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Ulster Bank League: Division 2A Review

Ulster Bank League: Division 2A Review

Nenagh Ormond have retaken the lead in Division 2A, moving a point clear of Banbridge who tripped up away to fellow promotion hopefuls Highfield. Meanwhile, Cashel upset the form book when pipping hosts Queen’s in a cliffhanger at the Dub.



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Corinthians 39 Sunday’s Well 22, Corinthian Park
Highfield 26 Banbridge 15, Woodleigh Park
Malone 22 Belfast Harlequins 0, Gibson Park
Nenagh Ormond 32 Blackrock College 17, New Ormond Park
Queen’s University 22 Cashel 24, Dub Lane

Unsurprisingly, talented out-half Clayton Stewart played a central role in Nenagh’s 32-17 bonus point success at home to Blackrock. He scored two tries, two conversions and a penalty to take his haul for the campaign to an outstanding 120 points.

Looking to bounce back from their loss to Sunday’s Well, Nenagh had a firm grip on the match points when leading 22-0 at half-time. Their forwards were in dominant form, with barnstorming number 8 Lemeki Vaipulu powering over for a ninth minute try, just a couple of minutes after scrum half Derek Corcoran had been denied by a knock-on.

With Blackrock losing one of their locks to the sin-bin,  Nenagh shoved them off their own scrum put-in and New Zealander Stewart, fed by Corcoran, showed his pace off the mark to run in a try which he converted himself for a 12-0 scoreline.

Nenagh added two unconverted efforts before the break, right winger Darragh Hassey doing really well to collect Stewart’s looping pass to score in the corner after initial scrum pressure again. Blackrock centre Billy Ngawini saw yellow and the Tipperary men took advantage to claim their bonus point, full-back Michael Walsh putting the finishing touches to a terrific move that involved Stewart twice on the loop.

‘Rock did improve significantly in the second half, closing the gap to 25-10 at one stage with two unconverted tries either side of a Stewart penalty. The tricky Ngawini increased his influence with ball in hand.

However, Stewart stamped his mark all over the game with a sensational solo try in the 73rd minute. Having won turnover ball in his own half, he gathered his own chip over the top and turned on the after-burners to scorch away and convert.

Blackrock had a third try before the finish but they were well beaten on the day, dropping into the bottom half of the table with fourth-placed Highfield – the 26-15 conquerors of former leaders Banbridge – now seven points ahead of them.

If Stewart was Nenagh’s star man in Lisatunny, out-half and captain O’Toole was just as effective for Highfield with a 21-point contribution against Bann. Second row Dave Kelly scored the Cork side’s other first half try at Woodleigh Park.

Tim Ryan’s men had enough chances to be further ahead than 20-3 at half-time. With their big pack quickly getting on top, O’Toole landed a 10th minute penalty and then touched down barely a minute later from a sweeping attack that began on Bann’s 10-metre line.

Poor tackling allowed Kelly through for a 30-metre run to the line on the half hour mark. Trailing 17-0, Banbridge failed to really capitalise on a Highfield sin-binning. Full-back Adam Doherty did at least get them off the mark with a penalty, but O’Toole cancelled that one out before the interval.

O’Toole book-ended the second half with two more penalties. Highfield have the best defensive record at present across all five divisions, but Banbridge did find some holes as the match wore on, scrum half Adam Ervine’s piercing break into the 22 seeing him set up hooker Peter Cromie for a well-worked 63rd-minute try.

The margin was down to eight points after out-half Robin Thompson used ruck ball to ghost in by the posts in the 76th minute and Doherty drop-kicked the conversion over. However, O’Toole’s fourth successful penalty with the very last kick gave Highfield a well deserved four points.

Banbridge team manager Robert Ervine told the club website: “We gave Highfield too many points in the first half. They’re a good side, a big side and they used their big men well. We knew what to expect but we were guilty of being a wee bit lazy at times, not coming across to cover the space.

“We didn’t get any decent ball in the first half to do anything with and consequently weren’t able to put them under any sort of pressure. The last 15 or 20 minutes of the game we played very well and possibly could have sneaked a point out of it. But it was just too little, too late.”

Malone are now three games unbeaten after winning their derby clash with bottom-placed Belfast Harlequins. The Cregagh Red Sox triumphed on a 22-0 scoreline at Gibson Park to climb above Blackrock into fifth spot.

Tries from winger Andy Bryans and flanker Dave Cave in the final ten minutes of the first half gave Malone a 15-point buffer. Winger Mark O’Connor had booted them in front in the 13th minute.

Paddy Armstrong’s charges will have been frustrated not to garner a try-scoring bonus point in the end. Instead, the second half was rather error-strewn and prop Phillip Eadie’s 70th-minute try proved to be the final scoring act.

Meanwhile, after two defeats on the road, Corinthians got back to winning ways with a 39-22 bonus point dismissal of Sunday’s Well. The Galway side seem a different animal at home, and an excellent try from hooker Dylan Donnellan and eight points from Simon Keller’s boot had them 13-3 to the good by half-time.

Pat O’Toole, playing at blindside flanker, claimed try number two following out-half Keller’s well-placed cross-field kick. Although the ‘Well made a real game of it in an exciting second half, Corinthians added three more tries with their backs causing havoc.

Winger Joe Murphy crossed twice, his first coming from very good approach work by captain David Panter and full-back Ross Keller. Murphy then drove through the cover for the bonus point score and centre Panter, who maintained a high work-rate throughout, put his name to try number five late on.

Sunday’s Well came crashing down from the high of defeating Nenagh last week, their first half being blighted by knock-ons and penalties and Corinthians were very much the better team. Hooker and captain Kieran Stokes secured two second half tries and centre Cyprien Jouve added a third, giving their side six minutes to shoot for two bonus points, but it was a case of too little, too late.

Queen’s four-match winning streak was ended by Cashel’s 24-22 success at Dub Lane. The students were left reeling by the concession of a penalty try in the fifth minute of injury-time.

The Tipperary club finally had luck on their side after some recent narrow defeats, but it evaded them when they competed for a Queen’s lineout ball, tapped it back on their side and it bounced into the hands of Ulster Academy hooker Zack McCall for the hosts’ opening try.

Queen’s led 14-8 at the turnaround, sandwiching a second converted effort from Queen’s with an Ollie McGlinchey penalty and a late try from winger Eamon Connolly who successfully chased down his own grubber kick.

Cashel went on to win the second half by double scores – 16-8 – with goal-kicking scrum half McGlinchey proving a pivotal figure. He landed five of his six shots at the posts for a 14-point personal haul.

Indeed, the visitors showed the greater hunger and intensity during the final 12 minutes when the match was there for the taking. Although a knock-on ruined a spirited chase of an Ed Leamy kick, Queen’s lead was cut to 22-17 with McGlinchey’s fourth and final penalty goal.

Approaching 80 minutes, there was another spurned opportunity when Cashel lost the ball forward at an advancing maul but the power of their pack eventually won them the game in injury-time. Replacement prop Tommy Allen made a big impact at loosehead, helping the visitors win a scrum penalty after an earlier lineout infringement by the hosts.

Queen’s were down to 14 men for the remainder with one of their locks in the bin. Cashel took the option of another scrum and with the students crumbling from the drive, referee Shane Kierans duly awarded a penalty try with McGlinchey’s straightforward conversion sealing a gutsy comeback win.