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Ulster Bank League: Division 2C Review

Ulster Bank League: Division 2C Review

Sligo are the only team with a 100% record in Division 2C after just two rounds. Ross Mannion’s men brought newcomers Malahide back down to earth with a 36-14 defeat on Saturday, while Omagh and Midleton’s action-packed 29-29 draw saw both sides remain unbeaten and near the top of the table.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE DIVISION 2C: Saturday, September 23


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Omagh 29 Midleton 29, Thomas Mellon Playing Fields
Seapoint 12 Bangor 8, Kilbogget Park
Sligo 36 Malahide 14, Hamilton Park
Tullamore 20 Thomond 27, Spollanstown
Bective Rangers 21 Bruff 33, Donnybrook

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.

Seapoint made the most of their scoring chances against Bangor to secure their first win of the campaign. Eric Miller’s young side began their home series of games with a 12-8 victory over the Ulstermen, their tries coming from hooker Brian Lyons and lock Brian Duggan.

Bangor elected to play with the wind in the first half and after the hosts missed a second-minute penalty, the Seasiders’ powerful scrum set up a 10th minute opportunity from halfway but Nathan Graham’s kick just drifted wide.

Approaching the half hour mark, Seapoint took the lead when Lyons barged over at the end of an abrasive set of phases from the home pack. Conor O’Reilly did really well to add the extras into the strong wind. Bangor wasted little time in responding, Lewis Stevenson winning possession back and feeding out-half Lewis Bret who showed impressive strength to wrestle his way over near the left corner flag.

Graham felt his conversion effort had gone over but the touch judges’ flags stayed down. Bangor were also falling foul of referee George Finn’s whistle, with a number of offside calls and then David Bradford was sin-binned for a shoulder-led tackle. The visitors’ ire grew as they felt a similar challenge by Seapoint, a few minutes later, went unpunished.

Jason Morgan’s men knuckled down and a superb penalty from Graham, who split the posts from near halfway, gave them a 8-7 lead to take into half-time. It might have been more but a long pass was caught by the wind and went into touch, ruining a promising late attack.

Bangor resumed on the front foot, their pack rumbling into scoring range and Stevenson was driven over the line – only for the referee to rule that the former Ulster and Connacht lock had been held up. Seapoint managed to win a penalty off the resulting scrum and clear their lines.

That combination of indiscipline and missed opportunities continued to blight Bangor’s play. Ross McCloskey saw yellow for tackling in an offside position, and although the visitors defended smartly for the next few minutes, Seapoint’s persistence was rewarded when they created an overlap on the right and some timely passing played in Duggan for an unconverted try.

Now 12-8 behind but with a whole quarter left to play, Bangor still had plenty of time to conjure up with a match-winning try. Their radar was still just a little off, though, with a foot in touch denying Bradford after an initial break from David Charles. Seapoint were pinned back in the closing stages, but their will to win was obvious as they defended for their lives and determinedly held onto the four match points.

Bruff erased an early eight-point deficit to win their Saturday night clash with Bective Rangers. Tries from John Clery and Dave Horan saw the visitors nip into a 12-11 half-time lead at Donnybrook, and Conor Fitzpatrick and Tony Cahill touched down to seal the bonus point approaching the hour mark. Two Bruff yellow cards allowed Bective to hit back, making it a five-point game, but a late Maghnus Collins try confirmed a hard-fought 33-21 win for the Limerick men.

Thomond were also celebrating after they took the spoils against Tullamore, winning 27-20 at Spollanstown and taking home five valuable points. It is a very significant result for the Limerick club and the new James Hickey-led management team, as the Soda Cakes’ last away win in the league was back in March 2015 at Bective.

Hat-trick hero Ger Finucane and flying winger Darragh O’Neill, who bagged a brace of tries, scored Thomond’s five tries between them, a couple of quick taps in the first half catching the home defence off guard and helping the visitors lead 12-6 at the break. In very windy conditions, the in-form Finucane and O’Neill’s finishing prowess propelled Hickey’s charges into a 21-point lead with three unconverted tries in the third quarter.

Eamonn Bracken, brother of former Connacht and Ireland ‘A’ prop Peter Bracken, crossed for the Tulliers’ first try while Thomond had a man in the sin-bin, and they showed plenty of fighting spirit with Tom Gilligan adding a late seven-pointer. However, Thomond had done enough to end their long await for a winning performance on their travels.

Meanwhile, on a blustery afternoon at the Thomas Mellon Playing Fields, visitors Midleton were the happier team after striking late to draw 29-all with Omagh. Talented out-half Stuart Lee converted his own try in injury-time to bring the Corkmen level for the final time.

The Accies were left kicking themselves after failing to hold onto two 12-point leads at different stages in the second half. Phil Marshall’s side started in brilliant fashion, bagging two unconverted tries inside the opening 10 minutes.

Left winger Neil Brown scored a brilliant solo try, linking with returning full-back Lee Warnock on the counter to dart down the line, throw a dummy and outpace the cover defence all the way to the whitewash. The third member of the Omagh back-three, Ryan Mitchell, added try number two, scooping up a well-weighted grubber from Brown to dive over. Scott Elliott missed both conversions in a tricky wind.

However, the unfortunate Warnock had to go off with a knee injury five minutes before half-time, at which Midleton were on the scoreboard and pressing for a first try. Lee rewarded his forwards with three points but a try-scoring chance went a-begging and Lee was off target with a kickable penalty near the interval.

Omagh turned a 10-3 lead into 17-3 thanks to an early second half try from scrum half and captain Stewart McCain. Good work in the lineout from Adam Longwell preceded a purposeful break from centre Scott Barr, and Elliott passed for the looping McCain to go over out wide. Elliott also added the extras from a tight angle.

Lee did likewise in converting Louis Farnham’s try as Midleton closed the gap back to seven points, their more experienced and heavier pack setting up phase after phase of attack off a five-metre scrum. Eventually, there were numbers out wide for the replacement winger to touch down.

The tries kept coming, Omagh opening up a 22-10 advantage just as the game entered the final quarter. Midleton flanker Michael Cronin was sin-binned for a tackle without the ball, and having taken the scrum option, the Accies teed up the onrushing Brown who used his pace and power to complete his brace and register the hosts’ bonus point.

Although a stolen lineout and subsequent drive saw Midleton number 8 Sean White crash over at the other end, with Lee again converting, Omagh were within touching distance of the win after Mitchell gathered up a loose ball and dotted down – credit to flanker Longwell for a terrific initial break down the blindside – and Elliott converted to make it 29-17 with just 10 minutes remaining.

Showing immense resolve and battling qualities, John O’Neill’s Midleton team won turnover ball before White notched his second try from close range in the 74th minute. Lee was unable to convert but with Omagh hooker Adam Pollock in the sin-bin, the Midleton forwards pummelled the hosts’ defensive line as the clock ticked down before the talismanic Lee sniped over and added the crucial two points.

Giving his reaction afterwards, Omagh head coach Marshall told the club website: “I’m both delighted and somewhat disappointed. Very happy with five well-worked tries, some excellent defending, really efficient set piece and exciting attacking.

“I have said all along that this year will be a massive learning curve for us and we need to close games out, and to concentrate for the full 80 minutes, but we are showing we are worthy of our place in this league and three points isn’t a bad haul.”

Malahide’s first away trip ended in a 36-14 loss to Sligo at Hamilton Park, first half tries from backs Hugo Nolan and Rory Kavanagh keeping them in it at 19-14 until the home side took control with the wind behind them. Number 8 Matthew Cosgrove shone for the new leaders with a two-try salvo, while wingers Philip Carter and Calum Goddard and centre Mark Rooney also touched down.


Omagh v Midleton – Sandra Armstrong Photography
Seapoint v Bangor – Bangor RFC