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Ulster Bank League: Division 2A Review

Ulster Bank League: Division 2A Review

Queen’s University, Highfield, Malone and Cashel were the climbers in the Division 2A table after an exciting October Bank Holiday weekend that produced four home wins and a draw.



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Banbridge 31 Belfast Harlequins 15, Rifle Park
Cashel 18 Blackrock College 0, Spafield
Malone 35 Nenagh Ormond 31, Gibson Park
Queen’s University 42 Corinthians 12, Dub Lane
Highfield 6 Sunday’s Well 6, Woodleigh Park (played on Friday)

Nenagh Ormond’s four-match unbeaten run was ended by Malone in a breathless and dramatic finish at Gibson Park. Second row Cory Tipping’s try in the dying minutes gave the Cregagh Red Sox their first win in four league outings.

The hosts had the better of the opening exchanges, flanker Neil Alcorn’s try helping them to push 13-3 ahead. However, Nenagh upped the gears to string together three tries for a 22-13 half-time advantage. Eathon Moloney went in under the posts and fellow backs Bruce Hayes and Ger O’Gorman also crossed.

The lead changed hands four times during a real nip-and-tuck second half, a converted try from hooker Dave Cave and a Josh Pentland penalty moving Paddy Armstrong’s Malone side back in front at 23-22.

Nenagh had to cope with the sin-binning of Michael Walsh for deliberately killing the ball, but they showed plenty of resilience and retook the lead thanks to a booming Clayton Stewart penalty from just inside the hosts’ half. He added another three-pointer before Adam Liddell came off the Malone bench to run in a terrific try in the corner and tie things up at 28-all.

Nenagh went into the last ten minutes with a narrow lead thanks to out-half Stewart’s fourth successful penalty of his 16-point haul, however Malone manufactured the match-winning try for Tipping to ensure a happy Halloween for their supporters.

Next up for Malone is a trip to Corinthians who lost heavily to Queen’s University at Dub Lane. Ulster Academy hooker Zack McCall bagged a brace of tries in the 42-12 bonus point victory and while the students have pushed up to second place, they are idle next Saturday after playing their round 6 clash with Sunday’s Well on October 22.

There was huge intensity on show in last Friday’s floodlit local derby between Highfield and Sunday’s Well. This gripping game ended in a 6-all draw, with Highfield captain Paddy O’Toole narrowly missing a last-minute penalty.

Rival out-halves Shane O’Riordan and O’Toole swapped penalties after three and 12 minutes during a tightly-contested first half. There were some massive hits as both sides operated suffocating defences. O’Riordan kicked the ‘Well back in front with a drop goal on the hour mark, before O’Toole’s second successful penalty, with 72 minutes on the clock, proved to be the final score.

Banbridge put struggling Belfast Harlequins away in the second half of their Ulster derby, posting a 31-15 bonus point triumph at Rifle Park to keep a tight grip on top spot in the division.

Bann full-back Adam Doherty exchanged early penalties with Harlequins’ Ewan Strang in a slow-burning first half. Neither side seriously threatened the opposition line until just before half-time when Doherty sped through a gap untouched for an unconverted try and an 8-3 inteval lead.

Doherty widened the margin to eight points with a meaty 43-metre penalty, before a loose ‘Quins clearance kick allowed Doherty to combine with captain Jonny Little and Conor Field in a move that sent flanker Robin Sinton over in the right corner.

Winger Josh Agnew, an increasing threat in the second period, had another cut at the visitors’ defence in the 50th minute and although Doherty knocked on, the Banbridge pack forced a scrum penalty, won the resulting lineout and drove prop Michael Cromie over for a 21-3 scoreline.

Five minutes later, ‘Quins hit back when one of their own front rowers, hooker Neil Montgomery, made it over. Strang’s conversion nipped in off the post to cut the deficit to 11 points.

Into the final quarter, Bann broke up any momentum Harlequins had with a 64th minute bonus point score. Philip Jordan’s lineout steal set up a strong attacking spell from the home forwards and ‘Quins eventually gave way for Cromie to complete his brace. Doherty converted and tagged on a penalty to finish off his 16-point tally, before Christian Bennison touched down via a neat grubber kick for a last-minute ‘Quins try.

Banbridge assistant coach Simon McKinstry, who took charge on the day with Daniel Soper away with school side RBAI, feels that the league leaders’ performance levels must improve for their upcoming matches against Tipperary duo Nenagh and Cashel. 

“The players know they’re going to have to do a lot better than that in the next two games against Nenagh and Cashel,” he told the club’s website. “We didn’t get any momentum before the break, kept giving the ball away cheaply and conceded five penalties in the first 25 minutes, which is just not good enough.

“The boys know that. We tried to give them a bit more focus at half-time and get them to play to the patterns and the second half display was much better.”

Cashel, meanwhile, put together their most complete performance of the season so far to beat Blackrock College 18-0 at Spafield. Experienced flanker Ed Leamy shone for the hosts with two tries and Ollie McGlinchey kicked the rest of the points.

It was Blackrock’s second defeat in three league games and a very rare scoreless afternoon for the south Dubliners whose attack was stifled by Cashel’s hard-hitting defensive display and sheer work-rate.

It has been a tough first few months for Cashel’s new player-coach John Lillis, who is assisted by forwards coach James Ryan, the captain of Cork Constitution last season. Their four defeats in the opening four rounds saw them concede 111 points, but this galvanising result against Blackrock could be the making of them.