Highfield and Tullamore remain the teams to beat in Ulster Bank League Division 2B, with Tim Ryan’s unbeaten Corkmen a full 10 points clear at the top of the table and Tullamore holding a five-pointer buffer in second place.
It was business as usual for runaway leaders Highfield on Saturday as they came away from Balreask Old with a 31-3 win over mid-table Navan.
Early tries from Paul Stack and Peter Martin set the tone for the visitors and Brian O’Hea, James Daly and impressive out-half Paddy O’Toole also touched down. It was Highfield’s ninth try-scoring bonus point of the season.
Despite the result, it was still a memorable weekend for Navan as they celebrated their 50th anniversary at Balreask Old. Among the special events was an auction of specially commissioned jerseys in the club colours, which included names of all the players who have turned out for the Navan first team in the last 50 years as well as a list of the honours won.
The Navan ‘Dream Team’ was announced from a list of 45 players who were nominated, while Highfield also made a special presentation of a glass vase to Navan RFC President Paul Algar to mark the occasion.
In a hard-fought game at a cold Spollanstown, winger Dylan Kelso emerged as the man-of-the-match as Tullamore came from behind to beat Wanderers on a 24-13 scoreline.
Kelso and Ivor Scully played in Tom Gilligan for Tullamore’s opening try and and a Scully pass put Jordan Conroy streaking through from 30 metres out for the hosts’ second, helping them recover from a 13-8 interval deficit.
Out-half Aaron Deverell was influential with the boot. As the Tullamore pack got on top early in the second half, he landed two penalties to move his side 14-13 ahead. Deverell then converted Conroy’s 68th-minute effort and tagged on a final penalty to seal the result.
In the battle to finish in the top four, Midleton and Greystones were the main movers. ‘Stones are up to fourth now on the back of a 27-22 home victory over Kanturk at Dr. Hickey Park.
The Co. Wicklow club had the benefit of a strong wind in the second half and prevailed by a five-point margin, running in five tries to bag a bonus point with Kanturk crossing the whitewash four times through Matt Gandy, Peter Earlier, Mark Healy and Sean Cremin.
Midleton, meanwhile, came away from Bruff with a 15-12 verdict thanks to a brace of first half tries from winger Jayde Cruickshank. Out-half Paul Daly slotted a penalty after the break, while Bruff ensured they got something form this fiercely competitive Munster derby as David Horan and Tom O’Dwyer both touched down in the second period.
There was a tight winning margin too at Shamrock Lodge where third-placed Armagh edged out hosts Boyne on a 20-18 scoreline.
Two excellent penalties from number 8 Karl Keogh, backed by a stiff breeze, had ever-improving Boyne leading 6-0. It was a turnover by prop Hugh Carolan that set the wheels in motion for an unconverted try, the Boyne backs moving the ball wide for Adam Brodigan to dart away along the right touchline and dot down.
Crucially, Armagh managed to reduce the arrears to 11-7 by half-time. They established dominance in the scrums and then Neil Faloon barged through off the back of a ruck for a try which Andrew Magowan converted.
Magowan increased his influence with a brace of penalties to move Armagh ahead, and they ran in a second try when Manihera Eden broke through a tackle and fed Robbie Faloon on the left wing for a well-taken seven-pointer.
Boyne set up a nail-biting finish when their classy captain and full-back Eoghan Duffy took advantage of some poor defending to grab a fine try on the left. Out-half Tyler Lansdowne lofted over the touchline conversion to leave a two-point gap with four minutes left, however Armagh managed to hang on in determined fashion.
After losing a tight game to Bruff recently, Old Crescent got back to winning ways with a 17-5 triumph over bottom side Ards at Rosbrien. The were aided by a man-of-the-match performance from Karl Hanley.
Relegation-threatened Richmond gave themselves a lift with a 17-16 home win over Sunday’s Well, ending the Cork side’s six-match winning streak in the process. Wayne Murphy’s injury-time penalty did the trick for Richmond who were leading 14-0 before the ‘Well stormed back with a try from Aidan O’Reilly and 11 points from the boot of Shane O’Riordan.
Sligo have climbed to ninth place in the table courtesy of a 24-13 bonus point victory over DLSP at Hamilton Park. Their tries were shared out by Mark Rooney, Michael Allen and Rory Kerins along with a penalty try.
ROUND 11 RESULTS:
Boyne 18 Armagh 20, Shamrock Lodge
Bruff 12 Midleton 15, Kilballyowen Park
Greystones 27 Kanturk 22, Dr. Hickey Park
Navan 3 Highfield 31, Balreask Old
Old Crescent 17 Ards 5, Rosbrien
Richmond 17 Sunday’s Well 16, Richmond Park
Sligo 24 De La Salle Palmerston 13, Hamilton Park
Tullamore 24 Wanderers 13, Spollanstown
– With thanks to photographers Voicu Duma, Janusz Trzesicki and Pat O’Leary