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Ulster Bank League: Division 2A Review

Ulster Bank League: Division 2A Review

Banbridge got back to winning ways with a hard-fought two-point victory over Cashel, but they have been replaced as Division 2A leaders by Nenagh Ormond following their bonus point success against Corinthians.



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Banbridge 7 Cashel 5, Rifle Park
Highfield 73 Belfast Harlequins 5, Woodleigh Park
Malone 16 Sunday’s Well 16, Gibson Park
Nenagh Ormond 28 Corinthians 6, New Ormond Park
Queen’s University 27 Blackrock College 15, Dub Lane

In one of the games of the day, Queen’s University made it three wins on the trot with a well-judged 27-15 dismissal of Blackrock College. The students’ ever-improving pack, under the tutelage of former Ulster prop Bronson Ross, was very much to the fore.

Queen’s scored two first half tries from lineout mauls, with Zack McCall and Brian Cunningham getting the touchdowns, and their impressive scrum also earned a penalty try on the half hour mark, following on from Blackrock tighthead Jamie Tate’s sin-binning.

‘Rock were still right on Queen’s heel at half-time, though. They trailed by only five points (17-12) thanks to a couple of well-taken tries from Mark Prendergast and number 8 Job Langbroek, who struck for his score barely a minute after Queen’s flanker Ali Burke had seen yellow for a no-arms tackle (38 minutes).

However, the visitors’ indiscipline let them down in the second half, both Langbroek (repeated infringements) and his back row colleague Sam Cooke (taking a player out in the air) spending ten minutes off the pitch.

An early Jack O’Carroll penalty did briefly close the gap to two points, but Bob Young’s Queen’s side were quick to hit back through Jack Milligan’s boot before Ali Wright expertly split the posts from the touchline to convert Rory Bell’s 66th-minute bonus point try.

Their five-point return saw Queen’s move into third place, gaining ground on the leading two clubs, Nenagh Ormond and Banbridge who have swapped positions thanks to Nenagh’s greater scoring difference. Pacy back Willie Coffey crossed for two tries and flanker John O’Flaherty claimed the other one in the Tipperary men’s 28-6 home victory over Corinthians.

Banbridge had a really difficult time in seeing off second-from-bottom Cashel, needing a late Stephen Irvine try, with Aaron Kennedy adding the crucial conversion, to record an edgy 7-5 win at Rifle Park.

Cashel had the better of the first half and should have been further ahead at half-time than 5-0. Their scrum was solid and they had a 100% return on their own lineout ball, one such delivery in the 16th minute setting up a relentless drive that ended with prop Mike Kelly crashing over.

Banbridge were living dangerously as a well-weighted Cashel grubber kick nearly teed up a try for onrushing winger Andrew Wallace, and the visitors’ number 8 James Ryan went close to scoring from a five-metre scrum before Bann won a relieving penalty.

Roared on by the home support, the Co. Down outfit increased their attacking threat on the resumption, the ball just beating centre Jonny Little after his own charge-down and then number 8 Irvine almost made it over from a quick tap.

Cashel were still hanging onto their lead after the Bann lineout let them down in scoring range and a vital tap tackle from the visitors thwarted Bann replacement Conor Field just when it seemed he had broken clear.

But Cashel had a nightmare finish, their scrum giving away a couple of penalties in their 22 and that hard-earned possession and territory allowing Irvine to barge his way over from close in. Scrum half Kennedy stepped up to slot the all-important conversion at the second attempt – much to the disgust of the Cashel players and coaches. Kennedy had missed his initial conversion kick, but referee Robert O’Sullivan ordered it to be retaken because of some verbals from the visitors’ ranks.

Bann head coach Daniel Soper told the club website: “We were a bit lucky but we got better as the game went on. There’s still too many basic fundamental things that just aren’t going well, just too many things that aren’t at the standard that we know we can get to. However, last year we lost a couple of games in similar circumstances so we’ve got one back.”

Malone and Sunday’s Well have both moved up the league ladder to sixth and seventh respectively, following their 16-all draw at Gibson Park. Malone replacement Mark O’Connor had a late chance to win the game but watched his long range penalty come back off an upright.

The hosts’ centre pairing of Mark McCrea and Josh Pentland caused plenty of problems for the ‘Well defence, but a penalty from Pentland proved to be the Cregagh Red Sox’s only first half score. The Corkmen also failed to cross the whitewash, although a penalty-winning maul that gained a full 25 metres saw out-half Shane O’Riordan level matters at 3-3 for half-time.

Former Ulster and Connacht back McCrea gobbled up an early second half try, catching the ‘Well defence out with a chip ahead and chase. But the Munster men responded through their forwards, their maul again producing the goods for flanker Aaron Sweeney to cross. O’Riordan converted and tagged on a superbly-struck penalty to open up a 13-8 lead.

Pentland answered back off the kicking tee before his centre partner McCrea completed his brace of tries, using a pop pass to take a terrific line and dart through a gap with his pace proving too much once more. The left hand post denied Pentland with his conversion attempt, at 16-13.

It was left to the place-kickers to decide the outcome of this increasingly scrappy encounter, O’Riordan’s reliable boot bringing his side level again before he missed a hopeful shot from the touchline. The ‘Well’s lively lock Aidan O’Reilly pressed for a match-winning try late on, the Malone defence just about holding firm before O’Connor was out of luck with his penalty attempt at the other end.

Meanwhile, Malone’s local rivals Belfast Harlequins had an awful day at the office as they went down 73-5 to a rampant Highfield at Woodleigh Park. The hosts had ten tries, all converted by captain Paddy O’Toole who also touched down and kicked a penalty in an excellent 28-point haul. Luke Kingston (2), Peter Martin (2), Dave O’Connell, Dave Kelly, Kevin Foyle, Miah Cronin and Fintan O’Sullivan were their other try scorers.