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Ulster Bank League: Division 2B Review

Ulster Bank League: Division 2B Review

Back-to-back wins have Wanderers and Old Crescent leading the charge at the top of Division 2B. Almost of the games were won by away teams over the weekend, City of Derry bucking the trend by winning their Ulster derby with Belfast Harlequins on home turf.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE DIVISION 2B: Saturday, September 23


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Skerries 27 Wanderers 34, Holmpatrick (played on Friday)
City of Derry 32 Belfast Harlequins 17, Judge’s Road
Navan 13 Rainey Old Boys 20, Balreask Old
Old Crescent 45 MU Barnhall 26, Rosbrien
Sunday’s Well 10 Dungannon 19, Irish Independent Park

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.

Skerries and Wanderers have a welcome habit of producing entertaining matches when they play each other and that trend continued under the Holmpatrick floodlights on Friday. The visitors were good value for their 34-27 bonus point win, but Skerries’ strong finish earned them two bonus points.

The Goats built a 12-8 half-time lead, scoring two tries and impressing at set piece time – Joe Glennon and Tom Mulvaney ensured a regular supply of lineout possession and heaped huge pressure on Wanderers’ throws. The breakthrough came on the quarter hour mark when, having turned down two kickable penalties, the ball was transferred quickly across to Michael Turvey who managed to crash over in the corner.

Wanderers, who had suffer an early sin-binning, brought it back to five points apiece before a loose kick straight to Skerries’ Eddie O’Mahony led to the hosts’ second try. Brilliant footwork from O’Mahony saw him evade four defenders on his kick return, and he offloaded for Dara Lowndes to finish off under the posts. Billy Mulcahy’s conversion was cancelled out by a booming penalty from halfway by Garret O Suilleabhain as Wanderers turned around four points in arrears.

Greg Lynch’s half-time words worked a treat, Wanderers building momentum with a try inside a minute of the restart. Geoff Mullan did the damage with a terrific break and quick hands from Eoin O’Shaughnessy put full-back O Suilleabhain over in the corner – 13-12.

Just when it seemed like Skerries had recovered from that setback, they were left to rue a decision to run a penalty. The ball went to ground and Wanderers centre Marty Ryan hacked on from halfway and touched down at the posts, stretching the visitors’ advantage to eight points.

With Wanderers’ big ball carriers in the pack and their speedy centres growing in influence, they registered their bonus point when prop Diarmuid Higgins powered over in the 53rd minute. Aided by fresh legs off the bench, Skerries replied with their third try of the night from Maurice McAuley – only for the Chaps to find a gap to go over in the corner again, giving themselves a double-scores lead (34-17).

However, Skerries still felt they could get something out of the game. With a spirited late surge, they forced Wanderers to concede a series of penalties and lose a second player to the bin in the 73rd minute. After some excellent ball retention, winger Paul Devitt duly touched down for the second week running, adding the conversion himself to put 10 points between the sides.

It was Devitt’s boot that claimed Skerries’ second bonus point, a try-scoring chance being foiled by a knock-on before play was called back for a penalty which Devitt sent through the posts to reward his side’s dogged push for a final score.

Meanwhile, City of Derry’s first league run-out at the newly-named Craig Thompson Stadium resulted in a 32-17 bonus point victory over Belfast Harlequins, who have fallen to the bottom of the table. Derry book-ended the first half with tries from half-backs Tyler Rogers-Holden and Neil Burns to lead 15-12.

Derry coaches Trevor Will and Ritchie McCarter got the backlash they wanted following last week’s 71-3 thrashing by Wanderers. Their young squad improved in a number of areas, particularly at the breakdown. New Zealander Rogers-Holden had a terrific full debut for the club, with his clever game management taking some of the pressure off Burns.

Burns’ intercept effort from halfway in the 52nd minute was followed by prop Ross Harkin’s bonus point try via Rogers-Holden’s tap-and-go, five minutes later. Derry’s fifth score in the 67th minute capped off a confidence-building performance against one of their Ulster rivals, with centre David Graham the man to touch down in the corner.

Harlequins had tries in each half from wingers Ben Stone and Christian Bennison, along with a penalty try from a five-metre scrum before the break. They led 17-15 early in the second period, however they were outplayed over the remainder of the game with Derry’s well-drilled defence frustrating them.

It was a ‘Derry double’ on Saturday as the men from Magherafelt, Rainey Old Boys, posted their first win of the campaign when overcoming Navan 20-13 at Balreask Old. New out-half Andrew Magrath was in inspired form, catching the eye in open play as well as kicking 10 crucial points in windy conditions.

First half tries from Paul Pritchard, who put in a tremendous shift up front, and Simon Crooks had Rainey leading 17-3 at the turnaround. Pritchard’s score came after strong running from John McCusker and Josh McIlroy, coupled with some slick distribution, had stretched the hosts’ defence.

Replacement Crooks crossed just three minutes later, Navan blundering from the restart and Rainey quickly returned to the 22, creating numbers on the right for Crooks to pick up a long, bouncing pass and dot down in the corner. 

In a high-quality contest, Navan fell short in their comeback bid despite seven-pointers from Shane Walshe and Bryan McKeever, the latter touching down from the back of a bulldozing 75th-minute scrum. Rainey only had 13 players on the pitch at that stage – back rower Pritchard and South African hooker Brad Roberts were both sin-binned – but they deservedly hung on with Navan eventually bundled into touch.

Having had a point to spare at Rainey last week, Old Crescent were far more convincing winners in round 2. Their free-scoring encounter with MU Barnhall at Rosbrien finished 45-26 in the hosts’ favour. Crescent centre Larry Hanly starred with a hat-trick of tries in the space of 29 first half minutes.

The Limerick men were on the cusp of a perfect opening 40 minutes, with tries from Hanly (3), Cathal O’Reilly, Brian Tuohy and Kevin Doyle and 40 points on the board. However, Barnhall notched a converted try just before the break and although the win was well beyond them, they battled hard to bag a try-scoring bonus point in the 77th minute.

Crescent, who are now second in the table after back-to-back successes, signed off with their seventh try of the day, scored by replacement Seaghan Gleeson with 10 minutes remaining. Player-coach Brendan Guilfoyle will take his charges on the road in round 3, travelling north to Dungannon who got back to winning ways thanks to a 19-10 defeat of Sunday’s Well.

‘Gannon fell behind to an early converted try from ‘Well flanker Conor O’Brien. The exchanges at Irish Independent Park were fast and furious, the visitors’ Kiwi number 8 Jonah Mau’u launching them forward from a tap penalty and after a few more phases, centre Paul Armstrong was freed up to touch down in the corner.

The Co. Tyrone outfit missed out on a second try when an attack sparked by Mau’u’s 50-metre run from an interception petered out. Indeed, Sunday’s Well closed out the first half 10-5 to the good, with out-half Shane O’Riordan successful with his third kick at goal in a swirling wind.

Conditions deteriorated in a rain-hit second half, with the ‘Well suffering the double whammy of a penalty try and a yellow card. That was their second sin-binning of the game, a tally Dungannon matched when prop Sean O’Hagan saw yellow as the penalty count against them increased.

Nonetheless, they settled the issue in injury-time when backs coach Seamus Mallon, who came on as a replacement on his return from injury, ran in an intercept try from 40 metres out, which fellow centre Chris Swash converted.


Skerries v Wanderers – Perfectlight/Voicu Duma
City of Derry v Belfast Harlequins – Desmond Loughery