Division 2C leaders Old Crescent chalked up another half century of points as they ran out 54-5 winners over struggling Sligo on Saturday, while there were victories also for Tullamore, Wanderers and third-from-bottom Kanturk.
Old Crescent have opened up a six-point lead at the top of the table, stretching their advantage thanks to runaway successes against the two bottom sides – Dundalk (52-5) and Sligo (54-5).
From captain Cathal O’Reilly’s second-minute maul try onwards, Crescent were in dominant form against Sligo at Rosbrien where they were 28-0 ahead by half-time. The bonus point was pocketed by Brendan Guilfoyle on the half hour mark.
The one-way traffic continued after the break with O’Reilly and Guilfoyle both completing their braces and the hosts’ try haul also included efforts from Dave Egan, Larry Hanly, who notched six conversions, Stephen Murphy and Rory Cunningham. Sligo’s lone response came from Shane Boyle in the closing stages.
Crescent are set for a much sterner test when they visit Wanderers in the capital when the league resumes on Saturday, January 30. Wanderers maintained their grip on third place with a hard-earned 24-17 victory away to Bruff.
The Dubliners have opened the New Year in promising fashion with back-to-back wins over two of their promotion rivals, Tullamore and Bruff. Down at Kilballyowen Park, they broke the hosts’ hearts with a late converted try, adding to earlier touchdowns from Paddy Mallon and Brian Vaughan.
Second-placed Tullamore got back to winning ways at Spollanstown, edging a tight contest with Midleton 16-13 thanks to an injury-time drop goal from out-half Aaron Deverell.
Deverell landed the decisive blow with the very last kick of an absorbing encounter. The sides were evenly matched throughout, with Tullamore on top during the first half and the visitors edging the second stanza.
The Offaly men played almost all of the rugby in the opening 40 minutes, but only led 13-10 at the interval. A terrific breakaway try from Midleton winger Daniel Murray in the 31st minute closed the gap to just three points.
Stuart Lee and Karl Dunne had swapped early penalties before the latter nudged Tullamore in front with a second successful place-kick in the 22nd minute. Ivor Scully then seized a stray Midleton pass on halfway, sprinted towards the corner and used a strong final hand-off to crash over, with Dunne adding a brilliant conversion from the touchline.
The second period saw both defences tighten up with some high quality tackling at both ends of the pitch. Midleton number 10 Lee kicked the visitors level with a 57th minute penalty from 35 metres out.
It was end-to-end stuff in the final quarter, Tullamore’s Jordan Conroy going close to scoring a match-winning try before Deverell sent a drop goal attempt wide as injury-time loomed. But he held his nerve the second time, collecting a pass from Richie Hughes just outside the 22 and coolly slotting the ball between the uprights.
Meanwhile, Kanturk gained a precious fourth win of the campaign – 25-21 at home to Dundalk – as they widened the gap between themselves and the two clubs at the foot of the table.
The Corkmen, lying third-from-bottom, are now nine points clear of ninth-placed Sligo with a game in hand. They had to endure a tense finale, though, as Dundalk hit back with their third try to reduce the arrears to four points, and it took an excellent recovery tackle from lock Dan McCabe to prevent Dundalk’s fast-breaking scrum half TC Campbell from dotting down right at the death.
Despite some disciplinary issues, with two of their players sin-binned in the first half, Kanturk benefited from a strong start as they crossed for two first quarter tries. Conor O’Sullivan pinched a Dundalk lineout in the third minute and some nice handling and running from the backs put winger John Duggan over out wide.
Dundalk came under further pressure after second row John Smith was yellow-carded for a maul infringement, and Kanturk out-half Mark Healy fired out a long pass for Duggan to complete his brace. Healy converted for a 12-0 scoreline.
Flying full-back Stephen McGee roused Dundalk with a very well-taken try, converted by Ultan Murphy, and although Healy landed two penalties for an 18-7 half-time advantage, the visitors got on top during the third quarter.
Following a sustained spell of pressure, Dundalk scrum half Campbell muscled his way over the whitewash for Murphy to convert. The gap remained at four points after O’Sullivan raided over from a Kanturk lineout and Murphy responded for Dundalk, but it was the home side who prevailed despite that dangerous late break from Campbell.
– With thanks to photographers Janusz Trzesicki and Voicu Duma
ROUND 12 RESULTS –
Bruff 17 Wanderers 24, Kilballyowen Park
Kanturk 25 Dundalk 21, Knocknacolan
Old Crescent 54 Sligo 5, Rosbrien
Tullamore 16 Midleton 13, Spollanstown