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Ulster Bank League: Division 2A Review

Ulster Bank League: Division 2A Review

Blackrock gained revenge on table toppers Nenagh Ormond, meaning just seven points now cover the top six sides in the Division 2A standings, while Cashel completed the double over Queen’s to climb into eighth place.



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Banbridge 6 Highfield 13, Rifle Park
Belfast Harlequins 12 Malone 22, Deramore Park
Blackrock College 25 Nenagh Ormond 20, Stradbrook
Cashel 13 Queen’s University 10, Spafield
Sunday’s Well 26 Corinthians 17, Irish Independent Park

Captain Paddy O’Toole showed his class once again as he guided Highfield to a terrific 13-6 win over former leaders Banbridge at Rifle Park. The result has lifted Highfield above Bann into third in the table.

Their second successive victory against Daniel Soper’s side – they were 26-15 winners at home in early December – owed much to a tigerish defensive performance and O’Toole’s well-taken intercept try in the 21st minute.

Bann head coach Soper, whose charges had a huge amount of possession and territory, told the club’s website: “The most disappointing aspect was that we dominated the game as much as we did and just couldn’t find that score. That was pretty frustrating.

“I thought the guys put in a huge effort and a lot of the things we planned to do they did really well and that’s obvious from the match stats that showed we had 77% possession. The penalty count was 2-1 in our favour and obviously in terms of territory we were pretty dominant. That is because the players did a lot of things very, very well.

“It was just that some of our decision-making on the ball and our decisions on some of those penalties, well maybe on reflection we should have done things a bit differently. Too often we were prevented from taking quick penalties by an injury to one of their players and towards the end we played too narrow a game when we should have been trying to stretch them.”

O’Toole booted two penalties to a single effort from Adam Doherty inside the first 17 minutes, however it was Banbridge who carried more of a threat with ball in hand. They should have struck while Highfield centre Mark Dorgan was in the sin-bin, but O’Toole pounced to intercept a pass and race 85 metres downfield for a sucker-punch converted score at 13-3.

A second Doherty penalty, following a nippy run by scrum half Josh Cromie, closed out the first half’s scoring and try as they might, Bann just could not add to their tally during the final 40 minutes.

Bann’s determined number 8 Stephen Irvine was held up over the line in the opening minutes and he was also denied from a penalty, five metres out, in the dying embers of the game. The hosts also turned down a few kickable penalties – three in all – and those decisions proved costly as defiant Highfield hung on.

It is neck and neck at the top of the table with the round 10 results leaving Nenagh Ormond and resurgent Malone on 32 points each and Highfield and Banbridge both just a point behind them. Nenagh went down 25-20 to sixth-placed Blackrock College at Stradbrook.

Winger Shane Brennan burst through to score an injury-time try and give Blackrock the spoils, avenging last month’s 32-17 loss to a Clayton Stewart-inspired Nenagh. The out-half could not wield as much influence in the return match in Dublin, with ‘Rock flying into an early 17-3 lead.

With the home pack leading the charge, tries from centre Brendan Hegarty and impressive hooker Conor Kilcoyne, who crashed over in the corner in the 15th minute and then exposed some weak Nenagh tackling for his second score seven minutes later, had the Dubliners very much on top.

Tempers flared during the second quarter and a bout of fisticuffs led to sin-binnings for Nenagh scrum half Derek Corcoran and Blackrock blindside and captain Peter McCague. The Tipperary men were denied a try when centre Willie O’Connor was deemed to have held on too long after being tackle, while ‘Rock were briefly down to 13 men following Brennan’s yellow for a dangerous tackle.

Replacement John Coffey gave Nenagh the ideal start to the second period with a converted try on 47 minutes. ‘Rock scrum half Jack O’Carroll and Stewart exchanged penalties for a 20-13 scoreline and as Nenagh’s powerful scrum increased its influence, they forced a couple of close-in scrum penalties before a third such infringement saw referee Oisin Quinn award the levelling penalty try.

A draw looked all but confirmed now, yet Blackrock had other ideas and Nenagh were badly caught out by Brennan’s pace as the winger’s late score not only gave the win to his side but also a try-scoring bonus point.

Malone, who have played an extra game compared to their top four rivals, maintained their winning form with a 22-12 derby success at Belfast Harlequins. Paddy Armstrong’s side pocketed another bonus point courtesy of tries from front rowers Dane Fitzpatrick and Dan Kerr, winger Michael Barker and captain Neil Alcorn, although their discipline was poor at times and they should have been out of sight by half-time.

Harlequins were very much in the game at the interval, trailing by only five points (12-7) with Christian Bennison’s break setting up a try in the right corner for winger Jordan McIlrath. However, they could not convert their second half pressure, including a strong scrummaging display, into points and after leaking those scores to Barker (72 minutes) and Alcorn (75), ‘Quins skipper Ollie Loughead’s injury-time effort was little consolation.

Cashel climbed out of the bottom two with a battling 13-10 victory over Queen’s at Spafield, their tries coming from wingers Brian Fitzpatrick and Cody Baker in the first half. Their back row of Aidan Butler, Ed Leamy and James Ryan were really effective in the forward exchanges.

Ollie McGlinchey’s 51st-minute penalty was just enough to see the hosts pip the fast-finishing students who were denied a late winning try by a forward pass. They will look to bounce back in next Saturday’s Belfast derby with Harlequins at the Dub.

Meanwhile, Sunday’s Well ended their two-match losing streak in the league with a well-judged 26-17 defeat of Corinthians. In-form out-half Shane O’Riordan, who scored 13 points at Irish Independent Park, converted his own try just before half-time for a 12-3 lead.

With teenage back rower Conor O’Brien starring in the lineout and the loose, the Corkmen survived a second half fight-back from Corinthians, who had tries from hooker Dylan Donnellan and centre Cathal Evans.

Despite their lead being whittled down to 18-17 by the hour mark, the ‘Well finished the stronger with a clinching try from prop Michael Moynihan, whose brother Francis had touched down in the first half, and a penalty from full-back Greg Higgins.