Only two Division 2A fixtures survived a rain-lashed weekend as Banbridge picked up a valuable five points at bottom side Belfast Harlequins and Cashel climbed away from the relegation zone by battling past Blackrock College.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE DIVISION 2A: Saturday, March 4
ROUND 14 RESULTS –
Belfast Harlequins 0 Banbridge 27, Deramore Park
Blackrock College 14 Cashel 23, Stradbrook
Sunday’s Well v Highfield, Irish Independent Park (match postponed due to a waterlogged pitch)
Corinthians v Queen’s University, Corinthian Park (match postponed due to a waterlogged pitch)
Nenagh Ormond v Malone, New Ormond Park (match postponed due to a waterlogged pitch)
Five tries scored, none conceded and five league points in the bag. Banbridge head coach Daniel Soper had to be satisfied with his lot after a well-executed 27-0 victory at Deramore Park.
He told the club website: “There was a lot of talk going into the game about (Belfast) Harlequins’ plight and you’d have thought that we just had to turn up to get the points. But Harlequins are a better side than that and they made us work pretty hard out there.
“Maybe we tried to play too much rugby from deep but the endeavour and the right attitude to be positive with the ball was there and we got the bonus point which was pretty important in the bigger scheme of things.
“The win puts us top of the league, maybe by default with those other games being called off. But it puts a bit of pressure on the chasing teams – they may have a game in hand but it’s a game they have to win now.
“There are certainly areas of our game where we’ll need to improve for next week’s match – Malone will undoubtedly present a much bigger challenge. They have won six or seven in a row so we’re going to have to be at our best come Saturday. They’re going really well with a lot of quality players so we’re going to have to on top of our game.”
Gunning for only their second win of the campaign, ‘Quins got off to a positive start and they had the lion’s share of possession in the opening half. However, Bann hit the front when full-back Adam Ervine finished off a pacy move after Stephen Irvine had drawn in the final defender and released Ervine with a well-timed pass.
Just two minutes later, the visitors conjured up a second unconverted effort when lock Chris Allen charged down an attempted clearance kick and Ulster Academy member Andrew Magrath fed flanker Colin Bickerstaff with the scoring pass.
Captain Ervine provided the decoy run that allowed winger Simon Lloyd to dummy the ‘Quins defence and cross for try number three, 15 minutes into the second half, and Ervine complete his brace on the hour mark with a tremendous 35-metre run that saw him evade three attempted tackles.
Magrath landed his one and only conversion before Bann wrapped up the scoring 11 minutes from time, hard-working openside Ryan Hughes seizing possession from a ‘Quins knock-on to twist his way over the whitewash.
Skipper Ollie Loughead claimed the man-of-the-match honours for Harlequins with another typically industrious display. The home side deserved a consolation try late on, but despite Bann losing a player to the sin-bin, 27-0 is how it remained.
Meanwhile, seventh-placed Cashel gave themselves some breathing space from the teams below them with an excellent 23-14 win over Blackrock College in wet and windy conditions at Stradbrook.
‘Rock’s play-off hopes took a serious hit with a poor first half performance that left them trailing 17-7 at the turnaround. They added a second converted try but two Ollie McGlinchey penalties had Cashel too far in front.
Indeed, scrum half McGlinchey was the visitors’ outstanding player on the day, contributing 18 points courtesy of a try, two conversions and three penalties. Facing into the wind, the Cashel forwards set the tone by pushing Blackrock off their own scrum ball in the opening minutes.
The visitors’ confidence was really up after McGlinchey used set piece possession to dummy a pass and fly through a gap for a ninth-minute converted try. A scrum penalty saw Blackrock fall 10-0 behind and then suffer a yellow card shortly afterwards.
Although the Dubliners did open their account with a try on the stroke of half-time, Cashel had already touched down for a second time by then. Using their ultra-reliable scrum again, quick ball was transferred across the back-line for winger Cody Baker to finish in the right corner.
McGlinchey pocketed six more points off the tee in a dominant third quarter from the Tipperary outfit. Blackrock responded in encouraging fashion with another seven-pointer, however Cashel defended smartly in the closing stages and would have had a bonus point score but for a costly free-kick at a five-metre scrum when a penalty try was almost within their grasp.