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Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Review

Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Review

Jordan Conroy played a leading role as Buccaneers clinched the Division 1B title and promotion with a 30-23 victory at home to Naas. The speedster scored a hat-trick of tries, taking his tally for the season to an incredible 17.



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BALLYMENA 24 UCC 26, Eaton Park
Scorers: Ballymena: Tries: Mark Best, Chris Cundell, David Whann; Cons: Ritchie McMaster 3; Drop: Glenn Baillie
UCC: Tries: Paul Kiernan 2, Kevin Slater, Charlie O’Regan; Cons: Kevin O’Keeffe 3

HT: Ballymena 14 UCC 12

Aided by centre Paul Kiernan’s two-try contribution, in-form UCC made it five wins in six matches by beating Ballymena 26-24 in an exciting finish at Eaton Park.

The result secured the Cork youngsters’ place in Division 1B for next season, while Ballymena, who have lost their last four games, remain seven points clear of the relegation play-off spot with two rounds remaining.

Andy Graham’s Braidmen were tasting defeat at the hands of Cork opposition for the second week in a row, following their 18-16 reversal at Dolphin in the previous round.

A converted try from Ulster ‘A’ regular Mark Best got them off to a satisfying start against College, but the visitors closed the gap to 14-12 by half-time and ended up outscoring Ballymena by four tries to three. Adam McBurney and returning lock David Whann, who scored a try, were among the hosts’ leading performers.

With Darragh Moloney, Rob O’Donovan and Paul Derham putting in big shifts up front, fifth-placed UCC were given the platform to launch their threatening back-line and Kiernan, captain Kevin Slater and scrum half Charlie O’Regan showed a clinical edge in taking their tries.

Winger Kevin O’Keeffe added three crucial conversions as the visitors completed a notable season’s double over Ballymena who were 18-17 losers at the Mardyke back in October. O’Keeffe was UCC’s that day with a last-gasp penalty.

BALLYMENA: Rodger McBurney; Jonny Rossborough, Mark Best, Glenn Baillie, Matthew Norris; Ritchie McMaster, John Creighton; Andrew Ferguson, Adam McBurney, Chris Cundell, David Whann, Mark Foster, Stephen Mulholland, Conall Boomer, Adrian Hamilton.

Replacements: Adrian Kirkpatrick, Andrew Cundell, Dominic Gallagher, David Shanahan, Josh McIIroy.

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

Replacements: Peter McCabe, James Kendrick, Daire Feeney, Eddie Earle, Chris McAuliffe.

BUCCANEERS 30 NAAS 23, Dubarry Park
Scorers: Buccaneers: Tries: Jordan Conroy 3; Cons: Alan Gaughan 3; Pens: Alan Gaughan 3
Naas: Tries: Peter Osborne, David Benn, Paulie Tolofua; Con: Peter Osborne; Pens: Peter Osborne 2

HT: Buccaneers 20 Naas 8

Buccaneers got the better of Naas in a thrilling clash in front of a big crowd at Dubarry Park, confirming themselves as Division 1B champions in the process. The teams served up a fast-moving, hard-hitting contest from start to finish.

The game was won and lost in the opening quarter when Buccs went on a scoring spree to steam 20-0 ahead in sunny conditions. Naas refused to give up and battled their way into an absorbing duel, reducing their arrears to 23-20 on the hour mark.

However, the Pirates were that bit stronger and smarter to come out on top and clinch promotion with two rounds still to play. The visitors earned a losing bonus point that could yet prove priceless in their quest to reach the promotion play-offs.

Penalties by Alan Gaughan after six and 10 minutes settled the Athlone side into their stride and that became a rush when Jordan Conroy notched a brace of tries after just 14 and 19 minutes, the winger’s blistering pace and eye for a score being too much for the Naas back-line. Gaughan converted both tries from wide on the left for that healthy early lead.

Peter Osborne opened Naas’ account with a 26th minute penalty and then the full-back darted down the blindside for a 38th minute unconverted try that hauled the Kildare men back into the match with Buccs 20-8 ahead at half-time.

Five minutes into the second period, David Benn stretched over the home line for another unconverted Naas try before Gaughan steadied the Pirates ship with a 58th minute penalty. However, following the restart, Conor McKeon’s clearance was blocked down and Paulie Tolofua pounced for a try in the right corner. Osborne’s conversion left just three points between the teams – 23-20 to the midlanders – entering the final quarter.

But Buccaneers held their nerve in the pacey exchanges and man-of-the-match Conroy completed his hat-trick of tries with a mesmerising run to touch down at the posts after 70 minutes for his 17th try of the campaign.

Gaughan’s conversion gave the Pirates a 10-point cushion which was enough to steer them to the title and promotion. Ireland Club international Osborne completed the scoring with a late penalty that earned Naas their losing bonus point.

BUCCANEERS: Shane Layden; Eoghan O’Reilly, Eoin Griffin, Mata Fifita, Jordan Conroy; Alan Gaughan, Conor McKeon; Jamie Dever, John Sutton, Martin Staunton, Daniel Qualter, Simon Meagher, Stephen McVeigh, Rory Moloney, Kolo Kiripati (capt).

Replacements: Ryan O’Meara, Rory Grenham, Ruairi Byrne, Frankie Hopkins, Shane O’Leary.

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, Conor Doyle, Eoin Walsh, Michael Skelton, Rob O’Connor.

GALWEGIANS 23 DOLPHIN 29, Crowley Park
Scorers: Galwegians: Tries: Eoghan Masterson, Brian Murphy; Cons: Morgan Codyre 2; Pens: Morgan Codyre 3
Dolphin: Tries: Gerry Ryan, Cian McGovern; Cons: Barry Keeshan 2; Pens: Barry Keeshan 5

HT: Galwegians 10 Dolphin 19

There is now just one point between Dolphin and Galwegians at the foot of the table following the Corkmen’s 29-22 defeat of the Blues in Glenina. Captain Barry Keeshan starred with a 19-point haul, kicking five penalties and converting Gerry Ryan and Cian McGovern’s tries.

Played in glorious warm spring sunshine, things started really well for Galwegians who, despite playing into a relatively strong breeze blowing downfield from the clubhouse end, dominated the opposition right from the get-go.

They took the lead after a mere six minutes when strong pressure had the visitors defending their line. Following some patient build-up play, Connacht back rower Eoghan Masterson eventually found some space and dived over near the left corner for the game’s opening try.

Out-half Morgan Codyre slotted an excellent conversion, and minutes later he added a penalty after the Cork side were penalised for offside on their 22. 10-0 to the good, it could have been even more for the Blues, but crucially Dolphin defended a five-metre lineout maul to avoid conceding a second try.

The visitors eventually used the wind to gain some territory, and just into the second quarter they opened their account through a penalty from veteran out-half Keeshan.

They also made two early replacements in their pack, including club captain John Fitzgerald and John Madigan, and suddenly they gained some dominance in the set-piece. This coincided with Wegians losing their rhythm, and soon a succession of mistakes and unforced errors started to mount.

Keeshan soon landed a second penalty after a needless knock-on led to a scrum, at which ‘Wegians were penalised. This galvanised the division’s bottom side, and just before the half hour mark they scored off their first serious incursion into ‘Wegians territory when a blindside move led to a well-taken converted try by winger Gerry Ryan.

Not for the first time this season, ‘Wegians started to get on the wrong side of referee Eddie Hogan O’Connell, especially at the breakdown. They gifted their opponent two further kickable penalties before half-time, and the prolific Keeshan made no mistake. Almost out of nowhere, David Corkery’s charges had racked by 19 unanswered points to take a 19-10 lead at the break.

‘Wegians head coach Brian McClearn clearly had words with his side who came out of the traps, and within two minutes Codyre reduced arrears to 19-13 with a simple penalty from in front of the posts. However, rather than kick on, the Blues were almost immediately on the back foot again after failing to control the restart. They survived an onslaught on their line after a Dolphin maul was held up, and from the subsequent five-metre scrum the visitors were penalised.

Nonetheless, this proved a turning point in the contest, as instead of providing relief to ‘Wegians, they proceeded to press the self-destruct button. Following a punch-up involving both packs, referee Hogan O’Connell reversed the penalty and sent ‘Wegians lock and Ireland Under-20 international Peter Claffey to the sin-bin. So instead of allowing them clear their lines, it handed the initiative right back to their opponents and gave Keeshan the simplest of chances to restore a nine-point margin.

Dolphin then proceeded to make the most of their one-man advantage, when an attack on the right saw them brush off some weak tackling and centre Cian McGovern took an inside pass to run between the posts for his side’s second try. Keeshan’s simple conversion meant that incredibly, the visitors now held a 16-point advantage – 29-13 – well before the hour mark had even been reached.

With their full complement then restored, a good break downfield by scrum half Barry Lee led to a Galwegians penalty which Codyre converted. The visitors were starting to tire and when try scorer McGovern was then binned, the Blues kicked to the corner. Following secure lineout ball, the driving maul was eventually finished off by captain Brian Murphy who successfully burrowed over. Codyre coolly slotted the conversion midway out, and crucially brought his team within bonus point range.

There was still plenty of time for ‘Wegians to make a comeback in the final few minutes, and they had their chances including both territory and possession. But their performance was summed up when a last-gasp attacking lineout inside the Dolphin 22 was fumbled, and the visitors gratefully turned over possession and ran down the clock to seal what could be a vital victory for them.

GALWEGIANS: Aidan Moynihan; Ciaran Gaffney, Rory Parata, Brian Murphy (capt), Alan McMahon; Morgan Codyre, Barry Lee; Paddy Curran, John Moloney, Jason East, Anthony Ryan, Peter Claffey, Marc Kelly, Josh Pim, Eoghan Masterson.

Replacements: David O’Connor, Martin Fox, Eoin Tarmey, Conor Lowndes, Dave Clarke.

DOLPHIN: Timmy Phelan; Gerry Ryan, Cian McGovern, Ian O’Donoghue, Will Hanly; Barry Keeshan (capt), Daryl Foley; James Rochford, Liam Walsh, Brian Scott, Dave O’Mahony, Rob O’Herlihy, Barry Fitzgerald, Kevin Allen, Ryan Murphy.

Replacements: Anthony Mason, John Fitzgerald, John Madigan, Cillian Monahan, Karl Keogh.

Scorers: Old Wesley: Tries: Michael Dunleavy, Tim Clifford, Rory Stynes, David Poff; Cons: Tim Clifford 4; Pen: Tim Clifford
UL Bohemians: Tries: Harry Fleming, Robbie Bourke, Noel Kinnane; Cons: James Lennon 3; Pens: James Lennon 2

HT: Old Wesley 21 UL Bohemians 21

Old Wesley joined second-placed UL Bohemians on 47 points after a pulsating 31-27 bonus point win over the Limerick side – centre David Poff grabbed his fifth try in four rounds via an intercept.

68 points, seven tries and a scoreline that chopped and changed throughout. There was never more than one score separating the teams at Donnybrook and the result was uncertain right until the final whistle. What a match.

Played in perfect conditions, Old Wesley had a dream start when influential out-half Tim Clifford broke through a couple of tackles to score a second minute try by the posts which he converted himself.

UL centre Harry Fleming hit back with his fourth try in as many games and as the searing pace of the game continued, Bohemians won a relieving penalty just as Wesley were poised to strike and then the hosts’ loosehead Ken Knaggs came up with a vital turnover at the other end.

A well-taken 24th-minute try from Wesley full-back Rory Stynes, who pinned his ears back to score following a well-placed pass from Josh Hinde, was sandwiched by two more converted efforts from Bohs, with out-half Robbie Bourke scoring off turnover ball and flanker Noel Kinnane soon following him over the whitewash.

However, the teams were level heading into the break, second row Michael Dunleavy charging over for Wesley’s third try after a well-constructed break off the back of a scrum. Clifford added his third successful conversion to make it 21-all.

The second period started in a more steady fashion with both sides looking to take their points. Bohs looked to be gaining the upper hand when goal-kicking scrum half James Lennon knocked over two successive penalties. Their swift backs were running the ball wide and starting to find some cracks in the home defence.

A Wesley lineout taken against the head had their supporters groaning, but moments later they were cheering as prolific try scorer Poff intercepted a midfield pass to sprint in from 40 metres out for a score which Clifford converted.

The Wesley number 10 them missed a relatively straightforward penalty attempt but minutes later was on target to extend the lead to 31-27. That proved to be the match-winning kick as Wesley survived a strong finish from Bohs, with both sides losing a back to the sin-bin for high and late tackles.

OLD WESLEY: Rory Stynes; Brendan Monahan, David Poff, Ger Finucane, Paul Harte; Tim Clifford, Adam Griggs; Ken Knaggs, Conor Maguire, James Burton, Michael Dunleavy, Iain McGann (capt), Josh Hinde, Stephen Boyle, Mark Rowley.

Replacements: David Rowley, David Henshaw, Darren Horan, Isaac Leota, Alan Large.

UL BOHEMIANS: Joe Murray; Colin Ryan, Finbar Aherne, Harry Fleming, Jamie McNamara; Robbie Bourke, James Lennon; Padraig Nesbitt, Joe Bennett, Mike Lynch, Ed Kelly, Daragh Frawley, Noel Kinnane, Ian Condell (capt), Brian Walsh.

Replacements: Peter King, James Ryan, Craig Trimble, Cian Aherne, Robert Hennessy.

SHANNON 30 BALLYNAHINCH 14, Thomond Park back pitch
Scorers: Shannon: Tries: Greg O’Shea, Conor Glynn, John Foley; Cons: Conor Fitzgerald 3; Pens: Conor Fitzgerald 3
Ballynahinch: Try: Davy Nicholson; Pens: Justin Rea 3

HT: Shannon 20 Ballynahinch 11

Current Ireland Under-20 internationals John Foley (try) and Conor Fitzgerald (three conversions and three penalties) played prominent roles in Shannon’s well-merited 30-14 success at home to Ballynahinch on Saturday.

Tom Hayes’ resurgent side are now seven points clear of the bottom two, while eighth-placed ‘Hinch, who had a first half try from winger Davy Nicholson, still have work to do in order to confirm their divisional status.

Ballynahinch could scarcely have made a better start, using an overlap out wide to send Nicholson over for his fifth try of the campaign after only three minutes. Out-half Justin Rea missed the conversion.

Fitzgerald and Rea swapped penalties after six and 10 minutes respectively – both awarded for offside – and the early scoring blitz continued from the restart as a superb bit of handling released prop Conor Glynn from near halfway and he evaded a number of tackles on his way to the whitewash.

A fantastic fourth league try from the front rower was converted by Fitzgerald to move Shannon in front (10-8), but ‘Hinch number 10 Rea punished another Shannon offside in the 23rd minute, this time from in front of the posts.

Shannon’s ability to turn pressure into points shone through again just two minutes later. Right winger Greg O’Shea blocked down a kick and forced a lineout in the ‘Hinch 22, strong carries from Foley and Niall Mulcahy got the hosts into scoring range, and then great hands unleashed O’Shea for a well-taken try converted by Fitzgerald.

It got worse for ‘Hinch as half-time approached. They had a player sin-binned for taking out Shannon scrum half Keith Kavanagh at a ruck five metres out and Fitzgerald knocked over the penalty for 20-11. A terrific cover tackle from Nathan Randles also denied the Ulstermen a late try.

‘Hinch had a decent third quarter, gaining noticeably more territory, and Rea split the posts after Shannon were guilty of not rolling away in the 53rd minute. However, that proved to be their last score as Hayes’ charges sealed the deal in the final quarter of an hour.

Former Munster winger Luke O’Dea made a very good impact off the bench – as did hooker Duncan Casey when he came on – and with Kavanagh drawing another penalty for interference, impressive youngster Fitzgerald nailed the difficult kick for a 23-14 scoreline.

Shannon had a couple of bites at the cherry late on, but their third try eventually came when a penalty was kicked to the corner and number 8 Foley was driven over from a well-executed maul. Fitzgerald drop-kicked the conversion through the posts to complete a fine day’s work for the Parish club.

SHANNON: Stephen Fitzgerald; Greg O’Shea, Robbie Deegan, Will Leonard, Nathan Randles; Conor Fitzgerald, Keith Kavanagh; Conor Glynn, Duncan Casey, John Andress, Riley Winter, Luke Moylan, Lee Nicholas (capt), Niall Mulcahy, John Foley.

Replacements: Jordan Prenderville, Tony Cusack, James Vaughan, Jack Stafford, Luke O’Dea.

BALLYNAHINCH: David Busby; Davy Nicholson, Jordan Grattan, Justin Rea, Aaron Cairns; Peter Nelson, Blane McIlroy; Jonny Blair, Andrew Harper, Craig Trenier, John Donnan, James Simpson, Callum Irvine, David McGuigan, Michael Graham (capt).

Replacements: Stuart Orr, Ben Pentland, Brian Howard, Paddy Wright, Ross Carlisle.