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Ulster Bank League: Division 2B Review

Ulster Bank League: Division 2B Review

Division 2B resumed in dramatic fashion on Saturday as leaders Armagh lost their 100% record away to Wanderers, while relegation-threatened City of Derry opened the New Year with an impressive home win over promotion hopefuls MU Barnhall.



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Old Crescent 38 Dungannon 20, Rosbrien
Bective Rangers 17 Skerries 23, Donnybrook
City of Derry 23 MU Barnhall 11, Judge’s Road
Greystones 43 Thomond 6, Dr. Hickey Park
Wanderers 23 Armagh 14, Aviva Stadium back pitch

Armagh’s nine-match winning run came to an end on the back pitch at the Aviva Stadium where fired-up hosts Wanderers exacted revenge for a 39-11 defeat up north before Christmas.

An early penalty from out-half Cormac Fox nudged the visitors ahead, but they trailed 13-9 at the interval as fellow promotion chasers Wanderers scrambled well and scored the only try of a fast-paced first half.

Armagh were unable to profit from promising breaks by centre Harvey Young and captain Ali Birch, the former also seeing yellow for an illegal hand-off, and Wanderers full-back Niall O’Donoghue waltzed over for a converted try and a 7-3 lead.

Garret O’Suilleabhain and Fox swapped penalties following Young’s return to the pitch and they repeated the trick as the four-point gap remained in place – 13 -9. Wanderers continued to put the ball through the hands and play with impressive width.

The Dubliners also looked the better team in the third quarter, Armagh struggling with their discipline again as winger Andrew Willis earned 10 minutes in the bin. On the hour mark, Geoff Mullan powered past a couple of Armagh defenders to score Wanderers’ second seven-pointer of the day.

That try gave them enough breathing space to see out the result despite a late rally from Armagh and two Wanderers yellow cards. The visitors’ forwards botched an opportunity from a series of five-metres scrums, but winger Ryan Purvis set off from the 10-metre line to scorch over for a five-pointer in the corner.

However, Alex McCloy’s men could not add to their tally in the final minutes as they tasted defeat for the first time in the league. Next Saturday’s top of the table clash with Greystones at the Palace Grounds now has even more riding on it.

Second-placed ‘Stones closed within four points of Armagh thanks to a 43-6 bonus point triumph at home to bottom side Thomond. Their seven-try haul included a brace from Paudie Geoghegan, Dan Mannion’s excellent intercept effort from his 22 and a closing try from league debutant Matt O’Brien.

Meanwhile, Old Crescent scored 19 points in each half as they got the better of Dungannon on a 38-20 scoreline at Rosbrien. The winning margin was a flattering one, but ‘Gannon only have themselves to blame as they faded badly during the closing stages.

The visitors also endured a disappointing finish to the opening half, leaking tries to Barry Neville and Brendan Guilfoyle – his second of the match – as Crescent nipped into a 19-13 lead. Captain James McMahon had crossed for the Tyrone men, with out-half Tianua Poto kicking the rest of their points.

The sin-binning of Dungannon prop Glen Sinnamon for a high tackle invited Crescent forward on the resumption and they made certain of the bonus point with a try from Brian Tuohy via a maul. McMahon and centre Paul Armstrong, who had combined for the former’s earlier try, dovetailed superbly on a pacy break to create a 50th minute score for Armstrong which Poto converted for 24-20.

However, ‘Gannon were unable to capitalise on a Crescent yellow card and the Limerick outfit were clinical in the final quarter, with experienced centre Tuohy touching down for the second time and John O’Dwyer following him over the whitewash with 78 minutes on the clock.

Skerries survived a frenetic final 10 minutes and two sin-binnings to claim a hard-fought 23-17 victory at Bective Rangers. The Goats completed a home-and-away double to move within reach of mid-table.

Returning winger Eddie O’Mahony had two neat finishes in the corner as his brace of tries gave Skerries a 13-7 half-time lead, however Bective’s second converted score – just two minutes after the restart – edged them in front.

Skerries hooker Chris Tonge, a regular scorer during the first half of the season, crossed the whitewash again in the 47th minute when he picked a great angle to score under the posts via a Tom Mulvany-won lineout. Replacement Billy Mulcahy’s subsequent conversion and penalty gave the visitors enough of a cushion to take the spoils in a tense finale.

Up at Judge’s Road, City of Derry kept up their new-found momentum with a 23-11 success against MU Barnhall. Tries in each half from Cathal Cregan and Ian Bratton, coupled with a dogged defensive performance, proved decisive for the Ulstermen.

It was an incredible turnaround from losing 41-3 away to the Blue Bulls in early December, with Terry McMaster’s recent return to the coaching set-up having an obvious impact on Derry’s structures and play.

Player-coach Richard McCarter telling the Derry Journal: “We are delighted. To beat a team like Barnhall who put 40 points on us little more than a month ago, it just show the character in the side and how things have been building and progressing over the past few weeks.

“Defensively we were superb and we took our chances in attack. Neil Burns kicked brilliantly at goal and, at the end of the day, that has won us the game. Playing at home, these are the types of games you target in this division. Barnhall are a very good side but I think we were well worth the win and played some great rugby.”