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Ulster Bank League: Division 2C Review

Ulster Bank League: Division 2C Review

Rainey Old Boys kept up their perfect start to the season by winning their top of the table encounter with Midleton, who have Seapoint and Bangor close behind them in the top four.



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Bangor 33 Boyne 19, Upritchard Park
Midleton 17 Rainey Old Boys 24, Towns Park
Seapoint 31 Bruff 10, Kilbogget Park
Sligo 39 Kanturk 8, Hamilton Park
Navan 10 Tullamore 17, Balreask Old (played on Friday)

Tullamore won their Friday Night Lights clash with Navan (17-10) at Balreask Old, a fantastic intercept score from Tom Gilligan and a penalty try seeing them seize control of the first half.

It was Navan who were first to threaten, their big South African centre Riaan van der Vyver charging downfield and it took a last-ditch try-saving tackle from Tullamore captain Rob Connor to deny him.

Indeed, Navan number 10 Colm O’Reilly immediately erred when his looping pass was picked off by Tullamore centre Gilligan who had the pace to run virtually the length of the pitch for an opportunist 20th-minute try, converted by Karl Dunne.

O’Reilly replied with a well-struck penalty for Alan Kingsley’s men, although the bigger Navan pack coughed up two scrum penalties to give the visitors some enviable field position.

Tullamore needed no second invitation and a terrific rolling maul led to a penalty try. Dunne converted to give his side a 14-3 advantage to take into the second period.

However, an all-too-familiar streak of indiscipline crept into Tullamore’s play and two sin-binnings left them under serious pressure. Prop Ger Molloy saw yellow for a swinging arm and flanker Colm Heffernan followed him for a technical offence.

Navan duly hit back on the scoreboard with a 55th minute try, flanker Conor Hand sniping over after a sloppy pass had caused Tullamore’s Aidan Wynne to juggle possession and then lose it. O’Reilly converted to reduce the arrears to just four points.

Credit to the Tullamore scrum, it came up trumps again to win a close-in penalty which winger Conor Dunne stuck over. Props Eamon Bracken, a brother of former Connacht and ‘Ireland ‘A’ tighthead Peter Bracken, and youngster Matty Murphy earned the plaudits for a powerful shove on a Navan feed.

Navan lost Bryan McKeever and Sean Healy to the sin-bin and were certainly second best during crucial stages of the game. Their head coach Kingsley told the Meath Chronicle: “We asked lads to play with emotion today but we didn’t start well.

“Lads have to turn up with the mindset that they are going to put their bodies on the line for Navan Rugby Club, that’s what we have to do. We played for 50 minutes but we have to play for 80-plus minutes and we didn’t do that tonight.”

Sligo lifted their spirits with a memorable maiden win of the season at Hamilton Park, powerful forward Jamie Bowes starring with a man-of-the-match display in their seven-try 39-8 defeat of Kanturk.

The Cork side had a try from player-coach Ben Martin, early in the second half, to make it 10-8, but Sligo dominated thereafter with Bowes, Calum Goddard (2), Mark Rooney and Jack Keegan all touching down to add to first half efforts from Rooney and Ross O’Boyle.

Bangor made it two victories in three outings with a 33-19 bonus point success against Boyne, who conceded 30-plus to Ulster opposition for the second week running.

The Drogheda club actually broke into an early 14-0 lead at Upritchard Park, with winger Kevin McCleery’s second-minute touchdown setting them on their way. Bangor gradually got a grip on proceedings, though, with converted tries from Lewis Sampson, player-coach Jason Morgan and Conor McIlmurray.

Robert Gamble and his opposing winger Alan Brodigan swapped tries in the third quarter as Boyne stayed in contention at 26-19 down, but Bangor openside Mike Aspley, who was yellow carded late on, settled the issue with a 62nd minute try.

At a very well-attended pre-match lunch beforehand, Bangor paid tribute to club legend Joe Upritchard on the occasion of his 90th birthday. Former Bangor and Ireland international prop Roger Clegg reminded everybody of the long and dedicated service that Joe had given to the club, both as a player, official and visionary.

Meanwhile, full-back James Kelly was the star of the show for Seapoint in their 31-10 bonus point triumph over struggling Bruff. He crossed for two first half tries and kicked four conversions and a penalty for a superb 21-point haul.

Seapoint are next up for Rainey Old Boys whose 24-17 victory at previously-unbeaten Midleton has moved them four points at the summit. Former Ulster back Ricky Andrew moved from centre to full-back where he marshalled the visitors’ young back-line.

Midleton survived an early sin-binning and hit the front with a 29th minute penalty from Stuart Lee. Rainey’s persistence paid off with a try on the stroke of half-time, with Andrew sending Steven Nelson over in the corner. Out-half Chris Laidler fired over a terrific conversion for 7-3.

Despite not matching the heights of their previous performances, Rainey kicked on after a fortuitous 50th minute try. A favourable bounce allowed them to break out of defence and Andrew had centre Damien McMurray up in support to finish off the score.

Two tries in quick succession saw Rainey pocket the bonus point, prop Stephen Rutledge benefiting firstly from good work by the forwards, in particular number 8 Michael McCusker – one of three brothers in the Magherafelt club’s pack. Scrum half Andrew Donaghy then struck from close range following Ulster Under-19 lock John McCusker’s stunning break straight from the restart.

However, Midleton bit back to earn a losing bonus point thanks to closing tries from Alan Long and Sean White. That was the least they deserved from what was a very competitive and at times, evenly-balanced game. Rainey boss John Andrews would have been annoyed with how his side left the door ajar late on, losing both Peter Stewart and Jody McMurray to the sin-bin.