Buccaneers maintained their relentless drive for promotion when they defeated Dolphin 19-5 at a rain-sodden Dubarry Park on Saturday. Meanwhile, UL Bohemians and Shannon both got back to winning ways against Ballymena and UCC respectively.
BALLYMENA 23 UL BOHEMIANS 30, Eaton Park
Scorers: Ballymena: Tries: David Shanahan, Penalty try; Cons: Brett Herron 2; Pens: Brett Herron 3
UL Bohemians: Tries: Harry Fleming, Robbie Bourke, Colin Ryan; Cons: Rick McKenna 2, Robbie Bourke; Pens: Rick McKenna 3
HT: Ballymena 13 UL Bohemians 10
Second-placed UL Bohemians, who trail Buccaneers by a full 16 points, got back to winning ways courtesy of a 30-23 success over Ballymena at Eaton Park.
Bohs boosted their own promotion play-off hopes and dented the Braidmen’s by winning a game that ebbed and flowed throughout. They had to show plenty of tenacity in the end, coming through two sin-binnings before Rick McKenna kicked two clinching penalties late on.
The Red Robins trailed 13-10 at half-time with Ballymena scrum half Dave Shanahan crossing for a try and fellow Ulster squad member Brett Herron kicking the other eight points. It was a solid response from the hosts who had leaked the opening try to Bohs centre Harry Fleming.
The visitors’ cohesive back-line play was rewarded with two converted tries from Robbie Bourke and Colin Ryan, with Herron booting a single penalty in response as UL led 24-16 by the hour mark.
However, Bohs allowed their discipline to slip as the Braidmen, desperate for a win after a couple of disheartening recent reversals, picked up the intensity. They forced a penalty try against 13-man Bohs with Herron’s conversion making it a one-point game with 14 minutes remaining.
But UL dug deep and showed plenty of character to avoid any further concessions before being restored to their full complement. Indeed, it was Ballymena who had some disappointing lapses in the final few minutes as New Zealander McKenna was able to complete his 13-point kicking haul and steer Bohs home.
BALLYMENA: Rodger McBurney; Matthew Norris, Mark Best, Martin Irwin (capt), Jonny Rossborough; Brett Herron, David Shanahan; Bryan Young, James Taggart, Chris Cundell, Mark Foster, Connor Smyth, Stephen Mulholland, Conall Boomer, Matthew Rea.
Replacements: Adrian Kirkpatrick, Andrew Cundell, Willie McKay, John Creighton, Ritchie McMaster.
UL BOHEMIANS: Joe Murray; Colin Ryan, Harry Fleming, Rick McKenna, Cian Aherne; Robbie Bourke, Angus Lloyd; Padraig Nesbitt, Joe Bennett, Mike Lynch, Ed Kelly, Daragh Frawley, James Ryan, Noel Kinane, Brian Walsh.
Replacements: Philip Dowling, Peter King, Craig Trimble, Rory White, James Lennon.
BUCCANEERS 19 DOLPHIN 5, Dubarry Park
Scorers: Buccaneers: Tries: Jordan Conroy, Kolo Kiripati, Rory O’Connor; Cons: Luke Carty 2
Dolphin: Try: Dave O’Mahony
HT: Buccaneers 5 Dolphin 0
This match pitting top against bottom, sponsored by Glasson Country House Hotel & Golf Club, turned in to a real dogfight in testing weather and underfoot conditions at the midlands venue.
With the pitch cutting up badly, it militated greatly against Buccaneers’ favoured style of fast, free-flowing play but the Athlone standard bearers showed their grit and resolve in overcoming a very determined challenge from relegation-threatened Dolphin.
Buccs got off to a perfect start, Luke Carty’s cross-field kick being gathered by Jordan Conroy (pictured above) to score an unconverted try wide on the left after just seven minutes. But Dolphin dominated territory and possession for lengthy swathes of the opening half in a game that was in total contrast to the Pirates’ swashbuckling affair away to UL Bohemians last time out.
The Corkmen were here to battle for survival in the division – and battle they did. But the usually reliable Barry Keeshan was off target with kickable penalties on 4 and 30 minutes in a half when scoring opportunities were at a premium.
The intense exchanges boiled over on 35 minutes and referee Oisin Quinn red carded both openside flankers, Rory Moloney of Buccs and Dolphin’s Kevin Allen. A block by Conroy in the final minute was deemed to be deliberate and the 14-try flyer was yellow carded just before the interval.
Leading 5-0, Buccaneers reappeared for the second half in their canary yellow ‘away’ colours and, although restarting with only 13 players, they quickly raised their tempo and got a foothold in Dolphin’s 22.
Following a scrum, the ball was moved left and winger Rory O’Connor fastened onto Carty’s perfectly angled grubber kick to swoop for a 48th minute try. Carty added a terrific conversion but Dolphin soon responded, Dave O’Mahony forcing his way over in the right corner for a 54th minute try following a lineout. Cian McGovern, now entrusted with the place-kicking, was unable to convert and also missed a penalty ten minutes later.
Buccs looked like adding to their 12-5 advantage in a sparkling attack started by Shane O’Leary and carried on by Eoin Griffin and Shane Layden but with the visitors’ defence stretched to breaking point, Layden’s offload missed the supporting Eoghan O’Reilly on 72 minutes.
Two minutes later, the Pirates got the breathing space they craved when Dolphin were forced to carry a chip ahead over their own line. From the ensuing scrum, Buccs drove the visitors’ pack inexorably over their line where captain Kolo Kiripati (pictured below) grounded the ball and Carty added another top notch conversion.
Brett Wilkinson’s men were most unfortunate in the final play not to secure a bonus point try when Conroy, in a typically mesmerising run from end to end, was deemed to have put a foot in touch as he raced to the Dolphin line in search of his 15th try of the campaign.
That would have been hard on the losers who journeyed home empty-handed despite rattling Buccaneers, but the midlanders showed necessary traits of character and mettle in this hard-earned victory in which Under-20 lock Simon Meagher was named the Audi Athlone man-of-the-match.
BUCCANEERS: Callum Boland; Rory O’Connor, Shane Layden, Alex Hayman, Jordan Conroy; Luke Carty, Shane O’Leary; Jamie Dever, John Sutton, Martin Staunton, Daniel Qualter, Simon Meagher, Stephen McVeigh, Rory Moloney, Kolo Kiripati (capt).
Replacements: Rory Grenham, Ryan O’Meara, Evan Galvin, Eoin Griffin, Eoghan O’Reilly.
DOLPHIN: Timmy Phelan; Gerry Ryan, Cian McGovern, Ian O’Donoghue, Will Hanly; Barry Keeshan (capt), Daryl Foley; Liam Walsh, Cian Scott, James Rochford, Rob O’Herlihy, Dave O’Mahony, Barry Fitzgerald, Kevin Allen, Ryan Murphy.
Replacements: Dave Byrne, Anthony Mason, Caolan O’Flynn, John Leahy, Karl Keogh.
GALWEGIANS 7 OLD WESLEY 7, Crowley Park
Scorers: Galwegians: Try: Aidan Moynihan; Con: Morgan Codyre
Old Wesley: Try: Adam Griggs; Con: Adam Kennedy
HT: Galwegians 0 Old Wesley 0
Aidan Moynihan and Adam Griggs swapped second half tries as Galwegians and play-off hopefuls Old Wesley played out a low-scoring but entertaining draw in Glenina.
Second-from-bottom Galwegians, who won up at Ballynahinch a fortnight ago, had to absorb a lot of early pressure from the visitors who were looking to build on their excellent 30-point victory at home to Ballymena last time out.
As well as pressing from a series of visits to the ‘Wegians 22, Wesley’s defence was on top with young hooker Conor Maguire’s well-timed tackle foiling an overlap and his work at the breakdown also leading to a turnover.
However, out-half Tim Clifford pushed a penalty effort well wide in the 13th minute and as the first half wore on, there was no change to the scoreboard. Clifford had a second penalty miss and a handling error spoiled Wesley’s most promising attack.
The home side came more into the game approaching half-time, with Connacht’s Ciaran Gaffney and Rory Parata both posing a threat out wide. Their teenage out-half Morgan Codyre was off target with two penalty attempts as it stayed nil-all.
It took a piece of individual brilliance from full-back Aidan Moynihan to open the scoring three minutes into the second period. He stepped in behind the Wesley defence on the 22 and raced away to the corner, with Codyre adding an excellent conversion to boot.
Wesley, who had come under prolonged pressure during scrum half Adam Kennedy’s sin-binning, survived a ‘Wegians purple patch without leaking more points, and they gradually clawed back territory. Their young centre David Poff had a try ruled out for a forward pass and then winger Paul Harte was bundled into touch by the corner flag.
Crucially, Galwegians were now falling foul of referee Chris Harrington’s whistle. A number of penalties led to yellow cards for number 8 Eoin Tarmey and prop Jason East. On the plus side for Brian McClearn’s charges, Connacht back Darragh Leader, who was returning from injury, made a very good impact off the bench.
Just when it looked like ‘Wegians had the result within their grasp, a pinpoint penalty to touch from Rory Stynes set up a Wesley lineout five metres out. The hosts gave away two more penalties close to the posts and with Wesley opting for a scrum on both occasions, the gamble paid off when replacement Griggs broke and beat the defence to score a try which Kennedy converted.
There was late drama, though, when Wesley winger Brendan Monahan marked a kick but appeared to be taken out in the air. The referee consulted with his touch judge and adjudged that there was no foul play, with nothing to separate the sides in the end.
GALWEGIANS: Aidan Moynihan; Ciaran Gaffney, Rory Parata, Brian Murphy (capt), Ed O’Keeffe; Morgan Codyre, Barry Lee; Jason East, John Moloney, Martin Fox, Anthony Ryan, Matt Towey, Paul Hackett, Josh Pim, Eoin Tarmey.
Replacements: Doron McHugh, Patrick Curran, Ronan Moore, Conor Lowndes, Darragh Leader.
OLD WESLEY: Rory Stynes; Brendan Monahan, David Poff, Michael Hastings, Paul Harte; Tom Clifford, Adam Kennedy; Martin Gately, Conor Maguire, James Burton, Michael Dunleavy, Iain McGann (capt), Matthew Bursey, Stephen Boyle, Mark Rowley.
Replacements: Craig Telford, David Henshaw, Donnchadh Phelan, Alan Large, Adam Griggs.
NAAS v BALLYNAHINCH, Forenaughts (match postponed due to a waterlogged pitch)
SHANNON 20 UCC 14, Thomond Park back pitch
Scorers: Shannon: Tries: Niall Mulcahy, Greg O’Shea; Cons: Conor Fitzgerald 2; Pens: Conor Fitzgerald 2
UCC: Try: Richie Walsh; Pens: Kevin O’Keeffe 3
HT: Shannon 10 UCC 6
Player-coach Tom Hayes and Munster’s Duncan Casey were part of a victorious home pack as Shannon outlasted their Munster rivals UCC by four points on Thomond Park’s back pitch.
Neither try-line was troubled during an opening spell dominated by probing kicks and handling errors closer in. Hooker Casey made a couple of notable carries, while UCC out-half Tom Kiersey showed his breaking ability on one early surge.
As a rain shower grew heavier, the Shannon forwards took over with a great 23rd-minute maul and UCC could not hold out as flanker Niall Mulcahy crashed over the try-line. It was a double blow for the students who lost their captain Kevin Slater to the sin-bin and Conor Fitzgerald added the extras for 7-0.
On the half hour mark, UCC’s ace goal-kicker Kevin O’Keeffe continued his impressive form with a terrific strike from the 10-metre line to get the visitors off the mark. A scrum penalty allowed current Ireland Under-20 international Fitzgerald to respond in quick fashion at the other end.
With the wind dying down, O’Keeffe had the final say before half-time, punishing Shannon for not rolling away as he found the target from just inside the hosts’ half. At 10-6 it was still anyone’s game.
Hayes’ charges restored their seven-point advantage in the 51st minute, Fitzgerald negotiating a swirling wind as he split the posts after young number 8 John Foley had produced a fine lineout steal.
But it was a two-point game entering the final quarter with UCC crossing out wide through full-back Richie Walsh, with O’Keeffe unable to convert. Number 8 Paul Derham was a key figure as the visitors’ pick-and-goes began to hurt the Shannon defence.
Some clever tactical kicking from Fitzgerald kept Shannon playing in the right areas of the pitch, though. As they ramped up the pressure, hugely influential prop Tony Cusack, who worked his socks off, blocked an attempted UCC clearance kick.
Shortly afterwards, Shannon replacement Luke Moylan was the victim of a pull-back during a kick chase and UCC were down to 14 men for a second time. Shannon took advantage almost immediately, scrum half Keith Kavanagh attacking the blindside off a 68th minute maul and sending winger Greg O’Shea over for a timely seven-pointer.
Having won their last three games, UCC were not going to go down without a fight and a third penalty goal from O’Keeffe had them back in bonus point range. The students had most of the possession and territory during the closing stages, spreading the ball wide at will but Shannon were up to the task and their determined defence saw them deservedly hold on.
SHANNON: Stephen Fitzgerald; Greg O’Shea, Jack O’Donnell, Will Leonard, Luke O’Dea; Conor Fitzgerald, Jack Stafford; Conor Glynn, Duncan Casey, Tony Cusack, Riley Winter, Tom Hayes, Lee Nicholas (capt), Niall Mulcahy, John Foley.
Replacements: Adam Moloney, Dylan Murphy, Luke Moylan, Keith Kavanagh, Nathan Randles.
UCC: Richie Walsh; Kevin O’Keeffe, Kevin Slater (capt), Paul Kiernan, James Kiernan; Tom Kiersey, Charlie O’Regan; Shane O’Hanlon, Emmett McCarthy, Rob O’Donovan, Ben Mitchell, Eddie Earle, Conor Barry, Cathal Gallagher, Paul Derham.
Replacements: Ciaran McHugh, Murray Linn, Chris McAuliffe, Daire Feeney, Richie Moran.