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Ulster Bank League: Division 2A Review

Ulster Bank League: Division 2A Review

Unbeaten Cashel have moved five points clear at the top of Ulster Bank League Division 2A following their 15-3 Friday Night Lights derby victory over Nenagh Ormond.

The Tipperary rivals played out a fiercely competitive clash at Spafield on Friday, with the vocal crowd treated to an excellent advertisement for rugby in the third tier.

Former Ireland Under-18 Schools international Sean O’Connor made his league debut in Cashel’s second row, but the hosts’ early attacks were repelled with Nenagh’s powerful number 8 Lemeki Vaipulu putting in some bone-crunching tackles.

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Defences were on top until Cashel sprung forward for their opening try in the ninth minute. Nenagh failed to deal with a teasing grubber kick from Aidan Barron, allowing the inrushing Jackson Frawley to dive on the ball with Jason Newton converting.

A well-struck 18th-minute penalty from Jack Molamphy rewarded Nenagh for a promising spell, as their back row of Kevin Seymour, Anthony Kavanagh and Vaipulu grew in influence.

Cashel retained their 7-3 advantage up to half-time, with neither side able to profit from penalty opportunities. However, a strong shove in a late scrum gave the home side a further boost heading into the break.

Crucially, Cashel pushed seven points clear on the resumption. An early break from Ed Leamy brought them up to the Nenagh 22, a ruck penalty was duly awarded and out-half Newton mopped up with the three points.

There was a yellow card apiece after 45 and 60 minutes, but both defences were exemplary during this period. Cashel had two key figures in Sean O’Connor, who impressed at lineout time, and Brendan O’Connor who had another big impact off the bench.

Nenagh did enough to warrant the losing bonus point, but that was taken away from them six minutes from time when a stunning Cashel maul made upwards of 30 metres with replacement Robert Coates credited with the clinching touchdown.

It has been a dream start to Mark Butler’s coaching reign at Cashel. His side showed their battling qualities to edge out UCC 15-14 at the Mardyke last Saturday, as a Brendan O’Connor try and a terrific drop goal from full-back Tom McHale saw them take the spoils.

In last weekend’s other games, Corinthians made it two wins on the bounce by triumphing 20-12 away to Nenagh, while there were home victories for Malone, Naas and Skerries.

Aided by the presence of Connacht’s Ultan Dillane in the lineout, Corinthians built a 10-7 interval lead in Nenagh as Simon Keller converted James Proctor’s well-worked try to add to an early penalty.

The Galway men added another five-pointer through winger David McDermott out wide, rewarding some powerful driving in the build-up from player-coach Ene Fa’atau and Connacht’s James Connolly. But Nenagh wasted little time in responding, a quick-fire attack seeing winger Ruaidhri O’Brien score a fine individual try – adding to John Long’s first half intercept effort.

The margin was down to 15-12 with ten minutes remaining, before Corinthians wrestled back control and strong-carrying centres James Buckley and Dave Panter came to the fore. Replacement winger Ross Enraght Moony got the all-important try in the corner to settle the issue.

Malone secured their third triumph in four league games by overcoming Thomond 31-27 at Gibson Park. Despite bagging the bonus point by half-time with a 26-6 buffer, the Cregagh Red Sox had to survive a stirring late fight-back from Thomond.

Two tries from winger Rory O’Connor and one each from prop Gary Crawford and number 8 Ross Todd had Malone cruising, and they were 31-13 to the good after Geoff O’Donoghue and Andy Bryans swapped scores.

A ruck infringement saw Malone lose prop Lee Barlow to the sin-bin for the final ten minutes, and the Limerick men gained serious momentum with a brace of tries converted by out-half Fionn McGibney. Nonetheless, Malone’s efforts over the first hour were enough for them to hold on with the tireless Richard Millar starring in the second row.

Naas (third) and Skerries (fifth) sit in the top half of the table after the opening five rounds. Johne Murphy’s Kildare side defeated Queen’s 33-21 in bonus point fashion with Charlie Kings, David Aherne, Will O’Brien and Peter Osborne, who starred with an 18-point contribution, all on the scoresheet.

Skerries have enjoyed a profitable October so far with narrow victories over Ulster sides Queen’s and Banbridge. The latter lost 32-30 at Holmpatrick last Saturday, with a lone conversion from out-half James Faiva the difference between the teams.

In an exciting eight-try clash played in autumnal sunshine, it was a late Cormac Marrey seven-pointer, coupled with some strong defence in the dying embers, that got Skerries over the finish line as Bann lost their grip on a 30-25 advantage.

ROUND 5 RESULTS:

Cashel 15 Nenagh Ormond 3, Spafield (played on Friday)
Malone 31 Thomond 27, Gibson Park
Naas 33 Queen’s University 21, Forenaughts
Nenagh Ormond 12 Corinthians 20, New Ormond Park
Skerries 32 Banbridge 30, Holmpatrick
UCC 14 Cashel 15, the Mardyke