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Ulster Bank League: Division 2A Review

Ulster Bank League: Division 2A Review

Head coach Daniel Soper hailed it as ‘one of our best ever defensive displays in the league’ as his Banbridge side earned a 27-13 win over highly-regarded Nenagh Ormond to stay top of Division 2A.

Nenagh Ormond’s powerful pack had done a lot of damage in last week’s defeat of former leaders Queen’s University, and the omens were not good for Banbridge when the visiting forwards set up Derek Corcoran for an early try.

Full-back Kolio Hifo, the ex-Young Munster player, added the conversion as Nenagh cancelled out Lee Steenson’s initial penalty. Bann scrum half Steenson reduced the deficit to the minimum following his second penalty strike, this time from 35 metres.

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Hifo responded off the kicking tee, rewarding the Nenagh forwards for a well-executed driving maul, but Bann delighted the Rifle Park faithful with a free-flowing try just three minutes before half-time.

Shandon Scott kept a Nenagh clearance kick in play and then linked with Steenson whose well-timed pass sent centre Andrew Morrison off on a barnstorming 45-metre run up to the visitors’ 22. With a final defender hovering, Morrison passed for the supporting Peter Cromie to score by the posts. Steenson converted for a 13-10 interval lead.

It was level-pegging after Hifo knocked over his second penalty, taking advantage of Banbridge flanker Richard Graham’s sin-binning for a ruck offence in front of his posts.

However, the Tipperary side failed to score for the remainder of the game. Bann gained the impetus again when winger John Porter picked up a loose ball from a knock-on and brilliantly burst away to touch down from 55 metres out. Steenson tagged on the extras to make it 20-13.

Bann succeeded in chopping down Nenagh’s big ball carriers as the visitors attempted to respond, and livewire Porter sealed the result with his second try ten minutes from time. Outstanding number 8 Stephen Irvine, who was singled out for praise afterwards by Daniel Soper, ripped the ball free from a Nenagh maul, fending off a tackler and linking with his back row colleague Graham who drew the last defender and put Porter in the clear.

Giving his reaction to Bann’s third victory in four league outings, Soper told the club website: “Nenagh were as good a team as we’ve played and I thought our defence, especially in the first half, was absolutely tremendous. And we had to defend very, very well to avoid shipping a lot of points before half-time.

“It was easy to see how they beat Queen’s by a big margin, so I’m delighted to have got the win.

“In every game Stephen (Irvine) is the best forward on the field from both teams. And he showed that sort of form again today with his carries and work around the pitch.

“But again we used our full squad during the game and all 20 players contributed to this win. No matter what replacements we introduced, there was no let-up in passion or commitment. It’s our ability to score out of nothing that makes us dangerous and has allowed us to achieve our points target set for the first set of four games.”

Cashel are Bann’s closest rivals at the business end of the table at present. The Tipperary club made it three wins on the trot at home to Naas (20-11) in what was a spirited and tough-tackling encounter.

They found an extra gear in the second half having led 7-6 at the break. Tom McHale’s third-minute try was followed by a serious purple patch for Naas. The visitors converted two penalties in the 5th and 25th minutes with Cashel falling 10-1 behind on the penalty count.

However, the Kildare men were very much second best during the closing 40 minutes. A Jason Newton penalty settled Cashel back down and full-back McHale won the race to a hack through from Eamon Connolly to score his second try.

They wrapped up the points with a third and final try in the 68th minute. Having kicked for the corner, the home side secured lineout possession and back rower Brendan O’Connor crashed over from the ensuing maul. Naas responded with an injury-time try but the conversion attempt went narrowly wide, as Johne Murphy’s charges missed out on a losing bonus point.

Corinthians finally opened their win account in the league, deservedly securing a 19-12 success against Thomond at Corinthian Park. They led 16-0 at the break and held firm despite the Limerick men hitting back for a bonus point courtesy of tries from Mike D’Arcy and Leonard Slattery.

Skerries also celebrated their maiden victory in Division 2A, taking a nail-biting 20-19 verdict against Queen’s at Dub Lane. James Faiva’s conversion of winger Kevin McGrath’s try in the closing stages was ultimately the difference.

Ireland Under-18 Schools international Robert Lyttle (pictured above), playing at full-back, starred for Queen’s with a two-try contribution. He scored his first on the 20-minute mark and missed tackles from Skerries allowed home centre Paddy Farrell through for another touchdown, making it 12-6 for the interval.

Faiva landed two first half penalties for the Dubliners, and the classy Kiwi centre’s precise passing was a feature of the build-up to Skerries’ opening try. They moved into a 13-12 lead after full-back Maurice McAuley finished off a strong break from the increasingly influential Mikey Sherlock.

Lyttle punished a poor clearance by raiding through for his second converted score, but Skerries had the final say with 10 minutes left. Powerful winger Derek Keane broke up a Queen’s attack and countered in devastating fashion, linking up with the supporting Sherlock who put McGrath darting through for the decisive try which Faiva crucially converted.

UCC vaulted into the top four on the back of a 33-21 bonus point triumph over Malone at the Mardyke. Tim Clifford scored their fourth try in the 66th minute, adding to earlier efforts from Guillaume Baude, Eddie Earl and James Kiernan.

Full-back Kevin O’Keeffe accumulated 13 points from two conversions and three penalties for the students, while injury-hit Malone showed impressive resilience to mount a late rally that included tries from Neil Alcorn and Rory Campbell. Despite their strong finish, the Cregagh Red Sox missed out on a losing bonus point.

ROUND 4 RESULTS:

Banbridge 27 Nenagh Ormond 13, Rifle Park
Cashel 20 Naas 11, Spafield
Corinthians 19 Thomond 12, Corinthian Park
Queen’s University 19 Skerries 20, Dub Lane
UCC 33 Malone 21, the Mardyke