Garryowen have nipped ahead of Galwegians at the top of Ulster Bank League Division 1B as the battle for the automatic promotion spot goes down to the final round.
The league organisers could hardly have scripted it better as Galwegians will close out the league campaign at home to Garryowen on Saturday, April 11. The Light Blues will travel to Crowley Park with a one-point lead at the summit following today’s 34-12 bonus point dismissal of Malone.
Notably, all five of Garryowen’s tries at Dooradoyle were scored by forwards, while scrum half Shane Kelly picked up a brace for Malone on a day when the Belfast club’s relegation was confirmed.
The Cregagh Red Sox hit the front with the first of Kelly’s tries which Neil Burns converted, and Garryowen had to wait until the 26th minute for their first touchdown – finished off by prop JP Cooney following a five-metre scrum.
Jamie Gavin converted and Conan Doyle’s men gained further momentum when second row Aaron McCloskey grabbed try number two just six minutes later. A penalty from out-half Gavin made it 15-7 for half-time.
Hooker Ed Rossiter and Kelly swapped tries on the resumption, but Garryowen’s forward power was proving too much and excellent number 8 Josh Hrstich and replacement Ben Rowley rounded off a solid team performance with two more tries, the second of which Gavin converted.
A very strong wind had quite an influence on proceedings as Galwegians’ five-match winning streak was ended by Belfast Harlequins, with the hosts triumphing 36-34 at Deramore Park.
‘Wegians were outscored by five tries to two during a one-sided first half as wind-backed Harlequins touched down through forwards Mark McGrath, Tom Fraser, Frankie Taggart and Sean Reidy and right winger Mark Glover. Michael Heaney supplied four conversions for a 33-5 interval lead.
Matt Brown’s league leaders have pulled off a number of second half comebacks this season, but they really had it all to do after Ulster scrum half Heaney landed a 45th minute penalty for 36-12.
Credit to ‘Wegians, they responded with a run of four unconverted tries and a fifth, converted this time by Aidan Moynihan, made it a two-point game before time ran out on them right at the death. Experienced centre Brian Murphy starred with a hat-trick of tries, while wily full-back John ‘Luigi’ Cleary helped himself to a brace.
Shannon ground out an 18-11 win at Coonagh, edging out a Ballymena side that had only pride to play for after losing crucial ground in the push for promotion.
Ritchie McMaster’s early penalty had Ballymena ahead, but it was a short-lived lead as within two minutes winger Richie Mullane go in for a try out wide which David O’Donovan was unable to convert.
Ian Sherwin’s home side missed a couple of scoring opportunities with a foot in touch and a missed penalty from Tadhg Bennett, and a second three-pointer from McMaster had the Braidmen leading 6-5 at the break.
Shannon resumed in fine fettle, though, taking the game to the visitors with Bennett splitting the posts five minutes in and replacement Niall Horan touching down after a bout of forward pressure in the 55th minute.
Ballymena hit back with an unconverted effort from centre Paddy James, only for Shannon to had the final say with a decisive penalty from Bennett nine minutes from the end.
At Dubarry Park, UL Bohemians made it three victories for the division’s Limerick clubs as they ensured their Division 1B status for another season with a comfortable 32-0 success against Buccaneers.
Relegation-threatened Bohs needed a big performance and they got just that, securing their first try-scoring bonus point of the season with five of their backs crossing the midlanders’ line.
Disappointing Buccs trailed 15-0 at half-time despite having a good deal of possession. Out-half David Johnston opened UL’s account with a 21st minute penalty and right winger Colin Ryan scampered over out wide for a try.
Bohs’ second touchdown was scored by Rory White before the break, but his centre partner Darren Moroney saw yellow for a tackle offence and some scrum issues saw the sides lose a prop each to the sin-bin.
However, the visitors continued to play with the greater cohesion and they built for a very strong finish that included three late tries. Moroney got over by the posts in the 70th minute, replacement Robbie Bourke followed him over the whitewash and then a tidy cross-field move saw veteran full-back Mossy Lawler dot down in the final play.
Corinthians will join Malone in dropping down a division after they were beaten 32-11 by Dublin University at Corinthian Park. Connacht’s Ultan Dillane scored the bottom side’s only try as they fell to their 13rd defeat of the league season.
The result saw third-placed Trinity, the division’s highest scorers, maintain their push for promotion. Flanker Brian du Toit scored a brace of tries and fellow forwards Nick McCarthy and Richard Halpin and full-back Jack Fitzpatrick also touched down.