Ulster Bank League Division 2A is shaping up to have one of the most enthralling promotion races of the season, with only four points currently separating the leading four clubs in the table.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE DIVISION 2A: Saturday, October 8
ROUND 4 RESULTS –
Corinthians 9 Highfield 29, Corinthian Park
Malone 13 Banbridge 19, Gibson Park
Nenagh Ormond 18 Queen’s University 8, New Ormond Park
Blackrock College 34 Belfast Harlequins 3, Stradbrook
Sunday’s Well 22 Cashel 13, Irish Independent Park
Two of the top four, Highfield and Banbridge, both won on their travels, while Nenagh Ormond, Blackrock College and Sunday’s Well all made home advantage in their final fixtures before the league takes a two-week break.
Highfield rose back up to fourth place with an ultimately comfortable 29-9 win at Corinthians, maintaining their unbeaten start to the season in the process. Out-half and captain Paddy O’Toole played a key role, kicking three successive penalties in the second half to build on a 15-9 half-time lead.
The Corkmen actually scored almost half of their points for the season so far in Galway, with lock Dave O’Connell’s early try being supplemented by a brace from winger Johnny McLoughlin who closed out the scoring with a 78th minute effort – via a barnstorming maul by the forwards.
Malone were much improved from their 30-point defeat by Queen’s University when collecting a late losing bonus point against Banbridge at Gibson Park. However, they were left to rue a poor finish against the table toppers who claimed a 19-13 win with closing tries from Peter Cromie (67 minutes) and John Porter (78).
Out-half Nathan Brown had the final say for the Cregagh Red Sox, knocking over an 81st minute penalty to ensure his side took something from what was a very competitive Ulster derby.
Scores were at a premium during a defence-dominated opening 40 minutes. Centre Josh Pentland’s 13th-minute penalty was the lead score for Malone, while Banbridge missed out on a try, seven minutes later, when lock Kallan Martin had a close range effort ruled out for accidental offside.
With four minutes left before half-time, Bann edged their way into a 7-3 lead. Prop Stu Cromie punished some poor Malone defence to charge through for a try from 20 metres out after an initial maul set-up. Out-half Ian Porter, who had hit the post with an earlier penalty attempt, was successful with the routine conversion.
After a second Porter penalty miss, Malone scrum half Connor Spence profited from the hosts’ scrum pressure to plunge over from close range on the hour mark. Pentland converted for a 13-7 scoreline.
However, Daniel Soper’s unbeaten side came good in the final quarter, a pacy attack inspired by winger Simon Lloyd and Ian Porter ending with hooker Cromie touching down. Crisp handling undid the Malone defence for a second time late on, John Porter popping over on the wing with his brother Ian’s missed conversion not needed in the end.
Banbridge remain a point clear of second-placed Nenagh Ormond who took an 18-8 verdict over Queen’s. Their talented number 10 Clayton Stewart was in man-of-the-match form again, running in two tries and kicking a conversion and two penalties. He has already amassed 62 points after just four rounds.
Sunday’s Well made the move into sixth place courtesy of a 22-13 home win over bottom side Cashel. The Tipperary men will be kicking themselves as they burst into a 10-0 lead at Irish Independent Park with the ‘Well having two players sin-binned.
The big Cashel pack forced the issue and duly won a penalty try which full-back John Lilis converted. He also kicked a penalty but the ‘Well worked their socks off defensively – particularly captain Cyprien Jouve – to avoid any further concessions.
Once restored to their full complement, the Cork outfit gradually wore down the Cashel defence and left winger Michael Boland took a great inside line to blaze through and score a fine try which Shane O’Riordan converted.
Lillis’ second penalty in the 50th minute improved Cashel’s 10-7 interval advantage, but the hosts got on top again with their bench having an impact and Francis Moynihan showing his versatility at both hooker and prop.
Accurate kicking out of hand by Mark Chandler and O’Riordan saw the ‘Well win the battle for territory. The pressure built from a couple of well-placed lineouts led to Moynihan touching down from a muscular maul. After narrowly missing the conversion, a subsequent long range three-pointer from O’Riordan put his side in front – 15-13.
Centre Jouve was prominent again as the ‘Well sought to seal the result. That clinching second try came when a multi-phase attack ended with industrious flanker Conor O’Brien bursting onto a pop pass to break the line and make the points safe.
O’Riordan’s final conversion took a well-merited bonus point away from Cashel who will hope to put this difficult start behind them when the league resumes on October 28-29.
Blackrock College, who travel down to Cashel in three weeks’ time, made it three wins in four outings with a 34-3 bonus point triumph over struggling Belfast Harlequins. Third-placed ‘Rock are now two points off the summit and are the only other club – apart from Banbridge – to have scored over 100 points so far.