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Ulster Bank League: Division 2C Review

Ulster Bank League: Division 2C Review

Division 2C leaders Rainey Old Boys were brought down a peg or two with a surprise defeat at mid-table Sligo, while Kanturk and Boyne also lifted their spirits with their second wins of the campaign.



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Bangor 32 Midleton 23, Upritchard Park
Navan 32 Bruff 22, Balreask Old
Sligo 19 Rainey Old Boys 18, Hamilton Park
Tullamore 15 Kanturk 17, Spollanstown
Seapoint 15 Boyne 37, Kilbogget Park (played on Friday)

Sligo came from 11 points down to pip table toppers Rainey 19-18 in a thrilling game at Hamilton Park. Flanker Diarmuid O’Dowd Hill got over in the corner for a decisive late try, following a terrific break by influential replacement Aaron Spring.

Rainey had soared to the division’s summit with four bonus point wins before the break in league fixtures, and they quickly hit the front in Sligo thanks to a penalty from out-half Chris Laidler. They fielded a strong team minus Tim Barker due to family commitments.

The Magherafelt men were made to work hard in defence as Sligo pressed for a try in response, with the hosts’ excellent prop Conor Mitchell and winger Jack Keegan both prominent in a move that ended with number 8 Shane Boyle being turned over.

Ross Mannion’s young guns came again, playing at a high tempo and creating openings but not finishing scores. Full-back Conor Kerins missed a penalty towards the end of the first quarter, and Rainey showed their clinical edge when winger Johnny Burgess touched down for the second successive league game.

Laidler was unable to convert and Rainey almost leaked a try on the stroke of half-time. They survived a furious late assault on their line where Sligo scrum half Ryan Feehily was just held up, leaving it 8-0 at the turnaround.

But the third quarter saw the Sligo youngsters finally get some reward for their bright play. Now with a wind advantage, O’Dowd-Hill’s pinched a lineout ball in the Rainey 22, centre Daire Byrne powered his way up towards the whitewash and then prop Jamie Bowes burrowed over after some patient phases from the forwards.

The Ulster outfit responded with a Laidler penalty for 11-7, but Sligo continued to make headway and Spring became a talismanic figure. His break on the hour mark forced a penalty and a yellow card for Rainey centre Jody McMurray. Kerins’ subsequent kick from halfway fell short.

A pushover effort from a lineout maul saw 14-man Rainey claw back control of the scoreboard, at 18-7. Sligo were far from finished, though, and they stormed home with two closing tries that left the Old Boys out for the count.

Feehily used cleanly-won lineout ball to snipe over from close range, with Kerins converting. Feehily almost sliced through for his second try just minutes later, breaking from a scrum and chasing down his own kick only to be denied by the Rainey cover.

Mannion’s charges saved the best for last, though, as O’Dowd Hill, one of their most effective players on the day, fittingly put the finishing touches to a Spring-inspired attack. The missed conversion was not needed from Kerins as Rainey were left to reflect on their first defeat of the campaign.

The Co. Derry club still have a five-point buffer at the top of the table, with Navan climbing above Tullamore into second place. Alan Kingsley’s men got the better of struggling Bruff, 32-22, at Balreask Old.

South African centre Riaan van der Vyver scored his fourth try of the season, clinching the bonus point by crashing over in the right corner during the final quarter. Navan’s other tries were scored by Conor Ryan, Ray Moloney and Simon Hogan, who recently hit the 100-cap mark in the league.

The result was disappointing for Bruff who had led 10-3 at half-time. The Limerick men are now bottom of the table, but they did at least bring home a try-scoring bonus point thanks to efforts from Mark Cosgrove, Liam Tracey, Sean D’Arcy and Sean Hartigan.

Like Sligo, Boyne are on the move up to seventh position after carving out a fine 37-15 bonus point victory at Seapoint. The south Dubliners had their confidence knocked by a heavy loss to Rainey last time out and they had another frustrating outcome at Kilbogget Park last Friday night.

Boyne opened up a 19-3 lead by half-time, stunning the hosts with an unconverted try after barely a minute. Centre Brian Howell gathered the kick-off and was the player to finish off the score, following up on strong carries from both Hugh Carolan and Afioae Maiava.

Niall Kerbey missed the conversion and a subsequent penalty attempt too, before Seapoint got up to the pace of the game. It was electrifying stuff at times with long periods of possessions meaning that both defences were fully tested.

Boyne had to weather a Seapoint storm, including some advanced lineouts that led to a penalty goal, but a ‘Point sin-binning left the home side under all sorts of pressure and Boyne capitalised with two converted tries. Their forwards laid the platform for full-back Eoghan Duffy to scythe through in brilliant fashion and then prop Carolan also crossed the whitewash, gathering a pass from scrum half Nick Smith who made a snappy break.

The scores kept coming for the Drogheda side on the resumption, Kerbey clipping over a penalty and adding a brilliant conversion to winger Adam Brodigan’s try, which was set up by some impressive mauling.

Seapoint did hit back with two tries, including one from debutant Cuma Mgijima, but Boyne captain George Cooney sandwiched in their fifth try and despite losing Duffy to the bin for a deliberate knock-on, the visitors closed out the scoring with a Kerbey penalty.

Tullamore lost for the first time in four outings and only have themselves to ball after what was a sloppy display against Kanturk and a world away from their bonus point heroics against Bangor last week.

Kanturk seized the initiative at Spollanstown with two Conor Cremin penalties either side of a Karl Dunne strike. In a rare glimpse of their attacking quality in the first half, Tullamore nipped into an 8-6 lead when the fit-again Aaron Deverell had a hand in setting up a well-worked try in the corner, scored by his centre partner Conor Dunne.

Cremin responded with his third penalty success and Tullamore soon blundered when trying to run the ball out from their own try-line. They duly lost possession and scrum half Brian Gilligan’s yellow card summed up what was a poor first half showing from the Co. Offaly outfit.

By the midpoint of the second period, Kanturk had pushed into a 17-8 lead. The increasingly influential Cremin split the posts again with a penalty and some neat interplay between the visitors’ back-three teed up an Olan Daly touchdown.

Tullamore out-half Ben Ridgeway, one of their leading lights against Bangor, rediscovered that form with a terrific individual try from halfway to reignite their challenge. Karl Dunne converted to make it a two-point game, however Kanturk had the better of the final 15 minutes, expertly holding onto possession late on and slowly grinding Tullamore into submission.

Jason Morgan’s Bangor bounced back from that loss to Tullamore to defeat Midleton 32-23 at Upritchard Park, and in the process climbed above the Corkmen into fourth place.

The Seasiders seemed a step ahead of Midleton right from the off, a training ground move at a second minute lineout seeing the ball passed back to hooker Conor Piper who crossed in the left corner. Winger Mark Widdowson, finishing neatly out wide, got in on the act with a brace of tries after eight and 22 minutes for a 15-0 lead.

Midleton failed to panic and they recovered well to reduce the arrears to 18-10 by half-time. After Bangor’s Craig Burton was sin-binned, Stuart Lee used the penalty to kick the visitors’ opening points. Widdowson cancelled those three points out, but a scrappy Ross O’Mahoney try from a hack through had John O’Neill’s men right in the hunt.

A further penalty from Lee made it a five-point game, before Bangor got back on track with their fourth try of the afternoon, the maul doing enough damage for tighthead James Leary to dive over from close range and Widdowson converted.

Lee tagged on a penalty after a long injury stoppage for Midleton captain David O’Sullivan. He suffered a neck injury in a tackle and was taken to hospital. Thankfully, it was not as serious as first feared and he was able to return home later on Saturday night.

It took both sides a while to find their rhythm again, but Bangor scored a crucial try with five minutes remaining. They were suitably fired up after replacement Keith Rosson’s harsh yellow for an alleged high tackle, and flanker Mike Aspley burst away from a couple of tacklers to score from the edge of the 22. Widdowson converted for a double scores lead (32-16).

Battling Midleton, who had prop Gary McArdle yellow carded in the 79th minute, cut the deficit back to nine points by the final whistle, Paul Daly exposing some poor tackling to round the home defence and grab his fourth try of the current league run.