Queen’s University and Banbridge are three points clear at the top of Ulster Bank League Division 2A after the second round of matches in the third tier.
Thomond’s heavier forwards were unable to force scores as table toppers Queen’s University ran out 17-3 winners of their tie at Dub Lane. The students established a sixth minute lead, kicking a penalty to touch and scrum half Josh Fullerton used lineout ball to send full-back Jack Milligan crashing through midfield and over for a converted try.
The hosts ended the opening quarter with another try. With Thomond centre Niall Sheehan sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on, Fullerton’s quick tap saw Damon Hall go close before possession was moved wide to the wing for Mark Gordon to get over.
Ali Wright’s second successful conversion was cancelled out by a central penalty from John Lillis, which proved to be Thomond’s only score of the afternoon. Wright answered back with a 47th minute penalty, but both sides were guilty of missed opportunities during a scrappy second period.
Queen’s lost their clinical edge as breaks from the lively Fullerton, Hall and Nick Timoney, the Ireland Under-20 international who has moved north from Dublin, were not finished off, and centre Paddy Farrell’s effort with four minutes left was ruled out for a forward pass.
Meanwhile, Mallow native Kevin O’Keeffe had a starring role as UCC began their league campaign with a hard-earned 21-10 victory over Skerries at the Mardyke.
Full-back O’Keeffe breached the visitors’ defence for a first half try and also kicked two penalties to give his side an 11-6 buffer at the turnaround. Skerries’ two penalties were fired over by James Faiva.
The injury-hit Dubliners fell further behind on the restart as a missed kick led to a pacy counter attack and converted try for UCC, with winger Cillian Ansbro getting the touchdown. O’Keeffe converted and added another penalty to complete his 16-point personal haul.
To their credit, Skerries came storming back in the final quarter with the bench proving very influential. Fast-breaking replacement scrum half Eoghan Carron helped himself to a converted try and full-back Maurice McAuley did likewise, gathering Paul O’Loghlen’s cross-field kick to score.
Out-half Faiva added both conversions to make it a one-point game with just eight minute remaining. The Cork students stood firm, though, to make a winning start in the division.
Banbridge climbed into second place courtesy of a 33-13 bonus point triumph at home to Corinthians. They tallied up five tries and head coach Daniel Soper said they also profited from ‘a big improvement defensively on the Malone game’.
“We were patient and much better organised. We did give away one try through sloppy defending but Corinthians’ second try was from a neat cross-field kick and those can be difficult to defend. I thought generally our defensive work was very good,” said Soper.
“Three of our tries were from long range after we had turned over ball. And what pleased me was the way all 20 players played their part in the win, with our five replacements all making a contribution when they came on.”
Bann led 18-10 at half-time, responding well to an early Corinthians try. The Galway side’s first visit to the home 22 saw them put winger Darren Griffin in at the corner from a midfield scrum.
However, Soper’s men hit back when centre Andrew Morrison swooped on a dropped pass and raced away on a 60-metre dash to the whitewash. A five-metre lineout and subsequent maul provided the platform for lock Chris Allen to score their second try.
Stephen Irvine, Peter Cromie and Morrison all featured in the build-up to the next score as the latter passed for winger Clark McAllister to touch down. Corinthians squeezed in a second unconverted try before the half-time whistle at Rifle Park, David McDermott scoring in the left corner from a pinpoint kick by out-half James Proctor.
The margin was down to five points (18-13) after a James Buckley penalty, but the westerners were shut out by the reinforced Banbridge defence for the remainder of the match. A free-flowing attack involving Irvine and John Porter resulted in captain and full-back Adam Ervine securing the bonus point.
Lee Steenson stepped up to land the conversion and a second penalty, and a fifth and final try followed in the closing stages when a Corinthians attack broke down and with the loose ball hacked on from halfway, winger Porter stretched his legs to get to it first for the touchdown.
At Forenaughts, Malone came from 17 points down to defeat Naas 40-34 in a ten-try thriller. Johne Murphy’s home side looked to be coasting, with the bonus point in the bag by half-time thanks to tries from Eoin Conran, Fionn Higgins, Rob O’Connor and Charlie King.
However, Malone tightened up their defence considerably and were a different team in the second half, particularly in the forward exchanges. A 31-14 deficit was improved to 31-26 with tries from pack powerhouses Cory Tipping and Ross Todd, with the latter’s score registering the bonus point.
The Belfast club pushed on with hooker David Cave dotting down. Try number six followed from winger Rory Campbell during a sin-bin period for Naas. The flurry of scores was enough to steer Malone to their maiden league win under new boss Jarret Truscott, while Naas nabbed a losing bonus point via a David Aherne penalty.
The Tipperary derby between Cashel and Nenagh Ormond, scheduled for Friday night, was postponed as a mark of respect to Tipperary hurler and footballer Eddie Connolly who lost his battle with cancer last week. He had family connections with Cashel RFC.
ROUND 2 RESULTS:
UCC 21 Skerries 20, the Mardyke
Queen’s University 17 Thomond 3, Dub Lane
Banbridge 33 Corinthians 13, Rifle Park
Naas 34 Malone 40, Forenaughts
Cashel v Nenagh Ormond, Spafield (match postponed due to death of Eddie Connolly)