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Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Review

Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Review

Buccaneers hit Ballymena with 15 unanswered points in the second half as they came away from Eaton Park with a hard-earned 18-13 victory on Saturday afternoon.



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Scorers: Ballymena: Tries: Bryan Young, James Beattie; Pen: Ritchie McMaster
Buccaneers: Tries: Shane Layden, Callum Boland; Con: Alan Gaughan; Pens: Alan Gaughan 2

HT: Ballymena 13 Buccaneers 3

Buccaneers lead the Division 1B standings at the halfway stage, four points clear of former table toppers UL Bohemians with fourth-placed Ballymena another eight points back.

The Braidmen will be kicking themselves as they were in a good position at half-time thanks to two unconverted tries from winger James Beattie – his second in as many games – and former Ireland prop Bryan Young.

Out-half Ritchie McMaster, who supplied the cross-field kick for Beattie’s seventh-minute opener, missed the difficult conversions but did land a penalty as the hosts turned around leading 13-3, but without play-making centre Mark Best.

There was a 35-minute delay in the first half after Best sustained a suspected head/neck injury in an early incident with Buccaneers captain Kolo Kiripati who was yellow carded. The Ulster squad member was put on a stretcher and brought to hospital, and thankfully he tweeted afterwards: “Thanks for all the messages. All good in terms of X-rays and out of hospital.”

Buccs opened their account in the 28th minute, an Alan Gaughan penalty cancelling out an effort from his opposite number McMaster. In the heavy underfoot conditions, the visitors lacked the usual clinical edge and Young took advantage of some missed tackles to surge over on the left for Ballymena’s second unconverted try.

However, Best’s loss was keenly felt by Andy Graham’s men in the second half, as well as the absence of injured full-back Rodger McBurney. Buccs turned things around and showed exactly why they have the best attacking record and second meanest defence in the division.

The Pirates picked off a momentum-building try through in the 63rd minute through experienced centre Shane Layden. Young replacement prop Ryan O’Meara set the attack in motion with a strong midfield carry and Layden’s touchdown was brilliantly converted by Gaughan from near the right touchline.

Three minutes later, Gaughan bisected the posts once more with a well-struck penalty, awarded after Callum Patterson was guilty of impeding try scorer Layden as he chased his own hack through. Credit to Layden’s centre partner Mata Fifita for creating the attack with a thumping turnover-winning tackle.

Buccs were managing to negate the absences of key attackers Jordan Conroy (Ireland Sevens duty) and Danie Poolman (a late call-up to the Connacht team). Winger Eoghan O’Reilly was just denied by a foot in touch as the Athlone outfit pressed for a clinching second try.

With eight minutes remaining, the decisive score arrived when Buccs hooker John Sutton broke onto a loose pass in Ballymena territory. Brett Wilkinson’s charges controlled possession through a number of phases before the home defence was sucked in and returning winger Callum Boland scored in the left corner.

The scrum was one area where Buccaneers struggled to gain parity and Ballymena used the set piece to mount a late rally. O’Meara saw yellow for Buccs, but the Ulster side could not break down the table toppers’ defence one final time.

This hard-fought win over one of their main promotion rivals completes a very good week for Buccs following the news that Nathan White will be assisting his former Connacht front row colleague Wilkinson at Dubarry Park, focusing on coaching the breakdown and contact area.

BALLYMENA: Rodger McBurney; James Beattie, Callum Patterson, Mark Best, Jonny Rosborough; Ritchie McMaster, John Creighton; Bryan Young, James Taggart, Chris Cundell, Mark Foster, Connor Smyth, Stephen Mulholland, Willie McKay, James Gallagher.

Replacements: Houston Bonnar, Andrew Ferguson, Joe Thompson, Glenn Baillie, David Shanahan.

BUCCANEERS: Luke Carty; Eoghan O’Reilly, Shane Layden, Mata Fifita, Callum Boland; Alan Gaughan, Conor McKeon; Rory Grenham, John Sutton, Martin Staunton, Cian Romaine, Daniel Qualter, Evan Galvin, Rory Moloney, Kolo Kiripati (capt).

Replacements: Eoghan Maher, Ryan O’Meara, Ruairi Byrne, Graham Lynch, Alex Hayman.

DOLPHIN 19 BALLYNAHINCH 35, Irish Independent Park
Scorers: Dolphin: Tries: Ryan Murphy, Kevin Allen, Gerry Ryan; Cons: Cillian Monahan 2
Ballynahinch: Tries: Willie Stewart, Jonny Murphy, James Simpson, Angus Lloyd; Cons: Chris Quinn 3; Pens: Chris Quinn 3

HT: Dolphin 12 Ballynahinch 11

Ballynahinch ended their two-match losing streak with a superior second half display in downing Dolphin 35-19 at Irish Independent Park.

Munster loan signing Angus Lloyd used last-minute scrum ball to squeeze through for ‘Hinch’s bonus point try, as they bounced back from last week’s derby defeat to Ballymena.

The nip-and-tuck nature of the first half was reflected on the scoreboard with Dolphin just a point ahead at the turnaround (12-11). Centre Kevin Allen scored close to the posts and flanker Ryan Murphy followed him over in the 25th minute as the hosts led 12-6.

But ‘Hinch replacement Willie Stewart finished well, wide on the right, to make it a one-point game, and hooker Jonny Murphy was driven over, five minutes into the second period, for an 18-12 scoreline.

The Co. Down club’s forwards began to take over, lock James Simpson muscling his way over in the 55th minute from a well-executed lineout maul, five metres out.

Full-back Chris Quinn, who finished with 15 crisply-struck points, converted and added a penalty to leave Dolphin 16 points behind, and with time not on their side.

The Corkmen got the deficit back to nine courtesy of winger Gerry Ryan’s 68th-minute try, however Lloyd made certain of the away win and a valuable bonus point with Derek Suffern’s side now just two points outside of the top four. Dolphin have fallen back into the bottom two.

DOLPHIN: Timmy Phelan; Gerry Ryan, Cian McGovern, Kevin Allen, Will Hanly; Cillian Monahan, Daryl Foley; James Rochford, David Byrne, Brian Scott, John Madigan, Dave O’Mahony, Rob O’Herlihy, Ryan Murphy, John Fitzgerald (capt).

Replacements: Liam Walsh, John Leahy, Barry Fitzgerald, Killian O’Keeffe, Sam Kennedy.

BALLYNAHINCH: Chris Quinn; Davy Nicholson, Chris Orr, Stuart Morrow, Jordan Grattan; James McBriar, Angus Lloyd; Jonny Blair, Jonny Murphy, Jonny Simpson, Michael Graham (capt), James Simpson, Conor Joyce, Callum Irvine, Lorcan Dow.

Replacements: Chris Stevenson, Andrew Harper, Stewart Evans, Conor Phillips, Willie Stewart.

GALWEGIANS 53 SHANNON 12, Crowley Park
Scorers: Galwegians: Tries: Cormac Brennan 2, Josh Pim, Ciaran Gaffney 2, Marc Kelly, Jack Dinneen; Cons: Aidan Moynihan 6; Pens: Aidan Moynihan 2
Shannon: Tries: Greg O’Shea, Niall Mulcahy; Con: Conor Fitzgerald

HT: Galwegians 25 Shannon 7

Galwegians threw off the shackles and put their bad recent run of form behind them to emerge as resounding 53-12 winners over Shannon at Crowley Park.

It looked ominous for bottom side Shannon when they lost flanker Jack Foley to injury in the warm-up, with some key men already absent due to injuries or exams.

Galwegians shoved the visitors off their first scrum which led to an Aidan Moynihan penalty goal. Then, in the westerners’ first back-line move, in-form centre Cormac Brennan took a great line to score by the posts.

Out-half Conor Fitzgerald sparked Shannon’s response, his chip through being collected comfortably by pacey winger Greg O’Shea for a converted try and a 10-7 scoreline.

A second penalty from Moynihan was followed by two misses by Fitzgerald as Shannon failed to profit from arguably their best spell of the game. That came back to haunt them when centre Jack O’Donnell was sin-binned for a mounting penalty count and ‘Wegians took full advantage with two tries just before half-time.

Number 8 Josh Pim grounded the ball from a textbook maul towards the left corner and a late intercept effort from Brennan, all the way from the halfway line, was brilliantly converted from the touchline by Moynihan. 

Armed with a 25-7 advantage, Brian McClearn’s charges were determined not to slip up this time. Returning full-back Ciaran Gaffney marked his seasonal debut with an early second half try, collecting a deft offload from winger Ed O’Keeffe following the latter’s dazzling run.

Depleted Shannon improved their defence before hooker Jordan Prenderville’s sin-binning invited ‘Wegians forward again and try number five was scored by Marc Kelly from another maul.

With a yellow card shown to ‘Wegians replacement Patrick Curran, Shannon seized their chance to score from a lineout drive with teenage flanker Niall Mulcahy getting the touchdown. That proved to be Shannon’s final score as their Galway hosts underlined their dominance with two closing tries.

Replacement Jack Dinneen got over from an unstoppable maul just past the hour mark, and then in the final minute, Gaffney started and finished a move for his second try, collecting a delightful chip into space before trading passes with his captain Brian Murphy to dive over at the posts.

Moynihan made it a great day with the boot by landing his seventh successful kick from eight attempts to complete his own 18-point tally. Having ended their dismal six-match losing run, ‘Wegians have moved above Dolphin and UCC to sit in seventh place ahead of the Christmas break.

GALWEGIANS: Ciaran Gaffney; Alan McMahon, Cormac Brennan, Brian Murphy (capt), Ed O’Keeffe; Aidan Moynihan, Barry Lee; Jason East, John Moloney, Conor Kyne, Anthony Ryan, Marc Kelly, Ronan Moore, Paul Hackett, Josh Pim.

Replacements: Jack Dinneen, Patrick Curran, Matthew Towey, Dave Clarke, Matt Quinn.

SHANNON: Darren Gavin; Greg O’Shea, Will Leonard, Jack O’Donnell, Shane Mullally; Conor Fitzgerald, Keith Kavanagh; Conor Glynn, Jordan Prenderville, Tony Cusack, Ronan Coffey, Riley Winter, Niall Mulcahy, James Vaughan (capt), Brian Downey.

Replacements: Mike Hayes, Max Kennedy, Jack Stafford, Ben Sargent.

UL BOHEMIANS 18 UCC 17, University of Limerick 4G pitch
Scorers: UL Bohemians: Tries: Joe Conway, Harry Fleming; Con: Robbie Bourke; Pens: Robbie Bourke 2
UCC: Tries: Conor Barry, James Kiernan; Cons: Kevin O’Keeffe 2; Pen: Kevin O’Keeffe

HT: UL Bohemians 12 UCC 0

UL Bohemians needed a Robbie Bourke penalty with the last kick of the game to see off the challenge of a spirited UCC side, 18-17, on the UL 4G pitch.

Ice-cool out-half Bourke rescued the points for Bohs who had led 12-0 at the interval before the visitors turned this Colours clash into a ding-dong battle.

UL showed their canny knack of converting possession into points in the opening half, hitting the front thanks to prop Joe Conway’s 23rd-minute try from a lineout maul. Even better followed when centre Harry Fleming covered most of the pitch for a superb solo try, converted by Bourke.

College resumed in determined mood and flanker Conor Barry’s fourth try of the campaign, scored in the corner with Kevin O’Keeffe nailing the difficult conversion, got them off the mark, six minutes in.

Bohs ended the third quarter with a successful penalty from Bourke, making it 15-7, but O’Keeffe converted UCC’s second try after winger James Kiernan had raced clear up the left touchline.

Some loose defending set up a penalty opportunity for O’Keeffe with two minutes remaining and he sent his kick through the uprights to leave the Cork youngsters on the cusp of their third victory in five matches.

But that was ripped away from them when Bourke, kicking from the right wing on the 22-metre line, launched a terrific left-footed strike over to save the day for UL.

UL BOHEMIANS: Colin Ryan; Rory White, Finbar Aherne, Harry Fleming, Cian Aherne; Robbie Bourke, James Lennon; Joe Conway, David Rowsome, Mike Lynch, Ed Kelly, Dave Foley, James Ryan, Ian Condell (capt), Noel Kinane.

Replacements: Peter King, Joe Bennett, Daragh Frawley, Joe Murray, Jamie McNamara.

UCC: Chris McAuliffe; Kevin O’Keeffe, Kevin Slater (capt), Murray Linn, James Kiernan; Tom Kiersey, Charlie O’Regan; Peter McCabe, Ben Burns, Rob O’Donovan, Ben Mitchell, Daragh Moloney, Conor Barry, Cathal Gallagher, Richie Moran.

Replacements: Shane O’Hanlon, Emmet McCarthy, Graham Smith, Paul Derham, Richard Walsh, Darragh Dennehy.

OLD WESLEY 19 NAAS 16, Donnybrook (played on Friday)
Scorers: Old Wesley: Try: Isaac Leota; Con: Barry McLaughlin; Pens: Barry McLaughlin 4
Naas: Tries: David Benn 2; Pens: Peter Osborne 2

HT: Old Wesley 16 Naas 6

Barry McLaughlin’s precise place-kicking helped Old Wesley see off a fast-finishing Naas team, 19-16, in a closely-fought Friday Night Lights fixture at Donnybrook.

Wesley had opened up a 16-6 lead by the break, but two David Benn tries brought the Kildare men level before winger McLaughlin, now with a mammoth 117 points for the league season, kicked the match-winning penalty with four minutes to go.

The hosts’ only try came in the 26th minute, well-won lineout ball being moved into midfield where centre Isaac Leota cut a nice line to score by the posts with McLaughlin converting.

McLaughlin rewarded good work by fellow winger Paul Harte and the Wesley scrum with back-to-back penalty goals, before Naas full-back Peter Osborne responded on the stroke of half-time with his second successful kick.

Johne Murphy’s men resumed in very good fettle, pressing for an early second half try with Rory Stynes and McLaughlin making a couple of crucial interventions for Wesley. Yet, there was nothing they could do when scrum half Adam Griggs’ box-kick was blocked and then gobbled up by Naas lock Benn for an unconverted 46th-minute score.

An unrelenting series of pick-and-goes, some ten minutes later, chipped away at the Wesley defence for Benn to complete his brace. Osborne could not convert, but Wesley’s lead had been completely erased.

The hosts wrestled back control of proceedings with some powerful scrummaging. The Naas defence was thoroughly tested and although their captain Will O’Brien snuffed out a turnover or two, Wesley did just enough to set up McLaughlin’s decisive kick and grind out their first win in three league outings.

– Photos by Ken Richardson

OLD WESLEY: Rory Stynes; Barry McLaughlin, Isaac Leota, Ger Finucane, Paul Harte; Tim Clifford, Adam Griggs; David Henshaw, Conor Maguire, James Burton, Michael Dunleavy, Josh Hinde, Darren Horan (capt), Stephen Boyle, Mark Rowley.

Replacements: Craig Telford, Martin Gately, Mark Robinson, Donnchadh Phelan, Alan Large.

NAAS: Peter Osborne; Rob O’Connor, Johne Murphy, Henry Bryce, Andrew Shanahan; Michael Skelton, David Barron; Adam Coyle, Graham Reynolds, Jason Harney, Paul Monahan, David Benn, Andrew Kearney, Will O’Brien (capt), Paulie Tolofua.

Replacements: Conor Johnson, Jordan Duggan, Eoin Walsh, Max Whittingham, Kevin McLoughlin.