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Ulster Bank League: Division 2B Review

Ulster Bank League: Division 2B Review

We are two-thirds of the way into the Ulster Bank League season and Greystones have nipped ahead at the top of the Division 2B table – just ahead of long-time leaders Armagh.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE DIVISION 2B: Saturday, February 11

ROUND 12 RESULTS –

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Wanderers 41 MU Barnhall 24, Aviva Stadium back pitch (played on Friday)
Greystones 55 Skerries 5, Dr. Hickey Park (played on Friday)
City of Derry 31 Old Crescent 27, Judge’s Road
Thomond 12 Armagh 13, Liam Fitzgerald Park
Bective Rangers 11 Dungannon 16, Donnybrook

Greystones’ latest bonus point win – a 55-5 thrashing of Skerries – has sent them to the summit, with Kevin Lewis’ charges running in nine tries under the Dr. Hickey Park floodlights.

There were braces for the ever-threatening Jack Keating, Padraig Geoghegan and Killian Marmion, while Con Callan, Andy Roberts and Robin O’Sullivan also crossed the Dubliners’ whitewash. ‘Stones are in red hot form and will be aiming to complete the double over MU Barnhall next Saturday.

Little went right for Skerries on the night, they had an early try chalked off and lost some key players to injury, including captain Ross McAuley. Two sin-binnings and two intercept tries added to the Goats’ misery, but getting straight back to winning ways is a must when bottom side Thomond visit them in round 13.

Thomond ran Armagh really close in a hard-fought battle between two clubs at opposite ends of the table. The visitors, who prevailed 13-12, breathed a huge sigh of relief at Liam Fitzgerald Park as Thomond’s comeback – inspired by tries from Wayne Mullaney and Dermot Fitzgerald – fell just short.

In what turned out to be the division’s match of the weekend, City of Derry extended their winning run to four games with a thrilling 31-27 defeat of Old Crescent at Judge’s Road.

With recent signing Jason Bloomfield continuing to make a big impact alongside him, out-half Neil Burns led the scoring for Derry with a terrific 21-point haul, including a cracking solo try in the first half when the hosts were down to 14 men.

Two early penalties from Burns were cancelled out by Crescent’s opening try in the 13th minute when centre Larry Hanly used turnover ball to hack through and touch down, with out-half Shane O’Brien converting.

After a third Burns penalty, Hanly completed his brace when he evaded Richard Baird to score and with the latter seeing yellow, the Limerick men increased their lead to 15-9 thanks to a three-pointer from O’Brien.

However, Derry finished the first half in fine style with two late tries. Burns lit the touchpaper with a brilliant kick return, slicing through to score in the corner, and then a nicely-angled scrum set up a dummy move which saw winger Ian Bratton cross close to the posts for Burns to convert – 21-15.

There was no panicking from promotion-chasing Crescent who had the lead back and a try-scoring bonus point by the 52nd minute. The forwards delivered a try for number 8 Kevin Doyle and winger Val McDermott followed him over the line five minutes later as the visitors converted an overlap out wide.

But it was end-to-end stuff and Derry always looked capable of scoring. They edged ahead again (28-27) just past the hour mark, turning down a kickable penalty and using scrum ball to set up centre Baird for a close range seven-pointer.

In a typically tense finale, a further penalty from Burns in the 79th minute widened the margin to four points, but Richard McCarter’s charges had to defend stoutly – over a prolonged period of injury-time – to see out the result.

Meanwhile, Dungannon made it three victories out of three for the Ulster clubs in Division 2B as they got the better of Bective at Donnybrook. A penalty try and 11 points from the boot of out-half Tianua Poto did the trick in a 16-11 success.

Poto landed two first half penalties for a 6-0 interval lead in damp conditions, and the ‘Gannon pack really took the game to the hosts in the third quarter. A 20-metre maul was eventually collapsed and with a Bective forward in the sin-bin, further scrum pressure laid on by front rowers Glen Sinnamon, Daniel Maxwell and Sean O’Hagan forced the penalty try which Poto converted.

Rangers did fight back in determined fashion, though, and captain Gearoid O’Grady landed two penalties before Poto answered back. Indeed, a late pushover try earned the Dubliners the consolation of a losing bonus point.

The division’s other Friday Night Lights clash finished in a 41-24 bonus point win for Wanderers over MU Barnhall. The Dublin 4 outfit continued their winning start to 2017 and are now third in the standings.

– Photos by Aerial Vision NI