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Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Review

Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Review

Ballymena have fallen further behind in the Ulster Bank League Division 1B promotion race after losing 18-16 away to seventh-placed Blackrock College.



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It is three defeats on the trot for Ballymena who lost to table toppers St. Mary’s last time out. Andy Graham’s men remain in third place, but are now seven points behind Dublin University with four rounds remaining.

There was nothing between the sides at half-time in Stradbrook, with Blackrock turning around level-pegging – 13-13 – thanks to John Burke’s converted try and two Jack O’Carroll penalties.

Ballymena, who had a penalty try and eight points from the boot of Ritchie McMaster, would have expected to push on in the second period, especially with the Ulster-capped Dave Shanahan and Stephen Mulholland both starting.

However, the visitors were held scoreless during the closing 40 minutes as second row Burke’s second try of the afternoon guided ‘Rock to their first win in four league matches.

Bottom side Belfast Harlequins had a desperately-needed win snatched from their grasp as Dolphin’s late show saw them triumph 23-22 at Irish Independent Park.

Leading 22-16, the Harlequins defence could not hold out in injury-time as Dolphin gained enough momentum from a close range maul for flanker Kevin Allen to touch down wide on the left.

It was left to out-half and assistant coach Barry Keeshan to kick the all-important conversion and the league veteran delivered with typical aplomb, landing the extras in nerveless fashion.

The Corkmen had led 5-3 at the interval with full-back Shane McAuliffe’s unconverted effort cancelling out Ben Sloan’s earlier penalty.

The hosts looked to be hitting their stride when a Keeshan penalty and Ken O’Halloran try moved them 13-3 clear within 10 minutes of the restart.

But ‘Quins stormed back with a brilliant run of 19 points without reply, including a penalty try and touchdowns from flanker Ollie Loughead and winger Andrew McPhillips.

That opened up a 22-13 advantage for Adam Larkin’s charges, but old failings came back to haunt them as their discipline and defence wavered it mattered most.

Centre Cian McGovern thumped over a penalty from halfway to get Dolphin back within a converted score, and Allen and Keeshan combined to deny the Ulstermen right at the death.

Meanwhile, Dublin University registered their eighth try-scoring bonus point of the campaign as they ran out comfortable 43-17 winners over Old Wesley.

This Dublin derby at College Park turned into a one-sided affair in the opening half as the second-placed students raced into a 29-3 interval lead.

Trinity secured their bonus point by the 35-minute mark, with number 8 Tom Ryan benefiting from a Conor Kearns offload for the opener.

That was in response to a Barry McLaughlin penalty, but American international Tim Maupin then evaded four tacklers to score and a pushover effort saw Ryan touch down from an advancing scrum.

Full-back Kearns put his name to the bonus point try, getting over in the corner after a Raef Tyrrell lineout steal and a powerful midfield run by Paddy Lavelle.

Centre Lavelle was involved in the build-up to a Max McFarland try early in the second period, as Wesley’s kick chase was poor and Trinity countered in brilliant fashion for winger McFarland to make it 36-3.

Having had flanker Darren Horan sin-binned, the visitors eventually managed to string together some crisp phases and with better execution, they scored tries through centre Ger Finucane and replacement Craig Telford.

But Tony Smeeth’s side had the final say, attacking again at great pace and the final product was Maupin’s second five-pointer. Out-half Jack McDermott’s conversion completed his 13-point tally, as Trinity maintained the pressure on St. Mary’s whose lead at the top of the table is now just four points.

St. Mary’s College outscored Buccaneers by three tries to one but only had three points to spare at the end of a very competitive tie at Templeville Road.

St. Mary’s took the spoils on a 19-16 scoreline, making it ten wins in-a-row, and it was a terrific break and try from out-half Sean Kearns that got them over the finish line.

Kearns had an intriguing battle at number 10 with Connacht’s Conor McKeon, who is a former Mary’s minis player. McKeon led the scoring with 11 points, but Kearns had the decisive say late on.

Kearns added an excellent conversion to centre Marcus O’Driscoll’s opening try, which owed much to winger Ryan O’Loughlin’s mazy run and well-timed pass. McKeon responded for Buccaneers off the kicking tee, leaving it 7-3 for half-time.

Although backs and forwards combined in a maul for a try from replacement Richie Sweeney, a second McKeon penalty and winger Rory O’Connor’s 12th try of the season put just a point between the sides – 14-13.

A prolonged spell of pressure from the wind-backed midlanders resulted in another three-pointer from McKeon, but Kearns’ quick feet and eye for a break saw him deliver the match-winning score out wide for the Division 1B leaders.

UL Bohemians earned back-to-back wins for the first time this season when overcoming Shannon 25-22 in Friday’s tightly-contested Limerick derby.

There were many talking points at the end of this dramatic Division 1B game at Thomond Park which saw uncontested scrums for most of the second half.

It was a triumph for the UL Bohs forwards who were totally on top in the tight which earned them a crucial penalty try just on half-time.

At one stage in the second half UL had one player receiving medical attention while another was in the sin bin, but having built up a 17-3 interval lead they held on for the very precious points.

Centre Darren Moroney had the opening try – his second in as many games – which Rick McKenna converted and he then added a penalty.

Shane Airey kept Shannon in touch with a penalty and was unfortunate with another effort but then came the penalty try as the UL pack pushed Shannon over their own line in a five-metre scrum. McKenna converted.

Former Ireland Under-20 international Greg O’Shea kept Shannon in contention with a try six minutes into the second half which Tadhg Bennett converted, but UL prop Mike Lynch touched down with 51 minutes on the clock.

Replacement Shane Mullally raised Shannon’s hopes with a 60th minute try but a penalty by McKenna eased Bohs worries.

Eight minutes from the end Will Leonard ran in his sixth try of the campaign which Bennett converted with aplomb from the touchline, but UL held on to win by three points.