At the eleventh time of asking, Belfast Harlequins opened their win account in Ulster Bank League Division 1B this afternoon as they pipped Blackrock College 12-10 at Deramore Park.
Bottom side Belfast Harlequins narrowed the gap between themselves and UL Bohemians, in ninth, to seven points, with Ireland Under-20 international Jacob Stockdale scoring the match-winning try.
Despite having winger David Rowan sin-binned, Blackrock College managed to take the lead on the half hour mark when flanker Sam Cooke dived over in the corner after a lineout maul had initially been thwarted.
The try went unconverted, however, and ‘Quins nipped in front for half-time thanks to a Mark Glover seven-pointer. The full-back slid over near the posts following a chip through from out-half Mark Best who converted for a 7-5 scoreline.
The Dubliners replied in the 50th minute, their number 8 Gary Fenn reaching over following a successful forwards drive, however Peter Quirke missed the difficult conversion and he also struck the post with a penalty while ‘Quins hooker Paul Jackson was in the bin.
The Ulster outfit survived a tricky period, with their defence under severe pressure, before a fleet-footed attack led to Stockdale’s crucial 70th-minute score. Best missed the conversion but it was not needed as Adam Larkin’s men prevailed by just two points.
Shannon celebrated David O’Donovan’s 200th All-Ireland League appearance in style as they defeated Munster rivals Dolphin 13-3 at Irish Independent Park.
O’Donovan, in his 16th year at senior level, lined out on the left wing for the visitors as he set a new caps milestone. His team-mates responded with a determined display and the only try of the game.
Two Tadhg Bennett penalties after 21 and 38 minutes had Marcus Horan’s men leading 6-0 at the break. Dolphin halved the deficit, with Cian McGovern splitting the posts after a second Shannon player was yellow carded in the 62nd minute.
However, just five minutes later, Shannon effectively sewed up the result with a well-taken try from O’Donovan’s wing colleague Greg O’Shea. He crossed the whitewash after some clever work by full-back Stephen Fitzgerald who drew in a couple of defenders and timed his pass to perfection. Bennett converted for a 10-point winning margin.
Buccaneers chalked up their second victory of the New Year, triumphing 23-22 at College Park as they ended Dublin University’s seven-match unbeaten run.
Trinity were made to pay for a series of missed scoring opportunities, with Buccs young out-half Conor McKeon driving his side to a confidence-boosting result.
The Connacht prospect landed three penalty goals and converted a Rory Moloney touchdown and a penalty try. Shane Delahunt, Daniel Qualter and industrious openside Moloney were the pick of the visitors’ forwards.
Third-placed Dublin University, who led 15-13 at the turnaround, had tries from lock Raef Tyrrell and backs Jack McDermott and Tim Maupin, but McKeon shot them down as Buccs climbed back up to fourth in the Division 1B standings.
Meanwhile, tries from Ryan O’Loughlin, Ivan Dineen and Steve Toal-Lennon did the damage for Division 1B leaders St. Mary’s College as they overcame south Dublin rivals Old Wesley on a 20-14 scoreline.
In an engrossing clash at Donnybrook, Mary’s were only 12-11 to the good at half-time despite the best efforts of Leinster winger Darragh Fanning, who was in influential form once again.
Wesley opened the scoring with a penalty from scrum half Ian Cassidy, but the visiting backs soon clicked into gear and some excellent link play from the lively Robbie Glynn helped O’Loughlin to get over to the left of the posts.
Glynn’s half-back partner Sean Kearns converted and he narrowly missed on a 20th minute try when it was ruled out for a knock-on. That second try duly arrived when Fanning’s neat pass put former Munster centre Dineen over in the left corner.
However, Wesley came storming back in sight of the interval. Winger James Nolan’s powerful finish earned him an unconverted score and Cassidy landed a late penalty to cut the deficit to the bare minimum.
Kearns and Cassidy swapped penalties on the resumption and the hosts were ultimately left to rue some missed opportunities, as Cassidy watched a long range place-kick fall short and then Mary’s secured a crucial turnover as the Wesley pack pressed for a try.
Fanning and company went on to show the sort of clinical edge that has them top of the table and on a seven-match winning streak. With Wesley lock Iain McGann sin-binned ten minutes from time, a quick recycle allowed Marcus O’Driscoll to send full-back Toal-Lennon over for a very important try.
To Wesley’s credit, they refused to throw in the towel. Morgan Lennon’s side had a couple of glorious try-scoring chances late on, but Mary’s denied them to run out six-point winners.
Ballymena remain just two points behind table-topping St. Mary’s after coming from behind to beat UL Bohemians 17-15 at Annacotty.
New Zealander Rick McKenna fired over three first half penalties to give UL a 9-5 advantage at the break in very cold and wet conditions. Ballymena’s opening try came from a lineout maul with hooker John Andrew getting the touchdown.
The second period was just a minute old when centre Martin Irwin charged down a kick and finished off the visitors’ second try which Andrew Magrath converted.
Two more penalties from McKenna moved Bohs back in front at 15-12, but the Braidmen kept up their winning form with an unconverted try in the corner from Ulster-capped flanker Stephen Mulholland.