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Ulster Bank League: Division 2B Review

Ulster Bank League: Division 2B Review

It is neck and neck between Armagh and Greystones at the top of Ulster Bank League Division 2B, with both sides piling on the points in runaway victories on Saturday.



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Thomond 30 Dungannon 36, Liam Fitzgerald Park
Armagh 52 MU Barnhall 17, Palace Grounds
Greystones 71 City of Derry 3, Dr. Hickey Park
Skerries 27 Old Crescent 30, Holmpatrick
Wanderers 20 Bective Rangers 9, Aviva Stadium back pitch (played on Friday)

Confidence is really high at the Palace Grounds judging by Armagh’s 52-17 hammering of MU Barnhall. The league leaders ran in seven tries, a devastating second half spurt seeing them move from 21-10 at half-time to 45-10.

Greystones’ demolition of City of Derry was even more comprehensive, the Wicklow men finished as 71-3 winners at Dr. Hickey Park. Eleven tries were scored, including a terrific length of the pitch effort from Jack Keating whose brace was matched by fellow winger Paudie Geoghegan and forwards John Campbell and Mike Lea.

Number 8 and captain James McMahon’s hat-trick of tries helped Dungannon prevail 36-30 over a durable Thomond team at Liam Fitzgerald Park. Their head coach Andrew Hughes said afterwards: “An away win is very valuable. At 29-16 we should have closed the game down but I’ll not complain with five league points.”

Thomond may still be winless but they battled ferociously for a last-gasp losing bonus point against ‘Gannon, which was enough to lift them off the bottom of the table and above Derry.

With Thomond’s John Sheehan already in the sin-bin, the visitors opened the scoring with McMahon’s first try, 12 minutes in. But two well-struck penalties from full-back Dermot Fitzgerald had Thomond only 7-6 down by the 26th minute, with Dungannon suffering yellow cards for backs Tianua Poto and Jonny Toal.

Full-back Paul Armstrong got 13-man Dungannon back on track with a well-finished try from a ruck five metres out. He added the touchline conversion himself with great aplomb, but a third sin-binning for the Co. Tyrone outfit, following the input of a touch judge, saw lock Stephen Todd banished for a retaliatory push.

The margin was out to 10 points by half-time, though, as Thomond failed to deal with Jack Ravey’s dangerous kick and McMahon swooped in to collect the ball at full tilt and complete his first half brace. Fitzgerald responded with a stunning penalty from almost 50 metres out.

Leading 19-9 at the break, ‘Gannon had the bonus point in their hands by the 50th minutes, McMahon getting over again after a period of quick, accurate passing and very good width from the Ulstermen. Armstrong added another terrific conversion from the touchline.

A long range penalty from Armstrong was preceded by Thomond’s opening try on the hour mark, replacement prop Sasha Slijepevic rewarding his forward colleagues for their most productive spell, and Fitzgerald quickly converted.

Armstrong finished off his own impressive individual display with a 75th minute converted try, linking with winger Matthew Montgomery, who broke up to halfway, and evading three Thomond chasers on a sidestepping run to the line.

There was still time for Thomond to cut the deficit from 20 points to just six with two closing seven-pointers. A further yellow card for Dungannon was followed by a penalty try, and then Fitzgerald touched down in injury-time and coolly clipped over the all-important bonus point-clinching kick.

Meanwhile, Old Crescent made it two wins on the trot by just outlasting Skerries on a 30-27 scoreline at Holmpatrick. The Limerick men scored three tries, while their four-try Dublin hosts picked up two bonus points in their best performance of the season to date.

Eugene McGovern’s charges led 17-8 at the turnaround, Larry Hanly and Cathal O’Reilly adding tries to Shane O’Brien’s early penalty. Skerries were 17 points adrift by the midpoint of the half, however a David Quirke penalty and Eoghan Carron’s late try in the corner got them firing.

Full-back Quirke followed up on good work by the Skerries pack to convert his own try, early in the second period, and the Goats avoided a certain intercept score by Crescent when Paul Devitt brilliantly chased back to force a knock-on over the line.

Indeed, the home side took the lead for the first time when backs and forwards combined with some lovely interplay and offloading to set up prop Mark Nally’s try, which Quirke converted for a 22-17 lead.

However, Crescent managed to build crucial momentum again. Two penalties from Barry Neville had them back in front by the 67th minute, and Neville then converted a 75th minute try from experienced centre Brian Tuohy who pounced on a handling error by the hosts.

Skerries took advantage of a Crescent yellow card to respond in the 78th minute, hooker Chris Tonge grabbing an unconverted score from a lineout maul. Suddenly, it was all Skerries once more as they tried to erase the three-point gap on the scoreboard.

Still facing 14 men, they turned down a penalty in front of the posts, instead pounding away at the try-line until a final turnover confirmed Crescent as narrow winners.

Meanwhile, on the Aviva Stadium’s back pitch on Friday night, Wanderers won for the first time in three games. They got the better of local rivals Bective Rangers by a 20-9 margin, with Garret O’Suilleabhain’s try the key score of a keenly-contested second half.