Old Crescent have pushed six points at the top of Division 2C following a gripping derby victory over Bruff, while there were also home wins over the weekend for Boyne, Midleton and Wanderers.
In awful weather conditions brought on by Storm Desmond, out-half Shane O’Brien took on the mantle of match winner for Old Crescent as his last-minute drop goal steered them a 14-12 win over their local rivals.
Bruff had built a 12-3 lead by half-time, using the strong wind at their backs to dominate territory with their pack very much on top. Number 8 Jake Considine crossed the whitewash after just five minutes and they added a penalty try while the visitors were down to 14 men.
A Larry Hanly penalty got the hosts off the mark and they did all the scoring in an exciting second period. Hanly’s second penalty, coupled with a Padraig Monaghan try, made it a one-point game – 12-11 – as the all-Limerick tie entered the final quarter.
Eugene McGovern’s men continued to press, but the Bruff defence was unyielding and they were within touching distance of a very hard-earned win when O’Brien came up trumps for Crescent with a neatly-taken drop goal. Joy and despair in equal measures, and it all sets up a fascinating rematch at Kilballyowen Park this coming Saturday.
The back-to-back rounds before Christmas mean that losing teams have an immediate chance to gain revenge and that will be on the minds of the Kanturk players when they host Midleton in a second successive Cork derby. Last week’s duel was one-sided as Midleton ran out 25-0 winners at Towns Park.
Three tries from prop Kevin Brierley, full-back Daniel Murray and scrum half Rob Smyth did the damage for the east Cork outfit, with out-half Stuart Lee chipping in with the other 10 points (two conversions and two penalties). With Tullamore’s trip to Sligo postponed and Bruff losing, fifth-placed Midleton are now just a point outside the top four.
Young winger John McDonnell struck for a decisive 67th minute try to give Boyne the local bragging rights against Dundalk, as Niall Ronan’s men claimed a tight 10-8 victory at a rain-soaked Shamrock Lodge.
Boyne faced into a gale force wind during the first half and would have been pleased to turn around just three points down, with bottom side Dundalk only converting one of three place-kicks in very difficult conditions.
Ronan’s charges edged in front on the resumption, some early pressure seeing them move the ball wide for full-back Eoghan Duffy to dot down. His brother Bevan missed the conversion at 5-3.
The dogged Dundalk team battled back to take an 8-5 lead, a try from a block-down lifting their hopes along with some assured play from half-backs TC Campbell and Gearoid McDonald. Crucially, though, the conversion attempt was blown off course.
As the intensity increased in the final quarter, the Boyne backs showed their ability to create space and McDonnell was sent over for a vital five-pointer. That proved to be the match-winning score despite some valiant late sojourns from Dundalk, who will be hoping to make the most of home advantage in the sides’ Friday Night Lights clash at Mill Road.
Meanwhile, Wanderers have vaulted back up to second place in the standings courtesy of a 27-18 bonus point success against Navan. On the Aviva Stadium’s back pitch, some lovely footwork from Niall O’Donoghue opened up the visitors’ defence for a well-taken try, with Ciaran Wade’s conversion putting the hosts into a 10-8 lead.
Navan hung in there, closing the gap back to 15-13 after leaking an early Robert Clune try, but Wanderers hit a purple patch when Wade finished off a terrific breakaway try and Johnny Lee swiftly added the bonus point score for a 27-13 scoreline.
The Meath men showed their resilience, fighting back to score their third unconverted try in windswept conditions. However, with the final conversion going wide, they missed out on a deserved losing bonus point and now face into two potentially season-defining encounters with Wanderers (this Saturday) and Boyne (Saturday week).
ROUND 9 RESULTS –
Old Crescent 14 Bruff 12, Rosbrien (played on Friday)
Boyne 10 Dundalk 8, Shamrock Lodge
Midleton 25 Kanturk 0, Towns Park
Sligo v Tullamore, Hamilton Park (match postponed due to unplayable pitch)
Wanderers 27 Navan 18, Aviva Stadium back pitch