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Ulster Bank League: Division 2A Review

Ulster Bank League: Division 2A Review

Banbridge’s 20-point Ulster derby win at Queen’s University has them two points clear the summit of Division 2A, while fellow victors Malone, Cashel and Nenagh Ormond climbed the table on an action-packed Saturday.

Banbridge maintained their position at the top of the table thanks to a 26-6 bonus point victory at Dub Lane, but their head coach Daniel Soper insists it is ‘only half-time’ as he prepares for the return visit of Queen’s this coming weekend.

“It wasn’t a perfect performance. Our lineout could have been better, the conditions made it difficult,” he said. “But we didn’t miss too many tackles out there and the tight five put in their share of those, with Chris Allen and Kallan Martin working very hard. And again Stephen Irvine was very strong carrying ball.

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“Our defensive line speed didn’t allow Queen’s to get their passes away. We didn’t give them a sniff and I’m pleased we only conceded six points which is very good against any student side. But they will have learned from that game (today) so I expect we’ll face a different challenge next Saturday at home.”

Queen’s had a strong diagonal wind at their backs in the first half and they hit the front thanks to a fifth minute penalty from out-half Jack Milligan. However, they suffered a setback when lock Marc Campbell was sin-binned just 10 minutes in.

Bann threatened on a couple of occasions, countering through Adam Doherty and John Porter with captain Adam Ervine also pressing from an interception on halfway, but Milligan’s second successful penalty made it 6-0 with 33 minutes on the clock.

Importantly, the visitors nipped into the lead just before half-time. Queen’s leaked their first try when Stephen Irvine’s quickly-taken penalty played in out-half Robin Thompson for an unconverted try in the corner. Thompson turned provided shortly afterwards, his short pass releasing centre Andrew Morrison for a seven-pointer by the posts.

Now leading 12-6, Soper’s men forced the issue through their forwards on the resumption. Their scrum got on top for prop Stuart Cromie to touch down from close range with Doherty adding his second successful conversion.

The set piece provided the platform for the bonus point effort just shy of the hour mark. Bann won a five-metre scrum following a strong run by Jonny Little. Two penalties and a reset later, number 8 Stephen Irvine picked off the base to barge his way over and Doherty’s conversion pushed the margin out to 26-6.

As they did against Malone last week, Queen’s finished strongly and it took some determined defending from the visitors to keep them out. The students’ fourth league defeat has seen them fall to sixth overall – ten points behind front-running Bann.

Cashel ended their three-match losing streak with a runaway 43-6 triumph over Corinthians at Spafield. With injuries clearing among the squad, Mark Butler’s reinforced charges ran in six tries, four of them coming in a wind-backed second half.

Corinthians trailed 17-6 at half-time having leaked tries to Cashel full-back Eamonn Connolly, who followed up on a Conor Holland intercept, and flanker Ed Leamy, whose score came from a short lineout ball to Sean O’Connor and good interplay involving Niall Fitzgerald.

The hosts hit the ground running in the second period, pounding away at Corinthians’ defensive line and Leamy helped himself to a second try which centre Pat O’Connor converted. The bonus point was secured five minutes later, a break and well-timed offload from Sean O’Connor teeing up winger Gavin Ryan’s first try for the club.

Pat O’Connor, who finished with a 13-point haul, converted and also added the extras to one of in-form scrum half Aidan Barron’s two closing tries in the 65th and 70th minutes. It was a resounding win for Cashel as they got back on track after three straight losses to the division’s Ulster teams.

One of those northern sides, Malone, relied on a five-try first half showing to edge out hosts Skerries 29-24 in a cracking contest at weather-beaten Holmpatrick.

The Belfast club, who are back up to second in the standings, flew out of the traps to lead 19-0 after a quarter of an hour. Quick ruck ball allowed Adam Liddell to strike for the first try in the fourth minute with his centre partner Nathan Brown converting.

The visitors gained serious momentum as number 8 Ross Todd powered over for try number two and influential out-half Josh Pentland cut open the Skerries cover to run in a well-taken try that Brown converted.

After Malone lost full-back Gareth Millar to injury and had a close range drive held up over the try-line, Skerries hit back with a try from their very first attack. Centre Kevin McGrath scored a typically spectacular effort, reducing the arrears to 19-5.

But the Cregagh Red Sox pocketed their bonus point in the 25th minute, with scrum ball being fed to centre Liddell who sidestepped through for his second score of the day. They added another five-pointer before the break when Pentland made the initial incision and Michael Barker supplied the finishing touches.

Skerries, whose captain Ross McAuley is out for three weeks through injury, had it all to do. But they really found their rhythm in the third quarter, racking up 19 points in an fantastic 15-minute spell. Wingers Eddie O’Mahony and Derek Keane and number 8 Evan Sherlock all touched down, with two conversions sent through the uprights by out-half Paul O’Loghlen.

Malone were made to pay as they lost their shape in defence, gave away a number of lineouts and their tally of missed tackles increased. Despite having their lead cut to just five points, Jarrett Truscott’s side managed to stand firm during the closing stages with their talismanic forward Richard Millar, having had a facial injury seen to, leading them to victory.

Meanwhile, Nenagh Ormond made it two wins on the bounce as they overcame Naas 10-7 in a very tight game at Forenaughts. Scrum half Mike Fogarty was in man-of-the-match form as his precise long pass put centre Derek Corcoran over for a crucial 38th minute try.

Fogarty, whose fellow back Jack Molamphy kicked the other five points, marshalled the Nenagh pack in superb fashion as they maintained their lead while playing into the wind during a scoreless second half.

Player-coach Johne Murphy was the try scorer for Naas, who missed out on a share of the spoils as a late penalty attempt from halfway veered to the left and wide.

ROUND 9 RESULTS –

Cashel 43 Corinthians 6, Spafield
Naas 7 Nenagh Ormond 10, Forenaughts
Queen’s University 6 Banbridge 26, Dub Lane
Skerries 24 Malone 29, Holmpatrick
UCC v Thomond, the Mardyke (match postponed due to unplayable pitch)