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Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Review

Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Review

A late Will Leonard try was not enough for Shannon to prevent Dublin University from coming away with a 25-22 victory and four hard-earned Ulster Bank League points.



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In damp conditions on Thomond Park’s back pitch, Dublin University failed to match the level of performance they produced before the Christmas break but tries from Tim Maupin, captain Nick McCarthy and Tom Ryan steered them to an eighth straight win.

25-point winners when the sides met in early December, the students dominated possession in the first quarter and lovely running and offloading from full-back Conor Kearns created a converted try for winger Maupin.

However, with Trinity flanker Brian du Toit in the sin-bin, Shannon talisman Tadhg Bennett kicked a penalty and converted young lock Frank Bradshaw-Ryan’s try, with the strong-running Will Leonard involved in the build-up.

The visitors hit back on the stroke of half-time to lead 15-10, McCarthy cutting through from 30 metres out to finish a free-flowing attack, and the margin was out to 15 points after a Jack McDermott penalty and try from number 8 Ryan, who evaded two tacklers on a fine 40-metre burst.

Aided by the introduction of flying winger Greg O’Shea after a long injury absence, Shannon improved in the third quarter with a series of pick and goes ending with hooker Simon Malone crashing over.

Marcus Horan’s men had a couple of near misses as centre Leonard was bundled into touch and Trinity did well to defend a quick tap penalty, before some neat passing opened the way for Leonard’s late converted effort to secure Shannon’s deserved losing bonus point.

Ballymena blew promotion rivals Old Wesley away in a 48-0 demolition job at Eaton Park as the Dubliners fell to their third successive league defeat.

Second-placed Ballymena stayed just two points behind leaders St. Mary’s College in the Division 1B table, with winger James Beattie running in two of their seven tries.

A minute’s silence was held before kick-off in honour of Old Wesley PRO Billy Browne who sadly passed away just before Christmas. Unfortunately a spilled ball brought an early Wesley attack to an end, and the clinical hosts immediately struck for a try as centre Callum Patterson cut back inside for his sixth score of the campaign.

Turnovers and a poor kick chase hampered Wesley’s hopes of hitting back, and an Andrew Magrath penalty kickstarted a strong scoring spell from the Braidmen as they tagged on three more tries before half-time, including one from Ulster-capped flanker Clive Ross.

Leading 29-0 at the turnaround, Andy Graham’s charges were then awarded a penalty try following a length-of-the-field attack. Despite losing Magrath to the sin-bin for hands in the ruck, Ballymena maintained their high rate of scoring with hooker John Andrew and replacement James Gallagher touching down via a lineout maul and a quick tap penalty respectively.

Blackrock College avenged their recent defeat in Cork as they squeezed past Dolphin on a 14-13 scoreline at Stradbrook.

Leo Cullen’s younger brother Owen touched down and ‘Rock also picked up a penalty try as they produced a gritty comeback to secure only their second win in eight Division 1B outings.

Out-half Peter Quirke had a key contribution, with his touchline conversion of Cullen’s effort proving crucial in getting the home side over the finish line.

Dolphin were leading 3-0 after a defence-dominated first half, and left winger Dave Griffin crossed for their only try of the afternoon on the way to a 13-0 scoreline. But ‘Rock prevailed in the end thanks to a very strong finish.

Rory O’Connor weighed in with two tries either side of half-time to guide Buccaneers to a well-merited 18-7 victory over UL Bohemians at Dubarry Park.

Right winger O’Connor, a regular scorer for Buccs during the first half of the season, struck twice off replica moves to take his league tally to eight tries in ten rounds.

A maul try from Munster hooker Kevin O’Byrne reduced the arrears for UL Bohs who were trailing 8-0 at half-time. However, Bohs struggled to convert their possession and pressure into points and an eight-point kicking contribution from Connacht out-half Conor McKeon moved Buccs out of reach.

A 38-13 bonus point win was a fitting way for St. Mary’s College to pay tribute to departing head coach Peter Smyth as they completed a season’s double over Belfast Harlequins.

Smyth, who is leaving to manage the Leinster Rugby Academy, watched the Division 1B leaders tally up five tries in this entertaining clash at Templeville Road.

Bottom side Harlequins should have made more of a series of penalties and a yellow card against St. Mary’s, whose discipline let them down in the early exchanges.

Mark Best’s brace of penalties sandwiched a Sean Kearns effort, before Mary’s first real foray into Harlequins territory yielded a try for young second row David O’Connor. Kearns converted for a 10-6 half-time buffer.

Mary’s were much improved in the second period, an early pushover try from Mark Fallon extending their lead to 11 points. The number 8 soon completed his brace with a fine solo effort.

They tagged on two more tries in the final quarter through forwards Ciaran Ruddock and Hugh Kelliher. Darragh Fanning and out-half Kearns were the pick of the home backs, the latter converting all five tries to add to his first half penalty.

Harlequins kept pressing for scores late on and were rewarded with a consolation try from replacement Jonathan Siri. But the Ulstermen remain without a win and are ten points adrift of UL Bohs at the bottom of the table.