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Ulster Bank League: Division 2B Review

Ulster Bank League: Division 2B Review

Wanderers, Skerries and Armagh all lay down a marker with opening bonus point triumphs in Division 2B, while Dungannon edged out MU Barnhall by five points in the tightest contest on Saturday.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE DIVISION 2B: Saturday, September 17

ROUND 1 RESULTS –

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Bective Rangers 14 Armagh 30, Donnybrook
City of Derry 15 Skerries 32, Judge’s Road
Dungannon 20 MU Barnhall 15, Stevenson Park
Old Crescent 3 Greystones 19, Rosbrien
Wanderers 54 Thomond 19, Aviva Stadium main pitch

Skerries slid down from Division 2A last April, but they began their bid to bounce back from relegation with a 32-15 bonus point victory away to City of Derry. A hat-trick from lynchpin number 8 and captain Ross McAuley was the highlight of their five-try display.

It has been a difficult start to the new season for Derry whose freshly-appointed management team is headed up by backs coach Richard McCarter and forwards coach Stephen Douglas. Terry McMaster was unable to continue due to work commitments and the club were unable to find a suitable replacement for him in the head coach role.

Derry had a promising opening spell against Skerries, moving into an 8-7 lead inside 12 minutes. A Neil Burns penalty and hooker Cathal Cregan’s well-taken try off the side of a maul sandwiched a converted opener from Skerries lock Joe Glennon.

But the Dubliners took advantage of Derry’s defensive frailties to lead 22-8 at the interval. Mark Nally’s quick lineout throw to the front saw McAuley burst over in the corner for his first try of the day, and barely a minute later, he nabbed his second as Derry coughed up the restart, Paul O’Loghlen’s kick over the top was seized upon by hooker Kieran Leonard who broke through, linking with Michael Turvey who sent his supporting skipper for a quick-fire seven-pointer.

A subsequent penalty from Billy Mulcahy, who replaced the injured O’Loghlen at out-half, left Derry 14 points adrift, and it got even worse for the Ulstermen in the third quarter when full-back David Quirke deservedly crossed the whitewash to register the bonus point and McAuley soon had his third touchdown, benefiting from a period of dominant drives from his pack.

Derry did salvage some pride with a converted try from number 8 Richard Baird, who went through a gap via the platform of a ground-gaining maul. Their round 2 opponents next Saturday, Ulster rivals Armagh, looked in excellent form when dishing out a 30-14 beating to Bective Rangers at Donnybrook.

A tough gym programme which started back in May, coupled with some astute signings (including flanker and new captain Ali Birch), mean Armagh have hit the ground running. Alex McCloy’s side ended the first half against Bective with a 13-point advantage, and some slick counter attacking in a fast-paced contest netted them two more tries after the break.

Replacement prop Adam Clarke’s 70th-minute try proved crucial for Dungannon as they got the better of MU Barnhall on a 20-15 scoreline at Stevenson Park – a stunning turnaround considering the Kildare men had built up a 15-point lead.

Barnhall had former Leinster winger Darren Hudson starting at full-back and they were good value for an 8-0 half-time advantage. New captain Simon Gillespie kicked an early penalty, Hudson threatened on a series of dangerous runs and then an overlap played in winger Andrew Coade for a try, midway through the half.

The hosts fell further behind through Gillespie’s 52nd-minute converted try, but crucially ‘Gannon responded just minutes later through experienced full-back Paul Armstrong, who was at the end of a neat string of passes among the backs.

The margin was back to three points after scrum half Jack Ravey sent replacement John Buckley crashing over from close range in the 65th minute. ‘Gannon’s new number 10 Tianua Poto, who hails from Sydney and played most recently in New Zealand, came up trumps with a cracking touchline conversion.

Poto was off target when trying to add the extras to Clarke’s blindside score, but he nailed a final penalty to complete a memorable comeback win for Andy Hughes’ charges.

It was certainly a disappointing opening day for the seven Limerick clubs across the league, with only UL Bohemians winning. Old Crescent, last year’s Division 2C champions, suffered a 19-3 loss to Greystones in their opening fixture at Rosbrien.

Shane O’Brien’s penalty on the quarter hour gave Crescent an early lead, however ‘Stones soon showed glimpses of the quality play that saw them finish fourth in the standings last season. Tries from Dan Mannion (30 minutes) and new Kiwi hooker Mike Lea (39) put the visitors 12-3 ahead for half-time.

Influential number 8 Bobby Clancy made it three tries for the Co. Wicklow club’s pack when he crossed in the 50th minute. Crescent were unable to respond and will be hoping to break their Division 2B duck away to Barnhall next Saturday.

Wanderers will travel to Greystones for a mouth-watering Leinster derby on the back of their stunning 54-19 thrashing of Thomond. Playing on the Aviva Stadium’s main pitch, the headquarters club were rampant at times. The visitors will draw some consolation from their three tries scored by Jamie McGarry, Gary Bateman and Diarmuid Ryan.