Fionn Higgins and Michael Skelton scored two tries apiece as Naas pocketed maximum points in a 30-20 away win over Division 1B rivals Dolphin – moving immediately to the top of the table.
DOLPHIN 20 NAAS 30, Irish Independent Park
Scorers: Dolphin: Tries: Brian Scott 2; Cons: Barry Keeshan 2; Pens: Barry Keeshan 2
Naas: Tries: Fionn Higgins 2, Michael Skelton 2; Cons: Johne Murphy 2; Pens: Johne Murphy 2
HT: Dolphin 10 Naas 10
Dolphin preserved their second tier status last season with a six-match winning run in the final weeks, masterminded by players-turned-coaches Chris Rowe and Barry Keeshan.
Keeshan took his league points-scoring record to 1620 points last April and added ten more points today, as he began another season in the Dolphin number 10 jersey.
Lining out opposite him was Naas player-coach Johne Murphy, who made the move from centre to out-half for the league opener. He converted lively winger Fionn Higgins’ early try to give the visitors a seven-point lead.
The teams were level by half-time, Munster Academy graduate Brian Scott bulldozing over for a try before Murphy and Keeshan swapped penalties for a 10-10 scoreline.
Naas was the aggressors in the third quarter, their 30-year-old full-back Michael Skelton – one of a number of players who have improved their game on Murphy’s watch – notching a brace of tries, one of which Murphy converted.
Keeshan clawed back three points in between, but crucial daylight had opened between the sides at 22-13. Dolphin did manage to get back within seven points, prop Scott doubling up to cancel out Higgins’ own second score, but Murphy, returning to one of his old Munster stomping grounds, had the final say with a clinching penalty, four minutes from time.
DOLPHIN: Olan Crowley; Alan O’Sullivan, Cian McGovern, Ian O’Donoghue, Killian O’Keeffe; Barry Keeshan (capt), Daryl Foley; James Rochford, Liam Walsh, Brian Scott, Rob O’Herlihy, Dave O’Mahony, Alex Denby, James Vaughan, Barry Fitzgerald.
Replacements: Darren Collins, John Leahy, Anthony Mason, Dave Byrne, Kevin O’Leary, Cathal Walsh, Sam Kennedy, Cameron O’Shaughnessy, Peter Hyde.
NAAS: Michael Skelton; Fionn Higgins, Donal Droney, Ross Bailey-Kearney, Peter Howard; Johne Murphy, Max Whittingham; Stephen Lackey, Graham Reynolds, Jason Harney, Philip Jordan, Stephen Kinneavy, Andrew Kearney, Will O’Brien (capt), Paulie Tolofua.
Replacements: Shane Reilly, Charlie Kings, Paul Monahan, Cathal Murtagh, Shane Thompstone.
OLD BELVEDERE 13 BALLYNAHINCH 6, Anglesea Road
Scorers: Old Belvedere: Try: Pat Hughes; Con: Tim Foley; Pens: Tim Foley 2
Ballynahinch: Pens: Tim Cossens 2
HT: Old Belvedere 3 Ballynahinch 3
Eddie O’Sullivan chalked up win number one of his spell as Old Belvedere head coach as they began the long road back from relegation with an encouraging 13-6 success against Ballynahinch.
O’Sullivan, who has taken over at ‘Belvo from Paul Cunningham, enjoyed a battle of wits with his old coaching colleague Brian McLaughlin, who served under O’Sullivan as Ireland skills coach between 2005 and 2008.
McLaughlin has been brought in as coaching consultant at Ballynahinch, heading up a management team which also includes English player/backs coach Tom Rock who started at centre this afternoon.
There was a fresh look to both starting XVs at Anglesea Road, the Belvedere pack including their new forwards coach Fergal ‘Stretch’ Walsh, the former Shannon and Terenure lock, and flanker Pierce Dargan who has signed from Trinity.
Ireland Under-20 international Jack Regan, who has joined the Ulster Academy, was among the ‘Hinch newcomers. Their New Zealand import Tim Cossens kicked them into a third-minute lead off the tee.
Tim Foley’s 18th-minute penalty levelled matters for Belvedere for half-time, ‘Hinch managing to survive debutant flanker Ollie Loughead’s sin-bin period without conceding a score.
With the rain making handling difficult, the breakthrough eventually came for O’Sullivan’s charges in the 68th minute when out-half Pat Hughes slipped through to score a seven-pointer.
Foley increased his influence by firing over the conversion and then adding a penalty just a couple of minutes later. Cossens’ second penalty ensured ‘Hinch came home with a losing bonus point, which could prove valuable in the long run.
OLD BELVEDERE: Daniel Riordan; Shane McDonald, Tim Foley, Tom Moloney, Eddie Weaver; Pat Hughes, Ian Vance; Adam Howard, Ed Rossiter (capt), Declan Lavery, Connor Owende, Fergal Walsh, Karl Miller, Pierce Dargan, Dave Sherry.
Replacements: Andrew McGrath, James McWilliams-Gray, Tony McGuinness, Aaron Sheehan, Robert Cruess Callaghan.
BALLYNAHINCH: Paddy Wright; Richard Reaney, Callum McLaughlin, Tom Rock, David Busby; Tim Cossens, Aaron Cairns (capt); Campbell Classon, Zack McCall, Jonny Simpson, John Donnan, Jack Regan, Zac Ward, Ollie Loughead, Gareth Gill.
Replacements: Conor Piper, Zac Cinnamond, Conall Boomer, Rhys O’Donnell, Stuart Morrow.
OLD WESLEY 18 BALLYMENA 21, Donnybrook
Scorers: Old Wesley: Tries: Josh Pim, Eoghan O’Reilly; Con: Josh Miller; Pens: Josh Miller, Jack Maybury
Ballymena: Tries: Callum Patterson, Rodger McBurney; Con: Brett Herron; Pens: Brett Herron 3
HT: Old Wesley 15 Ballymena 3
It was a tale of two halves at Donnybrook where Ulster’s Callum Patterson and Brett Herron inspired Ballymena’s 21-18 comeback victory over hosts Old Wesley.
The Braidmen had a good deal of ground to make up when trailing 15-3 at half-time, with Wesley’s two tries scored by Josh Pim and ex-Buccaneers winger Eoghan O’Reilly. Kilkenny College and Leinster Under-19 out-half Josh Miller supplied the other five points from the tee.
Ballymena, who had Argentinian prop Nacho Cladera Crespo making his league debut, enjoyed a real purple patch in the third quarter, kick-started by a 41st-minute try from Patterson who had passed a late fitness test to start.
Strong-carrying full-back Rodger McBurney could not be stopped in the 55th minute, bringing Andy Graham’s men level before a Herron penalty put them in front on the hour mark. In a tense finale, there were no further tries but Ballymena ultimately kept hold of their three-point advantage as another Herron kick in the 75th minute – cancelling out a Jack Maybury penalty six minutes earlier – got them over the finish line.
OLD WESLEY: Rory Stynes; Eoghan O’Reilly, David Poff, Cillian Monaghan, Richie Jermyn; Josh Miller, Adam Kennedy; Cronan Gleeson, David Rowley, James Burton, Donnachadh Phelan, Josh Hinde, Johnny O’Sullivan, Josh Pim, Darren Horan (capt).
Replacements: Conor Maguire, Ryan Healy, Mark Robinson, Matthew Bursey, Jack Maybury.
BALLYMENA: Rodger McBurney; Matthew Norris, Callum Patterson, Alan Smyth, Jonny Rosborough; Brett Herron, Glenn Baillie; Nacho Cladera Crespo, Adam McBurney, Chris Cundell, David Whann, Connor Smyth, Stephen Mulholland, Willie McKay, Adrian Hamilton.
Replacements: Tim Savoury, Josh Bill, Mark Foster, Darrell Montgomery, Dean Reynolds.
UCC 16 SHANNON 20, the Mardyke
Scorers: UCC: Try: Murray Linn; Con: James Taylor; Pens: James Taylor 3
Shannon: Tries: Penalty try, Tony Cusack; Cons: Penalty try con, Conor Fitzgerald; Pens: Conor Fitzgerald 2
HT: UCC 6 Shannon 6
Prop Tony Cusack’s 76th-minute try saw Shannon overhaul UCC in an entertaining early season Munster derby at the Mardyke.
Tom Hayes is beginning his first full season in charge of Shannon, who today welcomed back flanker Kelvin Brown from a spell in France with Aurillac, while full-back Stephen Fitzgerald spent the summer months Down Under, playing for Bond University.
Brian Walsh’s UCC side were boosted by recently-retired Munster centre Cian Bohane and promising scrum half John Poland, who was a Division 1A title winner with Cork Constitution in May.
Poland’s new half-back partner James Taylor opened the scoring in the third minute, before Fitzgerald’s younger brother, out-half Conor, clipped over two penalties in response – his second, in the 23rd minute, coming after Brown was high-tackled.
The Shannon stand-off suffered his first penalty miss after UCC had a player sin-binned, but the students finished the first half strongly with Poland making a sniping break either side of some set piece pressure. Offside from a lineout enabled Taylor to kick the hosts level for half-time – 6-6.
Taylor then punished Shannon for not rolling away, restoring UCC’s lead in the 46th minute with winger James Kiernan increasing his threat out wide.
It was advantage Shannon entering the final quarter, though. UCC suffered a second sin-binning – this time for a deliberate knock-on – and a subsequent maul infringement, with Shannon advancing towards the try-line, saw a penalty try awarded with 53 minutes on the clock.
Good defence of a Shannon maul, coupled with a well-won scrum penalty, provided the platform for UCC to hit back, a crisp move sending centre Murray Linn over for a converted try.
This fast-paced encounter was still evenly balanced entering the closing stages. Leading 16-13, the home side thwarted another Shannon maul before Cusack emerged as the visitors’ match winner, driving hard to the line after an excellent run from fellow prop Conor Glynn. Fitzgerald converted and Hayes’ young outfit showed impressive composure to see out a tight result.
UCC: Shane McAuliffe; Kevin Slater, Cian Bohane, Murray Linn, James Kiernan; James Taylor, John Poland; Shane O’Hanlon, Michael Shinkwin, Robert O’Donovan, Cian Barry, Darragh Moloney, Graham Smith, Daire Feeney, Ryan Murphy.
Replacements: Tadhg McCarthy, Charlie Slowey, Brian O’Mahony, Richard Walsh, Alex Molloy.
SHANNON: Stephen Fitzgerald; Nathan Randles, Pa Ryan, Will Leonard, Darren Gavin; Conor Fitzgerald, Jack Stafford; Conor Glynn, Adam Moloney, Tony Cusack, Ronan Coffey, Sean McCarthy, Charlie Carmody, Kelvin Brown, Lee Nicholas (capt).
Replacements: Ty Chan, James Hurley, Luke Moylan, Fionn McGibney, Jack O’Donnell.
UL BOHEMIANS 13 BANBRIDGE 20, University of Limerick 4G pitch
Scorers: UL Bohemians: Try: Ed Kelly; Con: Robbie Bourke; Pens: Robbie Bourke 2
Banbridge: Tries: Ian Porter, Tom Caesar; Cons: Ian Porter 2; Pens: Ian Porter 2
HT: UL Bohemians 13 Banbridge 7
Newly-promoted Banbridge opened their win account at the first attempt in Division 1B, as Tom Caesar’s last-minute try saw them beat UL Bohemians 20-13 in a dramatic finish.
A rousing rendition of ‘Star of the County Down’ was heard coming from Banbridge’s dressing room at the UL North Campus after winger Caesar had crossed in the very final play.
Scrum half and captain Ian Porter converted to complete his own 15-point haul, while he also marshalled a Bann pack which contained four players making their league debuts for the club – Eric O’Sullivan, Ireland Sevens international Nick Timoney, Caleb Montgomery and Nick Hayes.
Strong spells at the start and finish of the opening half had UL Bohs leading 13-7 at the turnaround. Experienced lock Ed Kelly touched down in the eighth minute, and the ever-dependable Robbie Bourke kicked penalties after 27 and 38 minutes to add to his conversion.
The Ulster and Connacht-capped Porter slipped through for Bann’s opening try, which he converted himself, and his 46th minute penalty left only a score between them.
Further indiscipline from Christy Neilan’s men was punished by Porter six minutes later, squaring things up at 13-all and setting up an exciting final half hour.
It looked like there might be no winner on the 4G pitch until Caesar was sent over out wide, with the ever-precise Porter adding the conversion for good measure. So, a brilliant start to the campaign for Daniel Soper’s squad, while Neilan’s Bohs will be itching to bounce back next Saturday when they visit round 1 leaders Naas.
UL BOHEMIANS: Jack Murray; Colin Ryan Finbar Aherne, Harry Fleming, Adrian Enright; Robbie Bourke, Joe Murray; Joey Conway, David O’Connor, Mike Lynch, Daragh Frawley, Ed Kelly, James Ryan, Ian Condell (capt), Noel Kinnane.
Replacements: Padraig Nesbitt, Joe Bennett, Sean English, Brian Walsh, Mike Mullally.
BANBRIDGE: Rob Lyttle; Andrew Kirkwood, Andrew Morrison, Jonny Little, Tom Caesar; Adam Doherty, Ian Porter (capt); Eric O’Sullivan, Peter Cromie, Michael Cromie, Christopher Allen, Robin Sinton, Nick Timoney, Caleb Montgomery, Stephen Irvine.
Replacements: Joe Weir, Stuart Crombie, Nick Hayes, Jason Gribbon, Ben Carson.