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Ulster Bank League: Division 2C Review

Ulster Bank League: Division 2C Review

Rainey Old Boys hung onto top spot in Division 2C with an important win away to close rivals Tullamore, while Bangor, Midleton and Bruff were the three movers in the table after a gripping seventh round.



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Bangor 20 Seapoint 13, Upritchard Park
Kanturk 8 Bruff 36, Knocknacolan
Sligo 20 Midleton 22, Hamilton Park
Tullamore 21 Rainey Old Boys 25, Spollanstown
Navan 34 Boyne 6, Balreask Old (played on Friday).

Rainey Old Boys’ first ever meeting with Tullamore had plenty of thrills and spills at Spollanstown, a bout of late drama seeing the visitors scrapping to hold on for a 25-21 victory with just 12 players.

Yellow cards for props Stephen Rutledge (illegal tackle) and Tommy O’Hagan (side-entry at a ruck) were followed by the loss of another player, sacrificed so the game could be completed with uncontested scrums. It was helter-skelter stuff as Tullamore’s replacement winger Brian Gilligan was fed out wide to scoot up the right touchline and score in the corner in the 77th minute.

Teenage centre Conor Dunne added a fine conversion to cut the gap to 25-14 and also added the extras to Gilligan’s older brother Tom’s closing score. Fortunately for under-fire Rainey, the final whistle followed the conversion as Tullamore had to be content with a late losing bonus point.

John Andrews’ men had led 15-7 at the interval, coming back from the concession of a very soft ninth-minute try. Tullamore flanker Leon Martin touched down from a few metres out after Rainey scrum half Michael Wilson lost his footing and spilled the ball from a scrum.

If the opening half-an-hour was a frustrating watch for the travelling support, they would have been really enthused by Rainey’s strong finish to the first half. Full-back Chris Laidler landed a penalty, rewarding forwards O’Hagan and John McCusker for their impact off the bench, and the Derry men soon conjured up two tries in a six-minute spell.

Rainey’s forwards got on top, driving into scoring range for flanker Darren Corrigan to cross the whitewash. It was a Corrigan break on the stroke of half-time that created the momentum for try number two, good continuity and movement of the ball forcing Tullamore to leak penalties and O’Hagan was the man to make it over.

Into the second period, Tullamore looked in better fettle as hooker Cathal Feighery blocked a kick and winger Dylan Kelso had a strong run up the left wing. However, their early resurgence fizzled out with poor phase-building and protection of the ball.

The Co. Offaly outfit, who leaked another three-pointer to Laidler, then lost tighthead Ger Molloy to the sin-bin for careless use of the boot in the 66th minute, their second prop to see yellow on the day. Ricky Andrew, who played at inside centre, reached out-half Gavin Martin’s teasing kick for Rainey’s third try. There was the promise of more and a possible bonus point, but the Magherafelt side’s loss of discipline made for an altogether different finish.

Meanwhile, Rainey’s Ulster rivals Bangor came from behind to beat visitors Seapoint 20-13 and move to third in the table. The Seasiders welcomed back player-coach Jason Morgan and Rob Gamble into their back-three, with Ryan Latimer making his return from a long-term injury as a replacement.

But Seapoint, two-point winners at Midleton last week, were in no mood to roll over. Talented half-back David Baker kicked an early penalty and then finished off a breakaway 24th minute try in the corner after the Dubliners had flooded forward from an overthrown Bangor lineout.

Six minutes later and despite losing hooker Cian Cunningham to the sin-bin, Seapoint were 13-0 up after winger Dave O’Reilly struck in the same left corner. Bangor only had themselves to blame as they fumbled a pass inside their own 22 and O’Reilly profited from a well-placed chip through.

Bangor had no end-product for their lion’s share of possession and territory, yet they did end the first half with a timely converted try, a stolen lineout seeing the hosts maul up close to the try-line before prop and captain Phil Whyte burrowed over with the support of his forward colleagues.

Warming to their task, Bangor showed an increased clinical edge on the resumption, their scrum in dominant form and a strengthening wind now in Seapoint’s faces. Ten minutes in, a series of carries from the Bangor pack sucked in the ‘Point defence sufficiently enough for centre Phil Broderick to be fed in midfield and ground the ball wide on the right.

Goal-kicking winger Mark Widdowson nailed his second successful conversion and then knocked over two penalties, both won at scrum time, to open up a seven-point advantage. It was a winning lead in the end, as Seapoint’s error count increased and they were unable to add to their first half haul.

Bruff have climbed above both Boyne and Kanturk into eighth place thanks to their 36-8 bonus point defeat of the Corkmen. In a vital second win of the campaign, the Limerick men had a penalty try and a Tony Cahill touchdown before the break, and racked up 22 unanswered points in the second half, including a Mike Cooke brace and efforts from Jack Burns and Johnny Clery.

Midleton moved back up into the top half of the table with a nail-biting 22-20 victory at resurgent Sligo. The westerners were made to pay for missing all four conversions of their tries, scrum half Ryan Feehily’s 58th-minute five-pointer – his second of the afternoon – giving them a 20-17 lead.

However, their visitors from east Cork had the stronger finish, an unconverted try right at the death giving them their first triumph in five league outings. As well as Stuart Lee’s seven-point contribution from the tee, Midleton had tries from Paul Daly (his fifth of the current league run), James Colbert and Daniel Murray.

The round had begun with a one-sided Friday Night Lights derby between Navan and Boyne at rain-swept Balreask Old. Alan Kingsley’s men looked in rude health as they powered to a 34-6 bonus point success over their local rivals.

Playing into a strong wind, the hosts built a 13-6 half-time lead thanks to tries from Colm O’Reilly and Harry Hester, and there were three more converted efforts in the second period through former Ireland Under-18 Clubs international Conor Ryan (2) and Brian Haugh.

While their three yellow cards might have cost them dearly on another day, Navan soaked up the pressure and stormed home with a 21-point blitz in the final quarter. Out-half O’Reilly, who fired over three conversions and a penalty, finished with a 14-point haul. Former Navan player Niall Kerbey kicked two penalties for well-beaten Boyne.