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Ulster Bank League: Division 2A Review

Ulster Bank League: Division 2A Review

There were some surprise results in Division 2A last Saturday with leaders Malone the only home club to chalk up a win. Cashel moved into the top four thanks to a 27-13 victory at Blackrock College, while Corinthians and Nenagh Ormond also recovered from first round defeats to win on the road.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE DIVISION 2A: Saturday, September 23


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Blackrock College 13 Cashel 27, Stradbrook
Galwegians 10 City of Armagh 26, Crowley Park
Greystones 23 Corinthians 28, Dr. Hickey Park
Malone 21 Highfield 14, Gibson Park
Queen’s University 31 Nenagh Ormond 37, Dub Lane

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.

A first half penalty try set Cashel on their way to a well-judged 27-13 win at Blackrock College. There was much to admire about the visitors’ performance, which was topped off by winger Richard Kingston’s bonus point score four minutes from the end.

Denis Leamy’s charges, who were narrow losers at Galwegians, quickly established dominance in the scrum. Two powerful surges sent Blackrock backwards and the Cashel pack’s reward was a seventh-minute penalty try. Peter Quirke landed two penalties for ‘Rock in response, the out-half making the break which led to the first one in the 10th minute, while his 19th minute kick made it a one-point game.

Quirke’s opposite number Darragh Lyons had to go off for a blood injury, so Brian Fitzpatrick took on the kicking duties for Cashel and was successful with a penalty attempt to give the Tipperary men a 10-6 advantage at half-time.

Things were just not going Blackrock’s way. Although their forwards got a timely lift with two scrum penalties, ‘Rock’s decision to run a close-in penalty did not pay off and a 52nd minute kick at goal was also missed. With only the final quarter left to play, it was time for Cashel, for whom openside Tommy Anglim shone as a carrier and tackler, to up the ante at scrum time again.

Ed Leamy picked up possession on halfway and he sent centre Alan McMahon on a run which brought him to Blackrock’s five-metre line. From an ensuing scrum, a great collective shove from the men in red saw Blackrock driven back over their line and scrum half Josh Pickering touched down.

Clever tactical play from Lyons, who kicked accurately for touch and pinned the home side back, kept Cashel in the right areas of the pitch. Try number three arrived with little over 10 minutes remaining. Once more, their set piece strengths came to the fore, a penalty being dispatched to the corner, the lineout drive forcing ‘Rock backwards and centre Conor Cashman finished off the attack with a try that Lyons converted – 22-6.

There was still enough time for the sides to swap tries, Cashel putting good width on the ball and sending Kingston racing over for his bonus point effort. Blackrock centre Steve Lawton’s try was an excellent individual score, but it came far too late to make a difference in new head coach Mick Carroll’s first home league game at Stradbrook.

The highest scoring match of the round was at Dub Lane where Queen’s were beaten by Nenagh Ormond despite scoring four tries and 31 points. The students’ defence let them down, coupled with a performance from Nenagh which was much more like the team that pressed for promotion last season.

The Tipperary outfit had an opening day to forget, going down 37-7 at home to Malone, but they got to a flyer in Belfast with a strong wind behind them. They took a familiar route to the line, a sixth-minute penalty setting up a maul which saw flanker John Hayes driven over for Clayton Stewart to convert.

Out-half Stewart knocked over a long range penalty, three minutes later, and Nenagh took advantage of some weak tackling to push further midway through the first half. Centre Willie O’Connor had a relatively untroubled path to the Queen’s 22 and he sent supporting winger Gerard O’Gorman in under the posts with Stewart converting for 17-0.

David Gleeson joined his back-three colleague on the scoresheet as Queen’s brittle defence gave way again and the full-back made it over in the corner for a five-pointer. A Stewart penalty was cancelled out by the hosts’ opening try, which was claimed by winger Andy McNicholl after he won the race to Jonny Milliken’s neat grubber kick.

However, Nenagh’s rate of scoring showed no signs of dropping. Hooker Conor Muldoon barged over just before half-time to secure the visitors’ bonus point. Stewart’s conversion made it 32-7 at the turnaround, and the gap was out to 30 points after lock Kevin O’Flaherty muscled his way over from a 43rd minute maul.

Queen’s turned to their captain Nigel Simpson to inspire a frenetic three-try fight-back. He scored two of those tries, his second coming from a 65th-minute crash ball run through midfield. Former Ballymena stand-off Ritchie McMaster converted all three scores and coolly claimed a second bonus point for his new side, nailing a penalty with the last kick of a very eventful match.

City of Armagh coaching consultant Willie Faloon singled out tough-tackling forward Robert Whitten for his defensive work after their 26-10 victory over Galwegians. The high-flying Ulstermen missed out on the bonus point but it was another solid performance from the visitors.

‘Wegians played into the wind during the first half at Crowley Park and were left trailing by 18 points at the turnaround. Armagh were territorially dominant, an early penalty from out-half Cormac Fox – following a powerful run by captain Ali Birch – getting them off the mark.

A rolling maul in the 21st minute produced the game’s first try, scored by Armagh second row Peter Starrett in the right corner. Down by eight points, Galwegians had a few decent phases on the back of a number of penalties that went in their favour, the heavier home pack causing some damage before a handling error robbed them of a certain try.

A Fox penalty at the other end was followed by a late try from winger Andrew Willis who beat his man out wide and cut in to score by the posts. Fox added the extras to give Armagh an 18-point lead to take into the second period.

Turning around with the elements behind them, which now included some driving rain, Galwegians were the aggressors on the resumption. Their young out-half Morgan Codyre increased his influence with some excellent touch-finding kicks and a much-needed 53rd-minute penalty goal, which came after the hosts missed out on a try due to a knock-on.

Fox clawed back those three points for a 21-3 scoreline, and after Galwegians emerged scoreless from another spell deep in the Armagh 22, Willis profited from some neat offloading to break up the right wing and complete his brace of tries.

‘Wegians, who struggled for consistency over the 80 minutes, staged a late rally and experienced centre Brian Murphy’s try, converted by Codyre, took them into double figures. The match was well beyond them at that point but it was, at least, something to take with them into next Saturday’s clash with Blackrock in Glenina.

Four converted tries, including two just before half-time, guided Corinthians to a brilliant 28-23 bonus point success at Greystones. The home side showed their battling qualities to strike for a late losing bonus point, with elusive winger Jack Keating crossing in the 80th minute for his second try of the afternoon and his third in this season’s league.

Malone winger Rory Campbell looks to be in the form of his life at the moment, scoring all of the points for the Cregagh Red Sox in their 21-14 dismissal of fellow promotion hopefuls Highfield. 

Luke Kingston’s early departure due to injury saw Highfield rejig their back-line with scrum half Chris Bannon moving to midfield and Robert McGuire introduced at half-back. They put that disruption behind them to score the opening try, an overthrown Malone lineout leading to a bout of pressure and hooker Dan Healy eventually crossed the whitewash.

However, Malone soon began to win penalties and get the scoreboard moving in their favour. Michael Shiels and the Ulster Academy’s Joe Dunleavy caught the eye up front as Campbell knocked over three successive penalties. The damage also saw Highfield lose their influential blindside Patrick Ryan to the sin-bin.

It got worse for Tim Ryan’s men when prop Ian McCarthy saw yellow for foul play. Malone messed up when late possession was spilled with a try in the offing, and when Highfield came out strongly in the second half, the pressure on the home defence saw them lose the services of replacement lock Matthew Dalton for 10 minutes.

Arguably the try of the day across all divisions arrived in the 55th minute. With not much on, Campbell picked up possession just inside the Highfield half and then produced a real moment of individual brilliance, suddenly feinting left and then right to evade several would-be tacklers before finishing off a stunning try.

The conversion was added by Malone’s eventual match winner who crossed the whitewash again after 68 minutes. He had assistance with this one, Ulster’s Jack Owens racing up into the line, out wide, and passing to winger David McMaster who was able to draw in a defender and release Campbell for a textbook team score which went unconverted.

Nonetheless, Malone made life difficult for themselves again when another overthrown lineout coughed up possession and Highfield captain Miah Cronin grounded the ball with four minutes remaining. Full-back Kieran Duggan tagged on his second conversion, and with Malone kicking the ball dead from the restart, it was game on at 21-14.

It was Malone skipper Ross Todd whose leadership came to the fore during these decisive final minutes. The back rower, who moved from flanker to number 8 to cover an injury, won a crucial turnover for his side who had enough in the tank to see out a hard-earned triumph. 

Ulster and Ireland back rower Chris Henry, the Malone squad’s technical advisor (and assigned water carrier for the day), proudly watched the Belfast club make it two league wins out of two. Praising Henry’s influence, Todd told the Belfast Telegraph: “Chris has been outstanding, and he brings a special edge. The fine-tuning he is able to bring takes us above and beyond.”


Galwegians v City of Armagh – Ken Redpath/City of Armagh RFC

Malone v Highfield – John Coffey/Malone RFC