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Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Review

Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Review

Kevin O’Keeffe scored all of the points as UCC claimed the scalp of Division 1B leaders in a cracking tie at the Mardyke, while league legend Barry Keeshan’s brace of drop goals proved crucial for bottom side Dolphin against Ballymena.



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BALLYNAHINCH 14 OLD WESLEY 28, Ballymacarn Park
Scorers: Ballynahinch: Tries: Paddy Wright, James McBriar; Cons: Blane McIlroy 2
Old Wesley: Tries: David Poff 2, Brendan Monahan, Ken Knaggs; Con: Tim Clifford; Pens: Tim Clifford 2

HT: Ballynahinch 7 Old Wesley 20

Former Leinster underage player David Poff crossed for two tries as Old Wesley solidified their position in fourth place with a 28-14 bonus point triumph away to Ballynahinch.

Their two clashes this season with ‘Hinch have earned 10 points for Morgan Lennon’s men as they followed up on October’s thrilling 35-32 triumph at Donnybrook, and a 20-point first half had them well on their way at Ballymacarn Park.

From the first scrum, a well-worked move involving Mark Rowley, Adam Kennedy and Paul Harte saw the latter break up to the ‘Hinch 22 and then Wesley whipped the ball across to the far flank for winger Brendan Monahan to dot down in the corner.

The visitors continued to look dangerous with ball in hand, putting the depleted hosts under regular pressure, and prop Ken Knaggs barged over for try number two from close range following 15 phases of hard graft from the visitors.

Ballynahinch scrum half Blane McIlroy failed to punish hands in the ruck as he pushed a penalty effort wide, and Tim Clifford split the posts at the other end before centre Poff’s angled run to the line saw him get off the mark, having collected a pass out of the tackle from fast-breaking hooker Conor Maguire.

‘Hinch opened their account soon after, cutting the gap back to 20-7 for half-time as some ground-gaining phases off a lineout led to the hosts creating a two-man overlap and full-back Paddy Wright was able to finish, with McIlroy adding the extras.

The Dubliners bagged the bonus point early in the second period when Harte’s inviting inside pass put Poff over in the corner for his second try which went unconverted this time.

‘Hinch went on to dominate possession and territory for long spells of the half, and their patience was finally rewarded when out-half James McBriar stepped inside the rush defence to cross by the posts. However, they failed to hunt down a late losing bonus point and Wesley came closest to scoring again, Rowley being hauled down just short after a powerful run off the back of a scrum.

BALLYNAHINCH: Paddy Wright; Callum McLaughlin, Jordan Grattan, Ryan Wilson, Davy Nicholson; James McBriar, Blane McIlroy; Chris Stevenson, Andrew Harper, Craig Trenier, Stewart Evans, James Simpson, Aaron Hall, Callum Irvine, Michael Graham (capt).

Replacements: Stuart Orr, Ben Pentland, Brian Howard, Chris Quinn, Aaron Ferris.

OLD WESLEY: Rory Stynes; Brendan Monahan, David Poff, Michael Hastings, Paul Harte; Tim Clifford, Adam Kennedy; Ken Knaggs, Conor Maguire, Padraig Cullen, Michael Dunleavy, Iain McGann (capt), Josh Hinde, Stephen Boyle, Mark Rowley.

Replacements: David Rowley, Craig Telford, Matthew Bursey, Mark Robinson, Adam Griggs.

DOLPHIN 18 BALLYMENA 16, Irish Independent Park
Scorers: Dolphin: Tries: Daryl Foley, Ryan Murphy; Con: Barry Keeshan; Drops: Barry Keeshan 2
Ballymena: Try: James Gallagher; Con: Ritchie McMaster; Pens: Ritchie McMaster 3

HT: Dolphin 7 Ballymena 9

Dolphin v Ballymena Highlights from imagemediafilms.

Dolphin’s wily out-half Barry Keeshan was in match-winning form for the relegation-threatened club as his late drop goal steered them past Ballymena (18-16) at Irish Independent Park.

In his 15th season in the Ulster Bank League, the prolific former Ireland Club international player achieved another notable feat – kicking two drop goals in a league game for the fourth time in his career.

Having lost five of their last six games, the Corkmen needed to make a strong start and they got exactly that. Their forwards carried up close to the try-line before alert scrum half Daryl Foley threw a dummy and sniped over to the right of the posts.

Keeshan converted but Dolphin failed to add to their early lead despite creating some further scoring opportunities. Ballymena gradually came more into the game, with successive penalties from number 10 Ritchie McMaster after 27 and 29 minutes reducing the margin to a single point.

McMaster’s impressive left boot split the posts again before half-time, giving the Braidmen a 9-7 advantage, and they made it 16 points without reply early on the resumption. Centre Daryl Montgomery was not held in the tackle and his midfield break took him up to the edge of the 22 before he passed for back rower James Gallagher to run in an opportunist seven-pointer by the posts.

However, the home side got back within a converted try when Keeshan launched a well-struck drop through the posts from outside the 22. It got even better for David Corkery’s men 10 minutes later when their in-form number 8 Ryan Murphy used an advancing scrum to break past Glenn Baillie and crash over for his sixth try of the campaign.

The tension was obvious as a series of missed penalty attempts by Dolphin duo Cian McGovern and Keeshan, with the latter hitting the left hand post, saw the scoreboard stay the same.

However, it was the hosts who edged ahead in the closing stages. Keeshan took on the responsibility to register a vital second drop goal on the stroke of 80 minutes, and McMaster endured a penalty miss from the 10-metre line in injury-time as the Cork outfit won out in dramatic style.

The result has given Dolphin a big lift heading into the final three rounds. They are now only four points behind second-from-bottom Galwegians, with Shannon a further four points better off. Dolphin’s next fixture is a trip to Galwegians in two weeks’ time.

DOLPHIN: Tim 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, Karl Keogh, Ryan Murphy.

Replacements: John Leahy, Anthony Mason, Lar Coughlan, John Fitzgerald, Sam Kennedy, Cillian Monahan.

BALLYMENA: Rodger McBurney; John Nicholl, Matthew Norris, Daryl Montgomery, Alan Smyth; Ritchie McMaster, Glenn Baillie; Bryan Young, Adam McBurney, Chris Cundell, Mark Foster, Connor Smyth, Adrian Hamilton, Stephen Mulholland, James Gallagher.

Replacements: James Taggart, Andrew Ferguson, Russell Blair, Matthew Dick, Chris Smyth.

NAAS 21 SHANNON 14, Forenaughts
Scorers: Naas: Tries: Peter Osborne, Peter Howard 2; Cons: Peter Osborne 3
Shannon: Try: Will Leonard; Pens: Ronan McKenna 3

HT: Naas 21 Shannon 9

Versatile back Peter Osborne celebrated his Ireland Club International call-up with a try and three conversions as Naas resumed their league run with a 21-14 win at home to Shannon.

The bad weather of the previous week, which forced the postponement of Naas’ clash with Ballynahinch, seemed an age ago as this game was played on a dry, crisp day and, not surprisingly, a huge crowd turned up at Forenaughts.

Naas certainly came out fired up and within two minutes had a try on the board and fittingly it came from Osborne, who started at full-back time time. Having received the ball from Henry Byrce, who had made a great break in midfield, Osborne still had a lot to do, but he put in a clever chip behind the Shannon defence which he gathered himself and scored under the posts, adding the conversion soon after.

The next 20 minutes belonged to Shannon. The majority of it was played in the Naas half and the visitors were rewarded with two Ronan McKenna penalties before they took the lead. Naas centre Bryce received a yellow card for getting into an altercation with a couple of Shannon players and out-half McKenna slotted the subsequent penalty to put them 9-7 in front.

Johne Murphy’s side now had to play the next ten minutes with just 14 men but ironically they enjoyed their most fruitful period of the match with two tries. On 29 minutes, after a spell on sustained pressure, winger Peter Howard shrugged off a couple of tacklers to score. Barely two minutes later, Osborne sliced through the Shannon defence before passing to Howard who sprinted clear to complete his brace in the corner. With Osborne firing over both conversions Naas led 21-9, a scoreline they took into the interval.

Eighth-placed Shannon, who were missing some of key backs due to Ireland Under-20 and Munster ‘A’ commitments, needed a good start to the second half and that is exactly what they got.

After winning a five-metre lineout, they formed a driving maul which a number of the backs joined. It was centre Will Leonard who was awarded the try after Tom Hayes’ charges had forced their way over. McKenna was unlucky to see his conversion attempt come back off the post but his side were right back in the contest at just 21-14 down.

Surprisingly, though, this was to be the last score of the game. Naas tried everything to get a bonus point try but it just would not come, and to their credit Shannon put in a big finish that almost saw them secure a draw. It was not to be for the Limerick men, and Naas held on for a victory that sees them remain third in the table with just four matches remaining.

NAAS: Peter Osborne; Fionn Carr, Johne Murphy, Henry Bryce, Peter Howard; Ben Swindlehurst, Max Whittingham; Adam Coyle, Graham Reynolds, Jason Harney, Paul Monahan, David Benn, Andrew Kearney, Will O’Brien (capt), Paulie Tolofua.

Replacements: Warren Larkin, Jordan Duggan, Cillian Dempsey, Eoin Walsh, Michael Skelton.

SHANNON: Luke O’Dea; Nathan Randles, Jack O’Donnell, Will Leonard, Shane Mullally; Ronan McKenna, Keith Kavanagh; Conor Glynn, Jordan Prenderville, Tony Cusack, Riley Winter, Tom Hayes, Luke Moylan, Niall Mulcahy, Lee Nicholas (capt).

Replacements: Ty Chan, John Andress, Dylan Murphy, Charlie Carmody, Robbie Deegan.

UCC 13 BUCCANEERS 12, the Mardyke
Scorers: UCC: Try: Kevin O’Keeffe; Con: Kevin O’Keeffe; Pens: Kevin O’Keeffe 2
Buccaneers: Tries: Evan Galvin, Eoghan O’Reilly; Con: Luke Carty

HT: UCC 10 Buccaneers 7

Buccaneers’ excellent 13-match unbeaten run stretching all the way back to the second round in September came to an end at the Mardyke where  a massively-committed UCC side edged this compelling encounter by the minimum margin.

Buccs had the majority of possession and territory but lacked their usual precision and resourcefulness, but the losing bonus point claimed keeps them firmly in control of their own destiny.

A gorgeous sunny afternoon and a firm sod meant conditions were near ideal, apart from a diagonal breeze that favoured the visitors in the opening half. The midlanders made all the early running but several promising raids floundered mainly on knock-ons.

Such was the early pressure by the Pirates that a score seem inevitable but it was UCC who hit the front from their first foray into the Athlone side’s 22 after 11 minutes. They won good lineout ball following a penalty that brought them inside Buccs half and a lovely reverse pass in midfield eventually led to College having the extra man out wide where Kevin O’Keeffe finished for a try which he also converted from wide on the right.

Buccaneers continued to press forward but spoiled good approach work time and again and they also got no return on a series of penalties kicked to touch on the left. UCC forays into Buccs territory were much rarer but they forced a 26th minute penalty which O’Keeffe converted to edge them 10-0 ahead.

However, the Pirates finally got their picking and driving working to better effect in the closing stages of the half and flanker Evan Galvin burrowed over at the posts for a try which Carty converted to close the gap to three points at the break.

O’Keeffe, UCC’s leading scorer this season, landed a 53rd minute penalty as Buccs penalty count mounted but Brett Wilkinson’s men, with Mata Fifita, Shane Delahunt and Eoghan O’Reilly now on the pitch, finally got due reward for their endeavours when replacement O’Reilly finished off sustained pressure for a 69th minute try. Carty’s conversion from the right did not curl in the breeze and shaved the wrong side of the far upright.

With just a solitary point now separating the teams, Buccaneers piled on the pressure and were camped in the home 22 for long spells but just could not unlock a fiercely committed defensive effort by the students.

UCC’s hard-earned victory in this high tempo clash surely guarantees their place in Division 1B next season. Meanwhile, just one more win will guarantee promotion for Buccs who top the table by 13 points with just three rounds remaining.

UCC: Richie Walsh; Kevin O’Keeffe, Kevin Slater, Paul Kiernan, James Kiernan; Tom Kiersey, Charlie O’Regan; Shane O’Hanlon, Emmett McCarthy, Rob O’Donovan, Ben Mitchell, Darragh Moloney, Conor Barry, Cathal Gallagher, Paul Derham.

Replacements: Ciaran McHugh, Tadhg McCarthy, Eddie Earle, Daire Feeney, Richie Moran, Chris McAuliffe.

BUCCANEERS: Luke Carty; Rory O’Connor, Shane Layden, Eoin Griffin, Jordan Conroy; Shane O’Leary, Conor McKeon; Jamie Dever, John Sutton, Martin Staunton, Daniel Qualter, Ruairi Byrne, Stephen McVeigh, Evan Galvin, Kolo Kiripati (capt).

Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Rory Grenham, Mata Fifita, Frankie Hopkins, Eoghan O’Reilly.

UL BOHEMIANS 18 GALWEGIANS 16, University of Limerick 4G pitch
Scorers: UL Bohemians: Tries: Noel Kinnane, Harry Fleming; Con: Rick McKenna; Pens: Robbie Bourke, James Lennon
Galwegians: Try: Ciaran Gaffney; Con: Morgan Codyre; Pens: Morgan Codyre 3

HT: UL Bohemians 10 Galwegians 0

Replacement James Lennon’s 77th-minute penalty decided this closely-fought contest in UL Bohemians’ favour as Christy Neilan’s charges made it back-to-back wins in sunny conditions on UL’s 4G pitch.

Both sides were slow to get their rhythm going and scoring chances were few and far between in the opening quarter. The breakthrough came on 25 minutes when a clever kick deep into space from Bohs out-half Robbie Bourke forced a close-in lineout. Galwegians’ lineout misfired badly, gifting clean possession to the hosts and flanker Noel Kinnane dived over from the base of a ruck for the opening try. Kiwi centre Rick McKenna tagged on the conversion for a 7-0 lead.

An off-colour ‘Wegians had plenty possession and territory but were unable to make it count, with some poor execution and decision-making depriving them of any serious scoring opportunities. They made matters worse for themselves when they had two of their more influential players binned before half-time.

Captain Brian Murphy went first for slapping the ball away from a UL player, and shortly afterwards Connacht’s Eoghan Masterson, who lined out at number 8, joined him in the bin for illegally thwarting a forward attack near his line. Bourke landed the simple penalty from in front of the posts to give his side a 10-0 half-time lead.

The Blues went into the second half with a tall order ahead of them, and this soon became a mountain to climb when the 13 men had their lack of numbers exposed barely three minutes after the restart. When opting to run from inside their own half, Bohs centre Harry Fleming saw a gap on the right and cut through at will to dot down near the right corner. Bourke was wide with the conversion attempt at 15-0.

‘Wegians gradually began to exert some control, and soon after centre Murphy returned to the fray, they opened their account on 49 minutes with a well-struck penalty from out-half Morgan Codyre. And with Masterson also returning from the bin, this signalled a significant period of dominance for Brian McClearn’s side.

Half-backs Conor Lowndes and Codyre were beginning to use the slight wind to their advantage with some judicious use of the boot. When Lowndes seized on turnover ball to hack forward, this created another simple penalty on the hour mark which Codyre duly slotted. Then, just a minute later, the young number 10 made it three from three when Murphy was the victim of a high tackle.

With the deficit now reduced to 15-9, the dynamic of the game completely changed. ‘Wegians’ self belief visibly rose as doubt crept into their hosts. Then, on 70 minutes, the visitors took the lead for the first time. With the platform created by their now dominant forwards, the ball was spun wide and a powerful surge by lock Peter Claffey and a perfectly-timed pass sent winger Ciaran Gaffney diving over for an excellent score out wide on the right. Codyre showed nerves of steel to nail the conversion and put his side in front by the slenderest of margins.


Initially the visitors were comfortably defending their lead, until a late surge by UL saw them bring play into the ‘Wegians half. The Blues were then penalised on their 10-metre line for not rolling away, and Lennon struck it well and just cleared the crossbar to nudge his side back in front.

There was still plenty of time, with referee Oisin Quinn adding on a lot for stoppages. Codyre was wide with a drop goal attempt shortly after the restart, and having soaked up a late Bohs surge which would have made the game safe, a last gasp breakaway by Gaffney gave ‘Wegians one final chance.

The former Ireland Under-20 international’s pass to centre Rory Parata was slapped down by a retreating defender which cost the hosts a yellow card. However, ‘Wegians spurned the opportunity to have a long range attempt at the posts, instead going up the line. Despite securing their lineout ball safely, their maul was dragged into touch and with that their chance was gone.

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 Kinnane, Brian Walsh.

Replacements: Joe Moloney, Peter King, Craig Trimble, Finbar Aherne, James Lennon.

GALWEGIANS: Aidan Moynihan; Ciaran Gaffney, Rory Parata, Brian Murphy (capt), Darragh Leader; Morgan Codyre, Conor Lowndes; Dominic Robertson-McCoy, John Moloney, Martin Fox, Eoin Tarmey, Peter Claffey, Marc Kelly, Josh Pim, Eoghan Masterson.

Replacements: Doron McHugh, Patrick Curran, Matt Towey, Eamonn Dowling, Dave Clarke.