‘Stones already had six tries on the board when Andrew Roberts, captain Bobby Clancy (2), Vinny Barry and Kiwi out-half Kurt Strachan added five more to complete the rout.
Sunday’s Well, who will be hosted by Greystones on December 6, made it two wins on the bounce and ‘nilled’ their opponents for the second week running. The Corkmen proved too strong for Old Crescent, running out 10-0 winners at Irish Independent Park.
The ‘Well defence continually frustrated Crescent – as they had done to Navan the week before – with centre Cyprien Jouve and scrum half Peter Arigho tackling like terriers.
The home pack performed very well as a collective, with their rolling maul proving a reliable weapon as it gained good yardage on a number of occasions.
Crescent winger Marty Ryan dragged back Alex O’Neill without the ball, earning himself a 15th minute yellow card, and after the lineout was won a powerful drive ended with Sunday’s Well hooker John Moynihan crashing over for a try.
Crescent’s Stephen O’Brien missed a penalty early on the resumption, but the visitors could do little to stop the rampant ‘Well maul and Moynihan grabbed his second try from a similarly well-executed drive.
Meanwhile, Armagh slipped to their second straight defeat when going down 11-6 to Wanderers at Merrion Road. The injury-hit Dubliners improved their league position to ninth as they held out in a nail-biting finish.
It was a first half full of fast, open rugby, however defences were on top and the only scores came from a penalty apiece by Peter Brougham and Matthew Steenson.
Armagh were left to rue their failure to convert three first half line-breaks into tries as Wanderers moved 11-3 clear by the hour mark. Eoghan Nihill broke down the blindside to send winger Kelvin Leahy over in the corner for a 44th minute try.
Brougham tagged on a 57th minute penalty for a maul infringement, but Armagh hung in there and after a couple of missed penalties at either end Steenson’s second successful kick, five minutes from the end, gave his side a losing bonus point.
Boyne lost for the fifth time in the opening six rounds as Midleton marched their way to a 27-0 success at Towns Park. The Corkmen have been in superb form at home so far in this season’s league, winning all three games with 60 points scored and only three conceded.
Dave Smyth’s pushover try, allied to eight points from the boot of Paul Daly, gave Midleton a 13-0 buffer at the break.
Two more converted tries from Rob Smyth and Micheal ‘Yorkie’ Cronin saw out a result which has Midleton fifth in the standings, the only frustration being their failure to grab a bonus point that was there for the taking.
– With thanks to Janusz Trzesicki, Sligo RFC and Brendan Kenneally
ROUND 6 RESULTS:
Ards 19 Greystones 75, Hamilton Park
Midleton 27 Boyne 0, Towns Park
Richmond 10 Sligo 10, Richmond Park
Sunday’s Well 10 Old Crescent 0, Irish Independent Park
Tullamore 24 Bruff 23, Spollanstown
Wanderers 11 Armagh 6, Merrion Road
De La Salle Palmerston 12 Navan 17, Kirwan Park (played on Friday)
Highfield 24 Kanturk 3, Woodleigh Park (played on Friday)