Highfield suffered only their second defeat of the season, going down to fellow promotion chasers Nenagh Ormond in a memorable Munster derby, while Belfast Harlequins’ relegation was confirmed following their 32-17 loss at Sunday’s Well.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 2A: Saturday, March 25
ROUND 16 RESULTS –
Blackrock College 20 Banbridge 25, Stradbrook
Corinthians 24 Cashel 13, Corinthian Park
Malone 21 Queen’s University 18, Gibson Park
Nenagh Ormond 36 Highfield 24, New Ormond Park
Sunday’s Well 32 Belfast Harlequins 17, Irish Independent Park
Nenagh Ormond had the greater clinical edge in a high-scoring Munster derby that was full of attacking intent and entertaining rugby. Derek Corcoran scored two of their four tries in a memorable 36-24 bonus point win over Highfield.
The sides have swapped places in the table, with Nenagh now second on 50 points and Highfield in third on 49. Both have games in hand this weekend as they try to make up the gap on leaders Banbridge (55 points).
Nenagh recovered well from the concession of an early Kevin Foyle try, with out-half Clayton Stewart booting four penalties to add to the hosts’ two first half tries for a 24-10 half-time lead. Darragh Hassey and Willie Coffey scored a try apiece for the Tipperary men, with New Zealander Stewart finishing with a 16-point kicking haul.
Highfield hung in there courtesy of second half tries from Luke Kingston and Derek Houlihan, and captain Paddy O’Toole supplied their other nine points off the tee. Tim Ryan’s charges will be looking to bounce back in Friday night’s derby clash with Sunday’s Well at Irish Independent Park.
The ‘Well banished bottom side Belfast Harlequins to Division 2B – their second relegation in as many years – with a 32-17 beating in Cork. Greg Higgins, John Moynihan, Conor O’Brien, Kieran Stokes and Eoin Geary shared out the tries for Robbie Doyle’s men.
Malone, who are away to Nenagh this coming Saturday, won a nip-and-tuck Belfast derby as they overcame Queen’s 21-18 to stay on course for the promotion play-offs. Watched by a big crowd at Gibson Park, winger Mark O’Connor was Malone’s hero, scoring a first half try and decisively splitting the posts with the last kick of the game.
Banbridge remain the team to catch at the summit after they got the better of Blackrock on a 25-20 scoreline at sunny Stradbrook. Bann came good in the second half, running in three tries to move out of ‘Rock’s reach.
David Scott-Lennon and Andrew Magrath swapped penalties as the sides turned around at 3-all, but with Banbridge’s scrum continuing to force penalty decisions, it gave them the platform to go on and claim their 11th victory of the campaign.
A second Magrath penalty was followed by back-to-back tries, Bann hooker Peter Cromie crossing out wide following some impressive footwork from the front rower, and then full-back Adam Doherty swerved past two would-be tacklers for the second touchdown and an 18-3 lead.
An excellent score from replacement Brian Colclough, who broke through a gap and backed his pace from halfway, saw Blackrock hit back somewhat against the run of play, however Bann quickly wrestled back control as Peter Crombie dotted down for the second time, his brother Michael winning the turnover which set up a potent attack that also included a fine 30-metre burst from Adam Ervine.
Magrath added the extras to make it 25-8 with 10 minutes left on the clock. Credit to the home side, they scrapped their way to a late losing bonus point which has moved them back up to sixth in the standings. They notched two closing tries, including one from lock Gary Fenn, however tempers flared in the dying minutes and there was a red card apiece.
Bann head coach Daniel Soper told the club website: “It was a disappointing last ten minutes. We wanted to go on and get the bonus point, but we didn’t control the play in the manner we can and that created pressure on us. But to come home from Blackrock with four points is a good result.
“We have two games left (against Queen’s and Sunday’s Well) and everything is in our hands now. We just need to focus on our own performances, get the wins and hopefully the bonus points.”
Meanwhile, Corinthians won for the first time in four rounds to boost their chances of climbing out of the relegation play-off spot come mid-April. Replacement Simon Keller scored Corinthians’ third try of the second half as they accounted for Cashel (24-13) at Corinthian Park.
Disappointingly for both Corinthians and Connacht, young flanker James Connolly sustained a hamstring injury during the game which will keep him out for four weeks. The Galway club host Queen’s this Saturday in a rescheduled fixture.