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Ulster Bank League: Division 2B Review

Ulster Bank League: Division 2B Review

Wanderers overwhelmed City of Derry as their landslide 71-3 victory on the Aviva Stadium’s main pitch propelled them straight to the top of Division 2B. Meanwhile, Navan, Skerries and Old Crescent all showed their mettle by winning tight games on the road.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE DIVISION 2B: Saturday, September 16

ROUND 1 RESULTS –

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Belfast Harlequins 17 Navan 26, Deramore Park
Dungannon 27 Skerries 29, Stevenson Park
MU Barnhall 11 Sunday’s Well 6, Parsonstown
Rainey Old Boys 21 Old Crescent 22, Hatrick Park
Wanderers 71 City of Derry 3, Aviva Stadium main pitch

This season sees the introduction of the #UBLTry of the Month award with a prize of 250 euro for each monthly winner and entry into the Try of the Year award.

All four Ulster clubs lost on the opening day, with reigning Division 2C champions Navan ensuring a losing start for new Belfast Harlequins head coach Nick Wells. In damp conditions at Deramore Park, the Meath men triumphed 26-17 thanks to three closing penalties from Ray Moloney.

The momentum was behind Harlequins when they battled back to square things up at 17-all, entering the final quarter. But, with Moloney in dead-eye form, the hosts lost their discipline and ended the game down to 13 men. Captain Danny Annett’s 78th-minute yellow card was followed by a red for centre Mark Gribben who was dismissed for going in with his knee.

Sean Vodden sliced through the Harlequins defence to score Navan’s second try in the 11th minute as they burst out of the blocks. Trailing 14-7 at the break, a terrific team move culminated in a try from full-back Mark Glover and out-half Paul Kerr kicked a penalty as ‘Quins levelled matters at 17-all on the hour mark.

However, Kerr was disappointed to miss three of his six attempts at goal. Those missed chances, coupled with ‘Quins indiscipline, allowed Navan to edge back in front thanks to penalties after 69, 75 and 77 minutes from the surefooted Moloney, who is also the squad’s backs coach.

Place-kicking was an issue too for Dungannon as they went down 29-27 to Skerries in their first round clash. Andy Hughes’ charges outscored the Dubliners by five tries to four but missed four conversions, ending up with two bonus points to show for their efforts.

Their South African out-half Duran Krummeck got over in the corner for a 10th minute try which he could not convert, before Skerries centre and newly-appointed captain Mikey Sherlock replied with a 23rd minute score converted by Billy Mulcahy.

Just when it seemed like ‘Gannon would work a left wing overlap into a try, an excellent intercept effort from winger Paul Devitt saw him blast clear for a second Skerries try on the half hour mark. Another seven-pointer followed for the Dubliners before half-time, centre Lorcan Jones getting on the scoresheet with Mulcahy supplying his third conversion for a 21-5 scoreline.

The Skerries defence also stood firm nearing the interval, twice thwarting ‘Gannon with turnovers after a couple of penalties had been kicked to the corner. The Goats came under further pressure on the resumption, enduring a yellow card and leaking a try to ‘Gannon winger Mervyn Brown out wide.

Mulcahy appeared to steady the ship with a penalty at 24-10, but the home side gradually got back within striking distance. The margin was down to just two points in the 73rd minute after number 8 Jonah Mau’u and winger Matthew Montgomery bagged back-to-back tries. Paul Armstrong added one conversion.

Crucially, with neither side able to convert subsequent tries from Skerries’ Rory Woods (78 minutes) and Dungannon winger Brown (80), it was the Goats who hung on to take the spoils at the end of a very entertaining 56-point encounter.

Skerries will host round 1 leaders Wanderers next Friday, with Greg Lynch’s side travelling to Holmpatrick after dismantling Derry 71-3 at the home of Irish Rugby. There was an avalanche of tries at the Aviva as Wanderers claimed their bonus point within 18 minutes and had seven tries on the board by half-time, leading 52-0.

Derry’s Kiwi scrum half Tyler Rogers-Holden came off the bench to improve the visitors’ play, but Derry, who are now coached by New Zealander Trevor Will, are still without a number of regulars. Wanderers tagged on three more tries by the finish, while Derry’s only response was a 66th minute penalty from out-half Neil Burns. They will have to regroup quickly for next Saturday’s Ulster derby against Harlequins.

Winger Conor Lacey put the finishing touches to a superb team try as MU Barnhall saw off the challenge of Sunday’s Well, claiming a 11-6 verdict at Parsonstown. Centre Barry Hill’s jinking run from near halfway brought the Blues Bulls into scoring range, and although replacement Simon Gillespie was well-tackled, he managed to regather possession and link with Darren Hudson who sent Lacey diving over in the right corner.

Old Crescent overcame a tough Rainey outfit and miserably wet conditions to register a hard-fought 22-21 win at Hatrick Park. Converted tries from Cathal O’Reilly (17 minutes) and Shane Mullally (30) gave the Limerick men a 14-9 half-time lead, with Sean Monaghan’s 60th-minute try and a Ronan McKenna penalty completing their scoring haul.

However, luck was most definitely on Crescent’s side when Andrew Magrath’s conversion of a late Rainey try – scored by full-back Oisin Quinn – bounced back off a post. It was a gutsy fight-back from John Andrews’ men who were 10 points down at the start of the final quarter. They are on their travels in round 2 to Navan, their top-three rivals from Division 2C last season.