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Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Review

Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Review

On a day of bonus point wins for the leading sides in Division 1B, third-placed Ballymena ensured a five-point return for themselves against Shannon at Eaton Park.



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Ballymena ran out 30-23 winners with full-back Rodger McBurney and flanker Willie McKay scoring two tries each against Marcus Horan’s side.

A typically forceful run from McBurney saw him go over by the posts to make it 10-0 early on, and a well-executed lineout maul sent McKay over for try number two and a 15-3 interval lead.

Shannon, still gunning for a top four finish and a promotion play-off place, came storming back with two Tadhg Bennett penalties and a brilliant solo try from young full-back Stephen Fitzgerald.

That whittled Ballymena’s lead down to 18-16 and the two-point gap remained after a terrific second try from Ireland Club international McBurney was cancelled out by a converted effort from Shannon prop Tony Cusack.

However, openside McKay put his name to the match-winning score for Andy Graham’s charges, piling over on the end of another determined drive from the home forwards.

Buccaneers kept up their push for a promotion play-off spot with a three-try 28-14 dismissal of relegation-doomed Belfast Harlequins at Dubarry Park.

Harlequins, who now need three bonus point wins to avoid the automatic drop, had a mountain to overcome when trailing 20-0 at half-time to the fast-starting Pirates.

Number 8 Kolo Kiripati and winger Alan Gaughan both crossed the whitewash and Connacht’s Conor McKeon supplied the other 10 points as Buccs developed a rather comfortable cushion.

Head coach Brett Wilkinson will have been frustrated that they did not kick on for a try-scoring bonus point, though, with ‘Quins edging the second half’s scoring thanks to converted efforts from Ireland Under-19 international Conall Boomer and winger Rory Blake-Knox.

Replacement Eoghan O’Reilly claimed Buccs’ third try of the afternoon and McKeon took his own tally to 13 points. But the fifth-placed midlanders, currently lying three points behind Old Wesley, know they will have to improve for their ‘must win’ clashes with Blackrock, Wesley and Shannon in the final rounds.

Old Wesley squeezed past Dolphin in an incredible finish at Donnybrook, with only a point separating the sides – 31-30 – at the end of an absorbing contest.

The lead actually changed hands four times in the final 10 minutes. A chip over the top and try from winger Killian O’Keeffe, with three minutes left, had Dolphin on the cusp of winning (30-28), before Barry McLaughlin coolly slotted the match-winning penalty.

Despite the defeat, the losing bonus point has seen Dolphin climb above Blackrock into seventh place in the table. They led 20-7 at half-time, with Welshman Chris Rowe touching down from an early lineout drive and also from a pick and go just before the interval.

Barry Keeshan was in excellent form with the boot, nailing three conversions and three penalties for a 15-point haul, but Wesley had the better of the second half.

Full-back Rory Stynes’ neat switch move played in winger Paul Harte for a converted try for the hosts, and then scrum half Ian Cassidy dived over after Wesley had turned over a Dolphin scrum five metres out. McLaughlin’s conversion from wide on the left made it 21-20.

Cassidy’s second try of the afternoon was followed by a Keeshan penalty as he punished the yellow-carded Josh Hinde for collapsing a Dolphin maul. But Wesley had just enough in the tank for the stronger finish, centre Billy Ngawini brilliantly squeezing his way through from the left touchline and McLaughlin’s ultra-reliable right boot did the rest.

St. Mary’s College went up through the gears in the second half to show their table-topping form and garner a 50-25 bonus point victory over Blackrock College.

A powerful maul led to an early try for ‘Rock flanker Luke Hickey at Templeville Road, with two penalties from scrum half Jack O’Carroll seeing them just 17-13 behind at the break.

Mary’s collected three first half tries, the last of them scored by stand-in captain Darragh Fanning from a Marcus O’Driscoll cross-field kick, and the latter went on to pocket the bonus point following a superb Conor Gilsenan run.

The floodgates opened up when Mary’s hooker Hugo Kean finished off a maul that involved both backs and forwards, and full-back Steve Toal-Lennon, who kicked five conversions, was next over the whitewash.

Some slick passing put Ireland Under-20 and Sevens international Terry Kennedy away for try number seven and after Conor Kilcoyne and Cillian Duff had replied for the visitors, replacement Ian Cullinane went over to ensure Mary’s hit the half-century mark.

Referee Jonny Erskine flashed eight yellow cards at Annacotty – four to each team – as Dublin University ran riot in the second half to defeat hosts UL Bohemians 42-13.

At one stage Bohs had two players in the sin-bin at the same time, but this should not detract from the merit of Trinity’s five-try performance in Limerick.

Winger Tim Maupin ran in their opening try – his ninth of the campaign – to add to Jack McDermott’s lead penalty in the eighth minute. The latter’s opposite number, Rick McKenna, kept the home side in touch with a 16th minute penalty and five minutes later, the UL pack mauled their way over with captain Ian Condell credited with the touchdown.

Tony Smeeth’s youngsters restored the 10-point gap for half-time (18-8) courtesy of McDermott’s second penalty and a try by second row Jack Burke. Into the second half, UL hung in there with a McKenna try cancelling out another penalty from McDermott who kicked 17 points in all.

Ultimately, there was no denying Trinity’s class as they completed dominated the final half an hour. McDermott converted a penalty try and also added the extras to efforts from man-of-the-match Angus Lloyd and centre Paddy Lavelle to seal a comfortable 29-point win.