Ballymena are the new leaders in Ulster Bank League Division 1B and the only unbeaten team left after racking up their fifth straight win – a 43-13 hammering of Blackrock College at Eaton Park.
Ballymena finished with a flourish, scoring four tries without reply in the closing stages. Ulster Under-20 out-half Andrew Magrath, making his senior bow for the hosts, converted three of those scores from Connor Smyth (2), Callum Patterson and Martin Irwin.
In ideal conditions, two touchdowns from forwards Matthew Harkness and Adam McBurney had Andy Graham’s side 17-3 in front at the interval. Blackrock had a big third quarter, prop Mikey Carroll’s converted try and Alan Hughes’ second penalty reducing the arrears to just four points. But they had no answer to Ballymena’s dominance late on.
Dolphin picked up their second win in three league games with a well-judged 24-11 success against struggling Belfast Harlequins at Deramore Park.
They had three key players in veteran out-half Barry Keeshan, who converted all three tries and kicked a penalty, and Welsh lock and captain Chris Rowe and Munster centre Cian Bohane who both touched down. Rowe’s second row partner Dave O’Mahony also crossed the whitewash.
The Corkmen led 14-6 at the break and tagged on 10 more points before Mark Glover, one of Harlequins’ best attackers on the day, notched an unconverted try. His centre partner Mark Best kicked two first half penalties.
St. Mary’s College outscored hosts Buccaneers by three tries to two as they got back to winning ways by taking a tight 24-20 verdict at Dubarry Park.
Alex Hayman stepped in at out-half for Buccs after Conor McKeon was required by Connacht last night, and the Pirates finished a very competitive first half with two tries from wingers Eoghan O’Reilly and Rory O’Connor. The sides were level at the turnaround – 17-17.
However, a lone Alan Gaughan penalty was all Brett Wilkinson’s men could muster during the final 40 minutes. Loosehead Brian McGovern’s converted effort, adding to tries from former captain Kevin Sheahan and Robbie Glynn, steered St. Mary’s to their fourth victory in five league outings.
Dublin University’s resurgent form continued at Donnybrook where they managed to topple Division 1B pacesetters Old Wesley (13-10) despite being reduced to 11 players at one stage.
Four successive yellow cards in the second half left Trinity in all sorts of trouble as they defended a 10-3 lead. Winger Tim Maupin was binned for a high tackle, prop Andy Keating and full-back Conor Kearns followed him, and centre Kingsley McGowan then saw yellow for a no-arms tackle.
But a combination of defiant defence and Old Wesley’s poor execution saw the students somehow hold firm. Restored to 13 players, Jack McDermott booted a penalty to make it 13-3 before winger Billy Henshaw’s late effort gave the home side a losing bonus point.
Buoyed by last week’s home win over St. Mary’s, Trinity ran in two first half tries to lay the foundations for this victory. McGowan beat his man off their first attack and set up Kearns for the lead score, while busy winger Max McFarland got over in the corner following a quickly-taken penalty by Angus Lloyd.
Shannon celebrated their first league victory under new head coach Marcus Horan with a rousing second half performance against local rivals UL Bohemians at Thomond Park on Friday.
Erasing a 7-0 interval deficit, Shannon went on to win 14-12 as former Bohs out-half Shane Airey converted a well-executed try from Tadhg Bennett and openside James Vaughan crossed in the 66th minute, with full-back Ronan McKenna adding the extras.
A missed kick was all that separated the sides in the end – UL’s Robbie Bourke could not land a touchline conversion in injury-time. Bohs centre Darren Moroney had darted through for a terrific try on the half hour, and replacement Craig Miller dotted down in the dying minutes before Bourke’s missed kick.