A 13-all draw with Ballymena was enough to keep Buccaneers top of the pile in Division 1B, while Shannon picked up their first win under new head coach Tom Hayes in a 17-14 success at home to Galwegians.
NAAS 27 OLD WESLEY 8, Forenaughts (played on Friday)
Scorers: Naas: Tries: Peter Osborne 2, Will O’Brien; Cons: Peter Osborne 3; Pens: Peter Osborne 2
Old Wesley: Try: Conor Maguire; Pen: Tim Clifford
HT: Naas 20 Old Wesley 3
Naas avenged last month’s three-point defeat at Donnybrook as they led from start to finish in their Friday Night Lights clash with Old Wesley at Forenaughts.
The Co. Kildare club’s 100th All-Ireland League win, which moves them up to fourth just a point behind Wesley, owed much to a fantastic first half performance. Goal-kicking scrum half Peter Osborne scored all of their 20 points before the break.
Early turnovers by Conor Maguire and Iain McGann set the tone for Wesley, but Naas had the first points on the board when Osborne swept over a cracking penalty goal from just inside the visitors’ half.
Osborne punished a Naas offside with his second successful strike in the 12th minute, before Wesley’s Tim Clifford – kicking in the absence of the division’s top scorer Barry McLaughlin – was short with a penalty attempt and then Osborne hit the post with his third effort.
However, Naas increased their lead with a very well-worked 20th-minute try, countering from a loose kick, splitting the Wesley defence and offloading in contact to set up Osborne who ran in by the posts and converted.
Although out-half Clifford found his range from the kicking tee, Johne Murphy’s men made sure they closed out the first half’s scoring. Wesley were caught out at a ruck and man-of-the-match Osborne was allowed through to score in the corner and also convert with aplomb.
Naas looked a much more cohesive outfit than their promotion-chasing rivals and their pack, aided by some excellent individual performances from Paul Monahan, Jason Harney and Paulie Tolofua, gave Osborne and the backs the platform to threaten the Wesley defence throughout. Hard-working winger Peter Howard also deserves a mention for a promising league debut.
Into the second period, the Dubliners managed to halve the deficit to 20-10 following a brilliantly-executed 20-metre maul try from their Ireland Under-18 and Under-19-capped hooker Maguire, who joined the club from Boyne in the summer.
The pace and breaking ability of Fionn Carr, who lined out at full-back, was to the fore in an attack up the left wing that resulted in captain Will O’Brien dotting down. Some resolute defending from Wesley prevented Naas from registering a bonus point and the hosts had Carr sin-binned for a strike late on.
NAAS: Fionn Carr; Rob O’Connor, Johne Murphy, Henry Bryce, Peter Howard; Ben Swindlehurst, Peter Osborne; Dan O’Beirn, Graham Reynolds, Jason Harney, Paul Monahan, David Benn, Eoin Walsh, Will O’Brien (capt), Paulie Tolofua.
Replacements: Warren Larkin, Adam Coyle, Andrew Kearney, Jeff Delaney, Andrew Shanahan.
OLD WESLEY: Rory Stynes; Billy Henshaw, Isaac Leota, Ger Finucane, Alan Large; Tim Clifford, Adam Griggs; David Henshaw, Conor Maguire, James Burton, Iain McGann, Michael Dunleavy, Darren Horan (capt), Stephen Boyle, Mark Rowley.
Replacements: David Rowley, Martin Gately, Donnachadh Phelan, Matthew Bursey, Adam Kennedy.
BALLYNAHINCH 30 DOLPHIN 8, Ballymacarn Park
Scorers: Ballynahinch: Tries: Justin Rea, Davy Nicholson, David Busby, Peter Nelson, Callum Irvine; Con: Justin Rea; Pen: Justin Rea
Dolphin: Try: James Rochford; Pen: Barry Keeshan
HT: Ballynahinch 13 Dolphin 8
Ulster’s Peter Nelson made a try-scoring return in the colours of Ballynahinch as he helped them to a 30-8 bonus point triumph at home to Dolphin.
Full-back Nelson, who dislocated his left mid-foot against Edinburgh in December 2015, is on the comeback trail after being out of action for over a year.
It was not all plain sailing for ‘Hinch as Dolphin, beaten 35-19 at home in the sides’ meeting last month, hit the front through an unconverted try from prop James Rochford and a Barry Keeshan penalty. However, once the Ballynahinch back-line began to click and find holes in the visitors’ defence, they looked especially dangerous.
Zippy passing from Munster’s scrum half signing Angus Lloyd ensured a steady stream of possession and centre Justin Rea, who also kicked a penalty, and winger Davy Nicholson made it count with a couple of tries for a 13-8 half-time lead.
The biggest cheer of the day was reserved for Nelson’s try out wide early in the second period, with the ‘Hinch back row of Callum Irvine, Lorcan Dow, who turned 22 earlier in the week, and captain Michael Graham growing in influence.
Rea’s centre partner Jordan Grattan put his name to the bonus point score and as Dolphin’s challenge petered out in the winter sun, industrious flanker Irvine deservedly ran in a final converted effort as Derek Suffern’s side made it back-to-back bonus point victories.
Their 10-point return – home and away against the Corkmen – has lifted ‘Hinch back into the top half of the table (level on 28 points with fourth-placed Naas), while Dolphin have slid down to the bottom rung ahead of next Friday’s derby clash with UCC.
BALLYNAHINCH: Peter Nelson; Davy Nicholson, Jordan Grattan, Justin Rea, David Busby; Ross Carlisle, Angus Lloyd; Jonny Blair, Joe Roe, Stuart Orr, James Simpson, John Donnan, Callum Irvine, Lorcan Dow, Michael Graham (capt).
Replacements: Andrew Harper, Chris Stevenson, Conor Joyce, Willie Stewart, Blane McIlroy.
DOLPHIN: Barry Keeshan; Timmy Phelan, Cian McGovern, Ian O’Donoghue, Will Hanly; Cillian Monahan, Daryl Foley; Liam Walsh, David Byrne, James Rochford, Rob O’Herlihy, Dave O’Mahony, Ryan Murphy, Kevin Allen, John Fitzgerald (capt).
Replacements: Cian Scott, John Leahy, John Madigan, Barry Fitzgerald, Gerry Ryan.
SHANNON 17 GALWEGIANS 14, Thomond Park back pitch
Scorers: Shannon: Tries: Jack Stafford, Keith Kavanagh; Cons: Fionn McGibney 2; Pen: Fionn McGibney
Galwegians: Tries: Aidan Moynihan, Penalty try; Cons: Aidan Moynihan 2
HT: Shannon 10 Galwegians 0
New Shannon head coach Tom Hayes enjoyed a winning start as they gained revenge on Galwegians, prevailing by three points on Thomond Park’s back pitch.
Young half-backs Fionn McGibney, Jack Stafford and Keith Kavanagh – the latter’s replacement at scrum half – all came up trumps for Hayes, with Stafford and Kavanagh scoring a try in each half.
Galwegians were looking to follow up on last month’s 53-12 demolition of the Limerick men, but a fiercely contested first half, which ended 10-3 in Shannon’s favour, was evidence of their much-improved performance.
Place-kickers Aidan Moynihan and McGibney both missed their opening penalties, the latter’s effort coming back off a post, before the young Shannon out-half, backed by the wind, found the target in the 17th minute.
‘Wegians, who had Connacht’s Ronan Loughney and Eoghan Masterson in their pack, suffered another penalty miss from Moynihan and then lost flanker Josh Pim to the sin-bin for hands in the ruck as Shannon’s confidence visibly grew.
Captain Lee Nicholas and tricky backs Stephen Fitzgerald and Luke O’Dea were all prominent, the pressure building for Shannon and leading to a five-metre scrum. Stafford managed to snipe over in the 30th minute with McGibney converting for a 10-0 lead.
A heavy rain shower gave way to bright sunshine at the start of the second period and ‘Wegians scored within 10 minutes, their scrum getting on top close to the posts and forcing a penalty try which out-half Moynihan converted.
Handling errors prevented both sides from building for further scores in the third quarter and Shannon, with centre Will Leonard returning from a yellow card, were in resilient form as they determinedly held onto their slim advantage on the scoreboard.
With 10 minutes remaining, Kavanagh struck for Shannon’s all-important second try. Their hard-working pack won a scrum penalty five metres out and the replacement scrum half’s decision to take a quick tap paid off as he wriggled over. McGibney converted for good measure, giving the home side some breathing space at 17-7.
‘Wegians mixed the good with the bad in the closing stages, a cracking break from centre Ciaran Gaffney getting them deep into Shannon territory before their scrum coughed up a penalty. A yellow card for Shannon winger Greg O’Shea gave the visitors another chance and they spread the ball wide for Moynihan to touch down and convert.
However, a knock-on from the restart summed up what was a mostly frustrating afternoon for Galwegians whose inconsistent form leaves them seventh in the table – a full nine points behind sixth-placed Ballymena. Shannon’s second victory of the campaign lifts them two points above Dolphin at the foot of the table.
– Photos by Richard Mullane
SHANNON: Stephen Fitzgerald; Greg O’Shea, Jack O’Donnell, Will Leonard, Luke O’Dea; Fionn McGibney, Jack Stafford; Conor Glynn, Ty Chan, Tony Cusack, Riley Winter, Ronan Coffey, Lee Nicholas (capt), Niall Mulcahy, Brian Downey.
Replacements: Jordan Prenderville, Ryan Healy, Ollie Lyons, Keith Kavanagh, Ronan McKenna.
GALWEGIANS: Adam Leavy; Morgan Codyre, Ciaran Gaffney, Brian Murphy (capt), Ed O’Keeffe; Aidan Moynihan, Barry Lee; Ronan Loughney, John Moloney, Jason East, Anthony Ryan, Peter Claffey, Marc Kelly, Josh Pim, Eoghan Masterson.
Replacements: Patrick Curran, Jack Dinneen, Paul Hackett, Conor Lowndes, Alan McMahon.
UCC 9 UL BOHEMIANS 18, the Mardyke
Scorers: UCC: Pens: Kevin O’Keeffe 3
UL Bohemians: Tries: Cian Aherne, James Ryan; Con: James Lennon; Pens: James Lennon 2
HT: UCC 3 UL Bohemians 8
UL Bohemians made it back-to-back wins over Munster rivals UCC at the Mardyke thanks to tries in each half from winger Cian Aherne and replacement James Ryan.
The Bohs backs quickly clicked into gear for this Colours match, working the ball wide for Ireland Sevens international Aherne to cross in the 13th minute. His unconverted try was the difference between the sides at the break, with UL leading 8-3.
UCC’s Kevin O’Keeffe and Bohs scrum half James Lennon swapped penalties by the end of the opening quarter. Both sides showed a degree of rustiness after the long winter break and defences were on top in the lead up to half-time.
Again, the visitors, who wore blue jerseys, seized the initiative on the resumption, Ryan’s try coming after a bout of forward pressure in the 50th minute. This time Lennon added the extras to give second-placed Bohs a sizable cushion at 15-3.
UCC built for a spirited finish, patiently working their way into bonus point territory thanks to well-struck penalties from winger O’Keeffe after 65 and 74 minutes.
UL captain Ian Condell stood out for his work-rate around the pitch and strong carrying, and they duly took that bonus point away from the Cork students with a late penalty from Lennon.
The defeat leaves UCC just three points off the bottom as they face into a ‘must win’ derby showdown with Dolphin at Irish Independent Park next Friday night, while UL have cut Buccaneers’ lead at the summit to two points.
UL BOHEMIANS: Joe Murray; Jamie McNamara, Finbar Aherne, Rory White, Cian Aherne; Robbie Bourke, James Lennon; Philip Poillet, Joe Bennett, Mike Lynch, Daragh Frawley, Ed Kelly, Noel Kinane, Ian Condell (capt), Brian Walsh.
Replacements: Pauric Nesbitt, Philip Dowling, James Ryan, Colin Ryan, Rick McKenna.
UCC: Chris McAuliffe; Kevin O’Keeffe, Kevin Slater (capt), Paul Kiernan, James Kiernan; Tom Kiersey, Richard Walsh; Shane O’Hanlon, Emmet McCarthy, Rob O’Donovan, Ben Mitchell, Darragh Moloney, Paul Derham, Cathal Gallagher, Richie Moran.
Replacements: Charlie Slowey, Ciaran McHugh, Eddie Earle, Charlie O’Regan, Murray Linn.
BUCCANEERS 13 BALLYMENA 13, Dubarry Park
Scorers: Buccaneers: Try: Shane O’Leary; Con: Alan Gaughan; Pen: Alan Gaughan; Drop: Alan Gaughan
Ballymena: Try: Penalty try; Con: Ritchie McMaster; Pens: Ritchie McMaster 2
HT: Buccaneers 13 Ballymena 0
Buccaneers and Ballymena shared the spoils after a competitive floodlit encounter at Dubarry Park that was well attended despite the bitterly cold conditions.
Both teams were much changed from their niggly early December clash with Buccs fielding five changes. The visitors went one better including an Ulster-experienced quartet to bolster their pack.
Wearing their alternative canary yellow strip, Buccs quickly illuminated the proceedings under the impressive revamped floodlights at the Athlone venue. Eoghan O’Reilly created space for Connacht’s Shane O’Leary to mark his home debut with a fifth minute try converted by Alan Gaughan.
The Buccs out-half was prominent from the start and, after he was narrowly off target with a long-range place-kick, he duly slotted over a 14th minute penalty for a 10-0 lead.
The Pirates continued to force the pace and Gaughan extended their advantage when drilling over a splendid 30th minute drop goal. Ballymena did not get into the home 22 until the closing stages of the half and then an impressive maul came threateningly close to getting over Buccs line. But the midlanders held out despite O’Reilly incurred a sin-binning and they led 13-0 at halft-time.
Both teams made alterations in their front rows at the break and the changes had a significant influence on the outcome. Debutant Jamie Dever replaced Martin Staunton for the midlanders, while the Braidmen brought on Chris Cundell for Bryan Young with Ricky Lutton switching to loosehead.
Ballymena then got a grip on the set piece to get into the contest and open their account with a 52nd minute Richie McMaster penalty. Two minutes later, Graham Lynch’s clearance was blocked down by Marty Irwin and the visitors forced another penalty deftly dispatched between the posts by out-half Ritchie McMaster.
Buccs were now making errors and, three minutes later, a Gaughan kick was charged down by Callum Patterson. Mark Best and Lynch tangled for the loose ball and referee Gary Conway elected to award a penalty try – much to Buccaneers’ annoyance.
Best was ahead of Lynch and still had lots to do wide on the left, 20 metres out from the try-line and with defenders swiftly converging in his direction. However, Conway decided that Lynch’s infringement was enough to warrant a yellow card and penalty try which McMaster converted to make it 13-all.
Shortly afterwards, Gaughan saw his drop goal attempt – as advantage was played – dip under the crossbar before his penalty from the left tailed just wide. The referee again drew the ire of the home support when he did not penalise Best for a late 74th minute tackle on Mata Fifita.
With the legacy of the recent meeting between the teams now simmering, the contest threatened to boil over but did not get out of hand in a rousing finale when both McMaster and Rodger McBurney kicked poor drop goal efforts for the Ulster side.
A draw was perhaps a fair outcome as both teams enjoyed dominance for a half in a passionate affair but it was of less value to Ballymena, who scored all their points in a five-minute spell, as they drop two places in the league standings as a result.
Although Buccaneers, for whom Saba Meunargia was named Audi Athlone man-of-the-match, did not extend their eight-match winning sequence, the draw keeps them in pole position ahead of next Friday’s Connacht derby joust away to Galwegians.
BUCCANEERS: Luke Carty; Eoghan O’Reilly, Shane O’Leary, Mata Fifita, Jordan Conroy; Alan Gaughan, Graham Lynch; Martin Staunton, John Sutton, Saba Meunargia, Daniel Qualter, Cian Romaine, Stephen McVeigh, Rory Moloney, Kolo Kiripati (capt).
Replacements: Rory Grenham, Jamie Dever, Evan Galvin, Frankie Hopkins, Alex Hayman.
BALLYMENA: Rodger McBurney; Jonny Rosborough, Callum Patterson, Marty Irwin, Mark Best; Ritchie McMaster, Glenn Baillie; Bryan Young, James Taggart, Ricky Lutton, Alan O’Connor, David Whann, Connor Smyth, Stephen Mulholland, Matthew Rea.
Replacements: Chris Cundell, Andrew Cundell, Tony McGuinness, John Creighton, James Beattie.