Ballymena suffered a significant setback in the race for promotion from Ulster Bank League Division 1B as they went down 15-12 to leaders St. Mary’s College this afternoon.
It was back-to-back defeats for Ballymena at their Eaton Park fortress, with St. Mary’s striking in injury-time for the decisive try from a lineout maul.
Young hooker Hugo Kean touched early in the second half and also in the dying seconds when Mary’s sent a penalty to the corner, won the lineout and both backs and forwards combined in a muscular drive over the line.
The Braidmen were leading 6-3 at half-time and two more penalties from Ritchie McMaster (his third of the day) and replacement Andrew Magrath had them on the cusp of a 12-8 victory.
However, Mary’s denied them right at the death, showing impressive battling qualities as they recovered from yellow cards for Brian McGovern and Darragh Fanning in each half.
The last-gasp win has the Dubliners five points clear at the summit, with Ballymena dropping to third place, a further three points back.
Dublin University leapfrogged over Ballymena into second place but they did not have it all their own way against bottom side Belfast Harlequins.
Trinity ran out 22-11 winners at a very wet and windy Deramore Park, bagging a bonus point through out-half Jack McDermott’s late try.
That took what would have been a deserved losing bonus point away from ‘Quins who fought valiantly throughout, particularly when they had second row Callum Leckey sin-binned in the first half.
Two Ben Sloan penalties saw them recover to trail 10-6 at the interval. The visitors, playing into a strong wind, had opened the scoring in the 17th minute when McDermott’s break teed up a try for full-back Conor Kearns.
A second unconverted try followed from lock Jack Burke off a 25th minute maul, and Trinity opened the second period with a Tom Ryan try after an initial surge from winger Tim Maupin.
McDermott’s conversion made it 17-6 and although ‘Quins number 8 Matthew Fisher crashed over following a strong set of phases from the home pack, Trinity finished the stronger despite having busy flanker Brian du Toit yellow carded.
Having beaten high-flying Ballymena last week, Buccaneers were brought back down to earth by a 32-22 home defeat to Dolphin.
The Corkmen produced arguably their best performance of the season, muscling over for four tries in the midlands through prop Brian Scott, number 8 John Fitzgerald and hooker Rory O’Connor (2).
Dolphin got on top up front and established a 20-5 half-time lead, with the experienced Barry Keeshan and Chris Rowe playing key roles and Munster’s Cian Bohane threatening in the centre.
Buccs, whose inconsistent form can back to haunt them, did at least manage to win the second half 17-12. But they fell short of a losing bonus point despite touchdowns from front rowers Garreth Halligan and Jacob Walshe and winger Rory O’Connor whose brace took his tally for the league campaign to 11 tries.
Meanwhile, UL Bohemians did all of their scoring in the first half as they overcame Blackrock College for a much-needed 20-15 win at Annacotty.
Second-from-bottom Bohs boosted their hopes of avoiding relegation with their first victory in four games. A superb 26th minute try from centre Rory White, who finished off a great handling move, set them on their way.
White turned provider for his centre partner Darren Moroney’s 31st-minute score, with out-half Rick McKenna’s two conversions and two penalties giving UL a 20-10 lead at the turnaround.
Blackrock had crossed the whitewash before half-time through replacement Dave Walsh and as the weather deteriorated, centre Sean Coughlan ensured a losing bonus point for the Dubliners with a late try.
Just two points separated Old Wesley and Shannon at the end of a lively floodlit encounter at Donnybrook this evening.
Wesley won out 20-18 in a nerve-jangling finish as Shannon just missed out on a share of the spoils in injury-time, with out-half Shane Airey failing to convert his own try.
The Limerick men were armed with an 8-5 lead at half-time, their veteran winger David O’Donovan collecting Ronan McKenna’s neat chip without breaking stride to run in a terrific unconverted try.
It got even better for Shannon on the resumption as flanker Ollie Lyons brilliantly avoid four defenders on an inspirational solo run, and full-back McKenna followed up to send winger Richie Mullane over for a 44th minute try.
However, Wesley racked up 15 unanswered points between the 47th and 77th minutes, belatedly getting the scoreboard going again after winger Paul Harte’s early first half try.
Home captain Ian Cassidy was prominent in the build-up to Iain McGann’s 47th-minute touchdown and he punished a high tackle with a well-struck penalty for a 15-13 advantage.
Shannon then lost centre Robbie Deegan to the sin-bin for taking Wesley’s Ger Finucane out in the air, and the latter’s centre partner Billy Ngawini got free on the outside to run in try number three.
With time running out, Marcus Horan’s men took a couple of quick tap penalties as they tried to respond. Wesley scrum half Cassidy saw yellow and while Airey managed to reach over for a late try, he was off-target with the difficult conversion as the home support breathed a big sigh of relief.