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Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Review

Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Review

Galwegians maintained their seven-point advantage at the top of Ulster Bank League Division 1B with a strong second half showing as they beat Belfast Harlequins 31-19 at Crowley Park.



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Galwegians trailed 12-10 at half-time and looked sluggish early on as Belfast Harlequins full-back David McMaster dotted down from their first attack and winger Mark Glover added their second try from a cross-field kick in the 18th minute.

The hosts improved in the second quarter with winger Matt Dever crossing the whitewash on the half hour mark and five minutes later, they had a second unconverted effort when lock Marty Cummins scored from a lineout maul.

Galwegians tided up their sloppy handling and it paid immediate dividends just after the break when prop Doron McHugh’s excellent offload saw Cummins complete his brace in the 42nd minute.

Ciaran Gaffney added the conversion for a 17-12 scoreline and the table toppers collected their bonus point with 18 minutes remaining – a break-out led by centre Jerome Harimate was finished off by replacement Aidan Moynihan who also converted.

Scrum half Caolin Blade went close to scoring try number five before Moynihan managed to get over again in the 73rd minute to boost his scoring contribution to 14 points.

Harlequins never let their heads drop as they tried to get something out of the game. Ulster’s Michael Allen ran in their third try in the 78th minute but they could not eat any further into the 12-point deficit.

Connacht’s Craig Ronaldson – a Division 1A title winner with Lansdowne in 2013 – returned to Ulster Bank League action this afternoon, lining out in the number 10 jersey for Corinthians against Dublin University.

However, he was unable to inspire the Galway club to victory at College Park as Trinity outscored the visitors by four tries to one to emerge with a terrific 31-13 win – their first bonus point success of the campaign.

The students went ahead on the quarter hour mark thanks to an unconverted try out wide by right winger Bryan Mollen, who was stepping up from the Under-20 grade.

Second row Raef Tyrrell followed him over the whitewash in response to a Ronaldson penalty at the other end, and the latter’s second three-pointer cut the gap to 10-6 for half-time.

It was Trinity’s turn to trail when Corinthians full-back Conor Murphy scored an early second half try which Ronaldson converted. However, the Tony Smeeth-coached hosts answered back with a brilliant scoring burst of 21 points without reply.

Jack McDermott kicked three successive penalties for a 19-13 scoreline before his half-back partner Angus Lloyd added a fine try which saw his impressive footwork outfox the Corinthians cover.

Replacement Andy Keating bagged the bonus point two minutes later as Trinity finished on a high, with their unbeaten run in Division 1B now standing at five games.

Ballymena moved back into second place with a thumping 43-15 dismissal of 14-man Shannon at Eaton Park, during which back-three aces Tim Small and Sean Taylor scored two tries apiece and Ulster’s Ricky Andrew (pictured below) also touched down.

Shannon second row Ruairi O’Donnell was sent off for a tip tackle in the ninth minute, but the visitors battled on bravely and scored tries in each half from winger David O’Donovan and number 8 Lee Nicholas.

The bonus point was enough to see the Braidmen vault back over Garryowen who lost a place despite beating Malone 16-12 in a tight encounter at Gibson Park.

Ireland Under-20 starlet Alex Wootton and Kiwi back rower Josh Hrstich scored first half tries for Garryowen, with the in-form Wootton adding to the hat-trick he ran in against Ballymena last week.

Centre Josh Pentland scored a try and conversion, with replacement Ben McDonnell also touching down, as Malone reduced the arrears to 13-12 with just seven minutes remaining.

However, a late penalty from Garryowen out-half Jamie Gavin settled the issue as the Light Blues celebrated their sixth victory in eight league outings.

Meanwhile, Garryowen’s Limerick rivals UL Bohemians went down 21-16 to Buccaneers at Thomond Park, as a last-minute try from Connacht full-back Shane Layden punished a tiring Bohs defence.

It looked like an overdue win for the home side who tightened up on earlier indiscipline that had cost them nine points – Buccaneers’ Ross Keller, who deputised at out-half for the injured Alan Gaughan, landed three penalties for a 9-3 interval advantage.

Matters got worse for Bohs when young Buccs prop Jacob Walshe touched down from a rolling maul – it was his fourth try of the league campaign – but it was too far out for Keller to convert.

A terrific try from centre Rory White, who raced in from the 22, got UL back in contention and Airey converted to leave just four points between them.

The reliable out-half then landed penalties after 59 and 77 minutes to edge the Limerick men into a 16-14 lead – only for Layden’s smash-and-grab try to deny them.