Round 1 leaders Banbridge were the only side to pick up a try-scoring bonus point in Division 2A on Saturday, while Nenagh Ormond and Malone secured valuable away victories from their respective trips to Belfast and Cashel.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE DIVISION 2A: Saturday, September 17
ROUND 1 RESULTS –
Banbridge 41 Sunday’s Well 12, Rifle Park
Belfast Harlequins 17 Nenagh Ormond 28, Deramore Park
Blackrock College 20 Corinthians 13, Stradbrook
Cashel 13 Malone 21, Spafield
Highfield 16 Queen’s University 13, Woodleigh Park
Banbridge opened their campaign in commanding fashion with a six-try 41-12 dismissal of Sunday’s Well who came up from Division 2B at the end of last season.
Full-back Adam Doherty – part of an ever-threatening back-line – delighted the home support at Rifle Park with a hat-trick of tries, with Josh Cromie, captain Adam Ervine and replacement Kallin Martin also crossing the whitewash. New out-half Andrew Magrath, who has switched across from Ballymena, landed four conversions and a penalty.
Doherty’s opening try summed up Bann’s desire to make up for narrowly missing out on promotion last term. From a turnover on the hosts’ five-metre line, he launched a scintillating run that took him away from the ‘Well chasers for a superb individual score.
There were some positives for the Corkmen, including the performance of debutant back rower Conor O’Brien. Full-back Greg Higgins scored a brace of tries, brilliantly squeezing over in the corner for the first after a maul was halted, and his neat inside line at the end of a back-line move saw him cross for his second by the posts.
The ‘Well will be hoping for a much better outcome when they host Blackrock College next Saturday. The Dubliners, demoted from Division 1B in April, began the long road back to the second tier with a 20-13 win at home to Corinthians.
‘Rock led 20-3 by the hour mark thanks to a first half try from number 8 Eoin Fanning and further efforts from Peter McCague and big new signing Brendan Hegarty, the 27-year-old centre/winger who played in France for Narbonne and Bayonne over the past seven seasons.
Corinthians had two notable debutants in Ireland Under-20 scrum half Stephen Kerins and former Wellington Sevens player Lise Soloa, who lined out at number 8, and a penalty in the last play – adding to a final quarter try – earned the Galway outfit a gritty losing bonus point.
Nenagh Ormond warmed up for their round 2 derby clash with Cashel by handing Belfast Harlequins a 28-17 defeat at Deramore Park. Tries from Eathon Moloney, Cronan Gleeson and Willie Coffey did most of the damage, with impressive new out-half Clayton Stewart finishing with 13 points from two conversions and three penalties.
Malone’s long trip south to Cashel proved fruitful as they came away from Spafield with a 21-13 triumph. They had 16 points on the board in as many minutes, Rory Campbell’s two early penalties being supplemented by tries from former Ulster and Connacht back Mark McCrea (9 minutes) and winger Michael Cartmill (16). McCrea’s score was a terrific one right from the 10-metre line.
A brace of penalties from Conor Holland cut the gap for Cashel to 10 points, and a 51st minute try from exciting young scrum half Josh Pickering, a Munster Schools Senior Cup winner with Rockwell in 2015, made it a three-point game.
However, the Belfast side dug deep to survive loosehead Lee Barlow’s sin-bin period on the hour mark and replacement Connor Spence’s 79th-minute try was enough to settle the issue and ensure that Cashel emerged pointless.
Last year’s Division 2B champions Highfield enjoyed a winning start in 2A when they overcame Queen’s University on a 16-13 scoreline. Former captain Peter Martin’s try with 77 minutes on the clock proved decisive, with out-half and current skipper Paddy O’Toole converting to add to his three earlier penalties.
Highfield’s set piece strength remains a key part of their game, and their maul was particularly effective against the students. Queen’s will have to pick themselves up quickly for the visit of table toppers Banbridge to the Dub next Saturday afternoon.