Highfield were the only team to win away from home in Division 2A last Saturday, securing the result of the day as they put 37 points on Munster rivals Nenagh Ormond. Meanwhile, Greystones climbed off the bottom of the table with their first win of the campaign.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE DIVISION 2A: Saturday, November 4
ROUND 6 RESULTS –
Corinthians 19 Cashel 8, Corinthian Park
Greystones 17 Galwegians 13, Dr. Hickey Park
Malone 28 City of Armagh 26, Gibson Park
Nenagh Ormond 22 Highfield 37, New Ormond Park
Queen’s University 49 Blackrock College 14, Dub Lane
Scrum half Andy Roberts’ third try in four league games helped Greystones end their five-match losing run since coming up from Division 2B. He crossed in the 28th minute, cancelling out Jack Winters’ score for Galwegians as the home side led 11-8 at half-time.
In the end, it was the accurate place-kicking of ‘Stones full-back Andrew Kealy which proved the difference between the two sides. He split the posts with penalties after 2, 19, 43 and 84 minutes for a 12-point haul, which ‘Wegians only just bettered thanks to Hugh Lane’s 70th-minute try which went unconverted.
The visitors picked up their first losing bonus point of the season but they were left to rue their indiscipline as Kealy’s boot made them pay. It is derby time for both clubs on Friday night with ‘Wegians entertaining their Galway city rivals Corinthians, while ‘Stones travel to Blackrock College in an all-Leinster tie.
Blackrock are now bottom of the table after going down heavily to Queen’s University at Dub Lane – 49-14. Neil Doak’s students, who have moved into third spot, have been the most entertaining team to watch in recent rounds, putting 40-plus points on both Galwegians and Blackrock.
They ran in eight tries against ‘Rock, with the best of them coming from a scrum on halfway. Great headway was made up the right wing, some lovely interplay seeing the ball move through seven pairs of hands before flanker and captain Nigel Simpson darted in behind the posts for a tremendous team score.
The big Ulster derby at Gibson Park was decided by Josh Pentland’s late drop goal which steered Malone to a 28-26 triumph over City of Armagh. Despite a performance that did not match their recent ones, the result has moved Paddy Armstrong’s men six points clear at the summit, while Armagh have slipped out of the top four.
A typically physical opening saw Malone centres Nathan Brown and Michael Cartmill feature prominently, but Armagh had the first sniff of a try as captain Ali Birch, Robert Whitten and prop Daryl Morton spearheaded a promising 10th-minute attack. Just when a score seemed inevitable, the hosts came up with a turnover and scrum half Connor Spence kicked clear.
Defences remained on top until the second quarter when Malone got on a roll and scored 15 points without reply. The Malone forwards were in quick to secure possession after Michael Shiels made 20 metres on a break, with back rower Joe Dunleavy able to pick up and ground the ball from close range.
Winger Mark O’Connor missed the conversion but added the extras to Cartmill’s try, which saw Pentland crash through the Armagh cover in the build-up. O’Connor landed another kick – a well-struck penalty from 40 metres out – to leave Armagh trailing by more than two converted scores at the interval.
The next score would be crucial and it went to Armagh, whose bench became a factor, as they diligently clawed their way back into the game. The strong carrying of Birch, Neil Faloon and Morton punched holes in the home defence and out-half Cormac Fox fired a penalty through the posts to get them off the mark.
With their backs now on song, Armagh succeeded in turning the game on its head as Malone lost replacement winger Andy Bryans to the sin-bin, and they were down to 13 players after referee Chris Busby showed a yellow card to back rower Dunleavy who was guilty of a high tackle. In between, Armagh had reduced the arrears to 15-8 thanks to a Ryan Purvis try.
Fox nailed his second penalty before the seven-man Malone dug deep to win a scrum penalty, with Rory Campbell delivering a much-needed three-pointer via a crisply-struck 35-metre kick. However, Armagh made it 15 points in the space of 10 minutes with a try from replacement Tim MacNeice, who was put into space by Fox who also kicked the levelling conversion at 18-all.
The pendulum swung back in Malone’s favour, though, as Pentland’s kick out to the wing was palmed back by Bryans for supporting full-back Jack Owens to shrug off a tackle and claim the hosts’ third try. Campbell swung over an excellent conversion, judging the cross-field wind to perfection.
Dunleavy’s return to the pitch was another boost for the Cregagh Red Sox, who now led 25-18 with eight minutes remaining. But, once again, Armagh showed they were not going down without a fight. Their back-line was still dangerous – particularly as loose Malone kicking invited them forward – and winger Robert Faloon’s unconverted try make it a two-point game again.
Malone’s winning streak was almost at an end when Fox knocked over a 35-metre penalty to put Armagh ahead for the first time at 26-25. This absorbing contest produced one final twist, skipper Ross Todd tapping the ball back into Malone hands and the pack set up a drop goal opportunity which saw Pentland emerge as the match winner. There was further drama with a knock-on apiece in injury-time, the final one sealing Armagh’s fate as they left Belfast with just a losing bonus point and the sense of a missed opportunity.
High-flying Nenagh Ormond lost for the first time since the opening round as Highfield hit them with a 37-22 defeat at New Ormond Park. The sin-binnings of captain Jonathan Healy and Willie O’Connor, early on in both halves, really hurt the hosts who trailed 18-3 at half-time.
Paddy O’Toole and Clayton Stewart swapped penalties as the rain poured down inside the first quarter. Highfield then took advantage of a missed tackle as Michael Dillane grabbed the opening try, 20 minutes in.
O’Toole converted and tagged on a second penalty before piling on the pressure with a series of penalty kicks to the corner as Tim Ryan’s charges sought out try number two. Nenagh defended with impressive accuracy and discipline, but scrum half Chris Bannon’s quick thinking paved the way for James Daly to go over in the corner, handing the Corkmen a 15-point lead.
Nenagh were entering into nightmare territory when O’Connor’s yellow preceded two more Highfield tries, both scored by USA international Paddy Ryan with the second one a brilliant team effort. It started with a counter attack from deep inside their own half and given its quality, it should be in the mix for try of the season. O’Toole converted again to top off his 12-point haul.
The Tipperary side had to go for broke with a 32-3 deficit to overcome. They were awarded a penalty try in the 65th minute after a series of Highfield scrum infringements in the visitors’ 22, and they took their tally to 15 points four minutes later when tighthead Johnny Hayes produced a terrific one-handed finish.
A Lorcan Kavanagh touchdown had Highfield out of reach and Nenagh’s bonus point hopes were also extinguished despite Niall O’Gorman’s offload teeing up replacement prop John Coffey for a try right on the 80-minute mark.
Meanwhile, Cashel, who host Nenagh in a mouth-watering derby at Spafield on Friday night, also come into the all-Tipperary clash on a losing note after being beaten 19-8 by Corinthians in Galway. Winger Michael O’Reilly’s 20th-minute try from an excellent move put Corinthians on the road to their first victory in four rounds.