City of Derry lost for the first time this season as an injury-time try saw Highfield defeat the Division 2B leaders 29-27 in a cracking contest at Woodleigh Park.
Promotion rivals Highfield and City of Derry played out one of this season’s best games so far across the five Ulster Bank League divisions, with the result in doubt right up until the final minutes.
The unbeaten Derry men led 17-12 at the break and out-half Richard McCarter had them on the cusp of victory number seven, his penalty and 79th-minute intercept try, which he converted, giving them a 27-22 lead.
Displaying huge determination and hard graft, Highfield barged their way back into scoring range in injury-time on the back of a series of penalties. Flanker Miah Cronin duly reached over for the levelling try, the end-product of a mammoth 30-plus phases.
Young out-half Dylan Horgan, a Canadian Under-20 international, coolly added the conversion that split the sides at the end of a very memorable top of the table clash. Horgan finished the afternoon with an impressive 19-point haul via five penalties and two conversions.
Horgan had added the extras to Richie Duggan’s 64th-minute touchdown, moving them into a brief 19-17 lead and they finished two points to the good despite the best efforts of the excellent McCarter.
Derry will look back on this result as one that got away. They were in a good position, leading 14-6 after 22 minutes thanks to two well-taken tries from backs Ali Beckett and David Funston. But Timmy Ryan’s home side hung in there and eventually overhauled them right at the death.
Rainey Old Boys’ first ever trip to Dr. Hickey Park ended in a 27-23 loss to Greystones, who are now nine points off the summit in third place.
‘Stones garnered their first try-scoring bonus point of the campaign in what was a close match throughout. They led 15-13 at the interval, full-back Andy Roberts profiting from a charge down to score after just two minutes and Jason Curran added a converted effort on the half hour mark.
Roberts’ opposite number Josh McIlroy kicked well on the day, landing three penalties and two conversions for the Magherafelt men. Rainey flanker Eunan Shaw touched down in the first half from a catch and drive, while young prop Tommy O’Hagan bulldozed over in the final quarter.
Before O’Hagan’s score, the Co. Wicklow side had pocketed their bonus point. Ferdia Kenny crossed in the corner following an excellent break and offload from Billy Norman, and try number four saw Blake Hill strike from close range. Indeed, Rainey breathed a sigh of relief when ‘Stones missed a late penalty which would have taken away their losing bonus point.
Up at Stevenson Park, Dungannon banished memories of a disappointing October during which they suffered three successive defeats. The Tyrone outfit got the better of MU Barnhall on a 13-7 scoreline.
Winger Jonny Toal ran in a try in each half and full-back Paul Armstrong kicked a penalty for the victors. Barnhall were awarded a penalty try to close the gap to 8-7 at the break, but Toal finished off a good team move for the only score of the closing 40 minutes.
Armagh made it three wins on the bounce when seeing off Bective Rangers 24-17 at the Palace Grounds. Two penalty tries following scrum pressure, either side of half-time, got the hosts into a winning position.
Although they prevailed in a tight game, Armagh coaches Alex McCloy and Willie Faloon were disappointed with the overall performance and their side’s failure to notch a try-scoring bonus point, with two sin-binnings having Bective down to 13 men at one stage.
Armagh face a trip down to Sunday’s Well in the next round on Saturday, November 28. The ‘Well look in rude health at the moment having strung together four victories in-a-row – their latest one a 20-7 success at Seapoint.
A tightly-contested first half at Kilbogget Park ended 13-7 in the Cork club’s favour. Out-half Shane O’Riordan kicked an early penalty and converted an opportunist try from full-back Greg Higgins, who caught the Seapoint defence off guard when he picked up a ruck ball and raced straight through to score.
Seapoint were quick to respond, their powerful and speedy flanker Michael Kerr collecting an inside pass to grab their one and only try of the afternoon. It was just reward for some great industry at the breakdown by the home team and composure on the ball.
Chris O’Brien converted and although the Dubliners had further momentum from a close-in scrum, the ‘Well produced a strong shove and eventually cleared their lines. Approaching the break, a second O’Riordan penalty extended the margin to six points.
Frustratingly for the vocal home crowd, Seapoint, who turned around with the wind behind them, created a number of chances in the second period but could not finish them off.
The ‘Well’s well-oiled defence got them out of some sticky situations, and French flanker Cyprien Jouve dived over for a 52nd minute try which proved to be the clinching score. O’Riordan, whose slick distribution had put Jouve through, expertly added the extras from wide out.
ROUND 7 RESULTS –
Armagh 24 Bective Rangers 17, Palace Grounds
Dungannon 13 MU Barnhall 7, Stevenson Park
Greystones 27 Rainey Old Boys 23, Dr. Hickey Park
Highfield 29 City of Derry 27, Woodleigh Park
Seapoint 7 Sunday’s Well 20, Kilbogget Park