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Ulster Bank League: Division 2C Review

Ulster Bank League: Division 2C Review

Rainey Old Boys head into the Christmas break with a one-point lead at the top of Division 2C. It is particularly tight at both ends of the table, with only four points covering the leading quartet and the three bottom sides separated by just three points.



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Sligo 51 Bangor 17, Hamilton Park
Bruff 15 Rainey Old Boys 11, Kilballyowen Park
Kanturk 24 Boyne 13, Knocknacolan
Navan 50 Seapoint 3, Balreask Old
Tullamore 14 Midleton 10, Spollanstown

The result of the day has to be Sligo’s runaway 51-17 victory over Bangor which lifts Ross Mannion’s men up to third in the standings. They scored six tries in all, with excellent young full-back Jack Keegan tallying up 26 points (a try, six conversions and three penalties).

Wearing their black alternate jerseys and fielding a strong line-up, Bangor scored all of their points in the first half, building a 17-13 lead inside a lively opening 24 minutes.

They outscored the hosts by three tries to one during that period, full-back Mark Widdowson outpacing the Sligo cover to go over in the left corner after player-coach Jason Morgan had used an interception to send centre Phil Broderick away on an initial break.

Keegan landed his second successful penalty before Bangor conjured up an excellent team try which was unconverted again. Widdowson and Broderick were both involved in a free-flowing build-up and the end product was an Adam McCusker score on the left wing.

Hooker Mark O’Hehir was driven over for Sligo’s first try from an expertly done lineout maul five metres out, but Bangor were quick to respond with a similar score, their drive being stalled before possession was moved infield for alert scrum half Ali Lockhart to slip through a gap from a ruck and touch down, with Widdowson converting.

However, the Seasiders were left stunned by Sligo’s three-try salvo in the space of 10 minutes – all converted by Keegan. The visitors were left to rue their own poor tackling, along with a couple of forward passes and possible double movements that might have been whistled up in their favour.

Out-half Michael Wells launched the hosts’ scoring blitz with a brilliant break and then a classy final sidestep to open a gap to the try-line. Outside centre Aaron Spring notched an equally eye-catching solo score and Sligo’s bonus point was sealed by another long range attack, this time scrum half Ryan Feehily running in behind the posts to put 17 clear points between the sides.

With Jamie Bowes and captain Shane Boyle the pick of the Sligo forwards, Mannion’s charges continued to outplay a seemingly shell-shocked Bangor in the second half. The surefooted Keegan had a quick-fire penalty and converted try after 52 and 53 minutes respectively.

Spring sped over for his second try in the very last play to complete Sligo’s impressive haul, Keegan’s final conversion getting his side over the half century as they boosted their points-for column to +70.

Navan joined Sligo in the 50-point club with a thumping eight-try success against an overwhelmed Seapoint at Balreask Old. South African centre Riaan van der Vyver was in his element with a first half hat-trick, taking his tally for the season to seven tries.

He claimed the opening try of the 50-3 drubbing after just 45 seconds and had his second in the corner in the fifth minute. Leigh Jackson, van der Vyver and Justin Whittaker added further efforts for a 29-3 half-time lead.

Alan Kingsley’s side ran in three more converted tries over the closing 40 minutes. League debutant Cathal Duff crashed past three defenders to touch down, with Jackson notching his second of the afternoon and supplying a tremendous offload for a closing seven-pointer from experienced winger Simon Hogan.

Meanwhile, Kanturk lifted themselves off the bottom of the table with a timely 24-13 defeat of fellow strugglers Boyne. Winger Olan Daly’s try with seven minutes remaining at Knocknacolan secured the bonus point.

Player-coach Ben Martin had a big influence on first half proceedings for the ‘Turks, splitting the Boyne defence on an early break and offloading to Stephen McAuliffe whose final pass put his onrushing centre partner Daithi Fitzpatrick over for an unconverted try.

Out-half Martin was instrumental too in the hosts’ second try, finished off by returning full-back Keelan Buckley, but Boyne closed the gap to 12-10 for the interval, with flanker and captain George Cooney getting over for their seven-pointer.

The Drogheda side hung in there at 19-13 down, Niall Kerbey knocking over his second successful penalty in response to Kanturk flanker Conor O’Sullivan’s try from close range. However, the Corkmen made certain of the win and a five-point return when Daly broke through in the closing stages.

Midleton lost for the first time in three rounds as converted tries from scrum half Aaron Deverell and number 8 Kevin Browne propelled Tullamore to a hard-earned 14-10 triumph at Spollanstown.

Such is the tightness of the top half of the table, the losing bonus point actually moved Midleton up to fifth place with Tullamore falling to fourth – owing to Sligo’s try-scoring exploits against Bangor.

The Co. Offaly outfit hit the front in the seventh minute when Deverell spotted a gap from a free-kick five metres out and wriggled his way over. Ten minutes later, an overthrown Midleton lineout led to Browne grounding the ball for try number two, converted again by full-back Karl Dunne.

However, Midleton could so easily have finished on top. They grabbed a converted try and then a penalty on the half hour, reducing the arrears to four points, but the sides played out a scoreless final 50 minutes. Tullamore were very fortunate not to concede while wingers Conor Dunne and Dylan Kelso were in the sin-bin. Midleton missed two penalty attempts and, in the dying minutes, knocked the ball on when a try looked certain.

Bruff outscored leaders Rainey by two tries to one at Kilballyowen Park to continue their impressive winter form. Out-half David O’Grady and lock Neilus Keogh touched down in Bruff’s 15-11 win – their third on the trot which has given them a six-point cushion over the three bottom clubs.