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Ulster Bank League: Division 2C Review

Ulster Bank League: Division 2C Review

Back-to-back bonus point victories have marked out Rainey Old Boys and Midleton as the early pacesetters in Division 2C, ahead of their top of the table meeting in east Cork next Saturday afternoon.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE DIVISION 2C: Saturday, September 24


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Bruff 16 Midleton 35, Kilballyowen Park
Kanturk 16 Seapoint 12, Knocknacolan
Navan 19 Bangor 23, Balreask Old
Rainey Old Boys 38 Boyne 3, Hatrick Park
Tullamore 12 Sligo 8, Spollanstown

Rainey proved far too strong for a gallant Boyne side at Hatrick Park where John Andrews’ men blitzed their way to a 38-3 win. Coached by former Rainey player Graeme Eastwood, Boyne trailed 14-3 at half-time as the hosts impressed in the heavy rain.

Tommy O’Hagan, the 22-year-old prop who joined the Ulster Academy this season, opened the scoring for Rainey with a fourth minute try. Out-half Chris Laidler landed the first of five well-struck conversions as part of his 13-point kicking haul.

Rainey’s forwards were in dominant form, controlling possession in the difficult weather conditions. O’Hagan’s fellow prop Stephen Rutledge barged through for the second converted try, and the visitors’ try-line came under further pressure from a Gavin Martin kick and a Laidler interception.

Boyne, who fared well in the scrums, did manage to get off the mark with a Niall Kerbey penalty just before the interval, but the excellent Laidler replied with a three-pointer of his own on the resumption, rewarding some more good play from Rainey’s mobile front five.

As Boyne’s discipline worsened, the Derry men had the bonus point in the bag by the hour mark. A lineout drive saw promising number 8 Darren Corrigan go over before the set piece platform teed up the bonus point score for centre Jody McMurray. Scrum half Michael Wilson joined them on the scoresheet, profiting from a 70th minute maul to touch down from close range.

Second-placed Midleton also ran in five tries when winning 35-16 away to Bruff who have had a difficult start to the new season. Ross O’Mahony touched down in each half and Daniel Murray, Rob Carey and Paul Daly were the Cork side’s other try scorers.

Home advantage helped Tullamore and Kanturk to post their opening wins of the campaign. Teenage flanker Colm Heffernan, a member of the Ireland Under-18 Sevens European Championship-winning side, produced a man-of-the-match display as Tullamore edged out Sligo 12-8 at Spollanstown.

League debutant Heffernan was one of the returning players, including influential number 8 Gavin Kelly, that bolstered the Tullamore pack and gave them added ball-carrying ballast and physicality in the tackle.

That defensive solidity was needed in the second half as Sligo laid siege to their try-line, but in the end, full-back Karl Dunne’s late penalty – his fourth of the afternoon – sealed a hard-fought success for the Offaly men.

A second half try from David Fitzpatrick, coupled with Conor Cremin’s second penalty of the day, guided Kanturk past Seapoint on a 16-12 scoreline. Flanker Zac Jungmann crossed twice for the visiting Dubliners, his second score closing the gap to 13-12, however scrum half Cremin had the final say for the Cork outfit.

Bangor enjoyed their maiden triumph since returning to the league, winning 23-19 away to Navan. Centre Desi Fusco’s well-taken brace of tries proved vital as the Seasiders prevailed at rain-soaked Balreask Old.

With the wind behind them, Bangor shot out into a 10-0 lead in as many minutes. Their scrum gained the upper hand and winger Mark Widdowson slotted over the second of two penalties for set piece infringements by the bigger Navan pack. Just as the hosts looked poised to respond, Fusco intercepted a loose pass and dived over for a converted try.

The remainder of the first half saw Navan tidy up their play and improve across the board. Two Bangor errors were punished by ace goal kicker Colm O’Reilly to reduce the arrears to 10-6, and the Co. Meath club hit the front in the 32nd minute when neat passing led to number 8 Conor Ryan dot down in the corner.

Another mistake by Bangor – this time an overthrown lineout right on their 22 – resulted in Navan’s second unconverted try, just five minutes after their first one. The ball was worked out to the left for South African centre Riaan van der Vyver to finish off and make it 16-10.

Bangor dug deep and following flanker David Bradford’s return from the sin-bin, successive penalties from Widdowson, into the wind, brought Jason Morgan’s charges level. Navan, who were now down to 14 men, worked themselves a scrum penalty which allowed O’Reilly to put them ahead again, leading 19-16 with little over ten minutes remaining.

Crucially, Bangor showed the greater ball retention and composure when it mattered most. Some patient build-up play was rewarded in the 78th minute when Fusco took a pass at pace and brilliantly broke the defensive line to score by the posts. Widdowson’s conversion capped off an impressive fight-back from the Division 2C new boys.