Sligo came through a tough battle with Midleton to remain unbeaten at the top of the Division 2C table, closely followed by a resurgent Thomond who put 34 points on Malahide, and it was also a winning weekend for the two Ulster clubs, Bangor and Omagh.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE DIVISION 2C: Saturday, November 4
ROUND 6 RESULTS –
Bangor 13 Bruff 11, Upritchard Park
Seapoint 12 Omagh 20, Kilbogget Park
Sligo 16 Midleton 14, Hamilton Park
Thomond 34 Malahide 17, Liam Fitzgerald Park
Tullamore 11 Bective Rangers 10, Spollanstown
A two-point margin was enough to keep Sligo at the top of the pile in Division 2C, as Ross Mannion’s men overcame flanker Manu Parkin’s first half sending-off and a strong-carrying Midleton pack to register a 16-14 victory at Hamilton Park.
The hosts, who had a stiff breeze at their backs up to half-time, were leading 3-0 through a Jack Keegan penalty when the game was turned on its head. Their young loosehead Kuba Wojtkowicz thought he had scored a 19th minute try but it was ruled out after the intervention of a tough judge, with the double whammy of Parkin’s red card for an alleged off-the-ball incident.
Midleton were unable to hit back on the scoreboard before the interval, leading 14-man Sligo to add to their lead as turbo-charged centre Mark Rooney broke through for a timely try late on, the build-up to which included two pinpoint passes from the ever-influential Mark Butler and Keegan.
Despite having to play with a seven-man pack, Sligo continued to look the more potent side. 8-0 suddenly became 13-0 just seven minutes after the restart. Again, number 10 Butler was involved in the try, returning a kick back up to Sligo’s 10-metre line before scrum half Ryan Feehily took over, injecting the necessary pace to fly up the left wing, outfox the cover with some brilliant footwork and then wrong-foot the last defender in the 22 to notch a stunning unconverted try.
That was a vital buffer in the end as Midleton stormed back into contention with two converted scores from Ross O’Mahony and Jon Gardiner after 50 and 65 minutes. Keegan sandwiched in a penalty to make sure the lead did not change hands. However, in a tense and ferociously-fought finish, Midleton goal-kicker Stuart Lee sent an injury-time penalty wide from Sligo’s 10-metre line, after which the home players and supporters breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Tullamore are next up to challenge Sligo in Strandhill, the Co. Offaly outfit having edged out bottom side Bective Rangers 11-10 in another thrilling contest at Spollanstown. Full-back Karl Dunne showed his worth again with two vital penalties to see the hosts win by the minimum.
The Tulliers trailed 7-5 at half-time in wet conditions, Dunne missing two early penalties in a strong cross-field wind and Bective swooping for an encouraging seven-pointer. Despite losing talismanic prop Ger Molloy to the sin-bin, the hosts bounced back with a very well-worked try as Brian Gilligan caught a Dunne kick out wide, offloaded to number 8 Barry Bracken who fixed the defender and lobbed a pass back inside for winger Gilligan to touch down.
John Burns’ charges dug out the result in an entertaining second half, with replacement lock Mike Tormey making a real nuisance of himself at the breakdown. Dunne landed that brace of place-kicks, the latter having everything riding on it with time up, Bective down to 14 men and the penalty positioned way off to the left of the posts.
But Dunne delivered the goods with a strike that sailed between the uprights, making it two wins out of two for his side who have moved up to seventh in the standings. Malahide are in their sights now after dropping down to sixth on the back of a disappointing 34-17 defeat to in-form Thomond.
The Soda Cakes stormed out of the blocks at Liam Fitzgerald Park, building a 24-0 lead with young out-half Evan Cusack landing an initial penalty and converting three tries from prop Eoin O’Neill and backs Darragh O’Neill and Liam Brock. It was Cusack’s break which led to winger O’Neill’s eighth try of the campaign.
Malahide struck for tries either side of half-time, with Thomond having to knuckle down during a sin-bin period, however a deserved try out wide from Cusack bagged the bonus point and Darragh O’Neill completed his brace in the 66th minute, getting over in the corner after centre Ger Finucane had sliced through off a scrum on halfway.
A penalty try in the final play was the only consolation for the Dubliners, who can still look back on the opening third of the league season with satisfaction. They won three of their six games and added three try-scoring bonus points, with win number four the target this weekend at second-from-bottom Midleton.
Bangor and Omagh both got back to winning ways ahead of their derby clash next Saturday at the Thomas Mellon Playing Fields. The Accies were 20-12 winners at Seapoint, a 15-point first half setting them on their way with young out-half Eoin Murnaghan among their best performers on the day.
Bruff’s four-match unbeaten run was ended by Bangor in a very closely-fought encounter at Upritchard Park. Out-half David O’Grady agonisingly watched the wind push his penalty attempt onto the left hand post as Bruff missed out on a late win against the Seasiders.
The Limerick men led 8-3 at the turnaround, coming under pressure at scrum time but their solid lineouts and fast and sure-handed backs gave them a decent attacking platform. A Nathan Graham penalty got Bangor on the scoreboard before they had number 8 Jack Cooke yellow carded for repeated offsides, allowing O’Grady to kick Bruff level after half an hour.
Unfortunately for the home support, slack Bangor tackling allowed Bruff replacement Paddy Clery over for an unconverted try right on the stroke of half-time. Nonetheless, full-back Graham was successful with the second of two penalty attempts, early on the resumption, to close the gap to 8-6.
Jason Morgan’s men were rewarded for their patient build-up play when, having seen his forwards held up, scrum half Lewis Bret managed to squeeze through a forest of bodies to ground the ball to the right of the posts. Graham converted the 53rd minute try.
O’Grady responded with a penalty, nine minutes later, to bring it back to a two-point game. However, there were no further scores as Bangor hung on in gritty fashion, keeping their shape and control in defence at crucial stages. Bruff were the dominant side during the closing stages, but referee Brendan Cuttriss deemed that flanker John Clery had been held up in the 70th minute and O’Grady was foiled by the wind.