Thomond will be playing in Division 2C next season after City of Derry’s 27-14 win at Liam Fitzgerald Park condemned the Soda Cakes to relegation. At the business end of the table, Greystones picked up their ninth try-scoring bonus point of the campaign to stay top of the pile.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 2B: Saturday, March 25
ROUND 16 RESULTS –
Skerries 7 MU Barnhall 14, Holmpatrick (played on Friday)
Armagh 24 Dungannon 16, Palace Grounds
Greystones 34 Bective Rangers 28, Dr. Hickey Park
Thomond 14 City of Derry 27, Liam Fitzgerald Park
Wanderers 19 Old Crescent 9, Aviva Stadium back pitch
Inspired by early tries from Diarmuid and Pat Ryan, Thomond put up a brave fight but City of Derry proved too strong in Saturday’s clash in Limerick. Trailing 14-3 at one stage, Derry recovered with tries from Jack Beatty and Jason Bloomfield to lead 17-14 by half-time.
Richard McCarter’s men did not look back after that, Matthew Kilgore’s 44th-minute try widening the margin before former Dungannon scrum half Bloomfield completed his brace on the hour mark to seal the bonus point at 27-14. Richard Baird and Bloomfield were subsequently sin-binned, but the home side could not add to their tally late on.
Round 16 kicked off on Friday night with MU Barnhall winning their Leinster derby against Skerries, 14-7. It was an important win for the Blue Bulls who remain in contention for a top four finish – they are now within four points of fourth-placed Old Crescent with two rounds remaining.
A converted try from Brendan McSorley via a quick tap penalty saw Barnhall draw level with Skerries just before half-time at Holmpatrick, cancelling out an earlier seven-pointer from Skerries captain Ross McAuley who had profited from turnover ball at a five-metre scrum.
Farrell McManus added the second try as the visitors, who ended the game with three Under-20 players on the pitch. It was a tight but deserved victory for the Kildare men who missed out on two other clear-cut opportunities for tries, while Skerries were pinned back in their own half for the final 30 minutes.
The division’s top three teams – Greystones, Armagh and Wanderers – all won on home soil on Saturday afternoon, with only leaders ‘Stones able to pick up a try-scoring bonus point. They were 34-28 winners over a determined Bective side who bagged two bonus points.
That two-point haul could prove crucial for second-from-bottom Bective as they try to climb out of the relegation play-off spot in the coming weeks. They showed immense fighting spirit to score the game’s final two tries at Dr. Hickey Park, with the last one arriving in the 83rd minute.
Greystones’ efforts on the day, which included Jack Keating’s first half brace and touchdowns from Mike Lea, Robin O’Sullivan and Con Callan, saw them lift the Ciaran Murphy/Joe Nolan trophy on the 20th anniversary of this memorial to two great stalwarts of both clubs.
The Co. Wicklow side’s next assignment is a trip to third-placed Wanderers on Saturday, April 8. The headquarters club booked their place in the promotion play-offs with a 19-9 dismissal of Old Crescent, stretching ahead thanks to lock Tom Walsh’s early try and four well-struck penalties from Garret O’Suilleabhain.
Meanwhile, Armagh continue to be Dungannon’s bogey team after they suffered their fourth defeat of the season to Alex McCloy’s charges. The hosts triumphed 24-16 in front of a large crowd at the Palace Grounds, extending their winning run to five games in the process.
Armagh left a few early scoring chances behind them, out-half Harvey Young pushing a penalty wide, a maul opportunity going a-begging and then a knock-on near the try-line letting Dungannon off the hook.
Young was back on target in the 14th minute and soon it was Dungannon’s turn to press, wily back Paul Armstrong threatening from a chip and chase before number 10 Tianua Poto levelled matters with a 27th minute penalty.
The Armagh backs upped the ante in attack, winger Andrew Willis and returning full-back Tim McNeice in particular, but it was the forwards who made the breakthrough five minutes before half-time. Captain Ali Birch was the fore in a strong spell of carrying close in, and James Hanna duly drove over for the opening try which Young converted from in front of the posts.
10-3 is how it stayed up to the interval despite some further pressure from the fired-up home side. A maul infringement saw Dungannon number 8 and skipper James McMahon sin-binned, but just as prop Daryl Morton was poised to strike, the ball was spilled and the chance was lost.
A crisp strike from Poto, 35 metres out, closed the gap for ‘Gannon who had centre Armstrong to thank for intercepting a pass, breaking up an Armagh attack and bringing his team back up to halfway.
A scrappy spell was broken up by two quick-fire tries with a quarter of an hour remaining. A well-constructed Dungannon try, finished off by scrum half Gerard Treanor, was followed by Armagh’s second seven-pointer which saw Harry Doyle cross from a quick tap penalty.
Poto stepped up to land another penalty, making it a one-point game (17-16) and setting up a grandstand finish, before the fast-breaking Willis blew an opportunity when throwing a forward pass. Yet, the Armagh pack came up trumps again with Birch going close from a five-metre scrum before the supporting James Morton made it over the line for Young to convert.
Now leading 24-16, Armagh pushed for a bonus point score and forced an increasingly desperate Dungannon into conceding three penalties. Birch had one final try-scoring chance but the former Ulster player was bundled into touch near the corner flag.