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Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Review

Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Review

Six points cover the leading four clubs in Ulster Bank League Division 1B after Naas handed a first defeat of the season to table-topping Shannon. Elsewhere, Ballynahinch and UCC kept pace in the race for promotion thanks to contrasting derby victories.



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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.

NAAS 21 SHANNON 18, Forenaughts
Scorers: Naas: Tries: Fionn Higgins 2; Con: Peter Osborne; Pens: Peter Osborne 3
Shannon: Tries: Jack O’Donnell, Charlie Carmody, Pa Ryan; Pen: Conor Fitzgerald

HT: Naas 15 Shannon 8

Fionn Higgins’ brace of tries took his tally to the season for five as Naas handed Division 1B leaders Shannon a 21-18 defeat at Forenaughts on Saturday afternoon.

Shannon’s five-match winning streak came to an end at the Co. Kildare venue, with Johne Murphy’s Naas side producing their best performance of the campaign so far.

In a tense finale, Conor Fitzgerald was inches away from an intercept but instead was penalised for a deliberate knock-on. And with Shannon’s top scorer dispatched to the sin-bin, Naas full-back Peter Osborne stepped up to land the match-winning penalty, four minutes from the end.

Having lost four games on the bounce, Murphy’s men were under pressure to get back to winning ways in round 7 and they were halfway there when leading 15-8 at the break.

Osborne and Fitzgerald swapped penalties inside the first 14 minutes – awarded for offside and hands in the ruck – before Naas caught the visitors with two charge-downs. The pressure eventually told when right winger Higgins crossed for a 26th minute try, converted by Osborne.

There was a determination and belief in Naas’ play and their opening try came from a cross-field kick by out-half Murphy. Shannon failed to deal with it and Higgins kicked the loose ball forward and won the sprint to the line to score.

With their set piece game growing in influence, Shannon cut the gap to 10-8 with a well-worked 31st-minute score. They threatened twice through lineout mauls before out-half Fitzgerald’s classy chip through was gathered and dotted down in the corner by centre Jack O’Donnell.

However, the visitors were sloppy when they were penalised for offside and then caught out in defence out wide, the fleet-footed Higgins getting over in the corner to complete his brace in clinical fashion. Receiving the ball 25 metres out, he chipped over Eathon Moloney, gathered the ball and beat a despairing tackle to touch down in the corner.

Although Fitzgerald missed a kickable penalty as the second half’s first scoring chance went a-begging, the margin was back to two points when Shannon replacement Pa Ryan touched down in the 47th minute. The visitors quickly turned a blocked Murphy kick to their advantage, going through the phases to create an overlap on the left and Ryan supplied the finishing touches to an unconverted try.

Osborne’s 56th-minute penalty, which came after some strong running from first-time starter James Cherrington, made it 18-13 to the hosts, but Shannon were back level early in the final quarter thanks to a powerful maul try in the corner, grounded by flanker Charlie Carmody.

Crucially, Osborne was able to kick Naas back in front in a nail-biting finish, with the home side coming up with some big plays late on and their scrum getting on top. Captain David Benn also stole a crucial lineout, and a vital penalty at the breakdown thwarted Shannon’s attempts to have the final say.

NAAS: Peter Osborne; Fionn Higgins, James Cherrington, Michael Skelton, Donal Droney; Johne Murphy, Max Whittingham; Jordan Duggan, Graham Reynolds, Jason Harney, Paul Monahan, David Benn (capt), Andrew Kearney, Will O’Brien, Paulie Tolofua.

Replacements: Cathal Duff, Stephen Lackey, Stephen Kinneavy, Warren Larkin, Shane Thompstone.

SHANNON: Stephen Fitzgerald; Nathan Randles, Jack O’Donnell, Will Leonard, Eathon Moloney; Conor Fitzgerald, Fionn McGibney; Conor Glynn, Jordan Prenderville, Ciaran Parker, Jade Kriel, Sean McCarthy, Charlie Carmody, Elliot Fitzgerald, Lee Nicholas (capt).

Replacements: Ty Chan, Tony Cusack, Ronan Coffey, Aaron Hehir, Pa Ryan.

Scorers: Banbridge: Tries: Richard Graham, Conor Field; Con: Ian Porter; Pen: Ian Porter
Old Belvedere: Tries: Jack Kelly, Phil O’Dwyer; Cons: Tim Foley 2

HT: Banbridge 8 Old Belvedere 7

Having lost a top of the table clash with Shannon last week, Daniel Soper’s Banbridge outfit got back to winning ways courtesy of a hard-fought 15-14 victory over Old Belvedere at Rifle Park.

Winger Conor Field’s early second half try was enough to see Bann home, although Phil O’Dwyer’s subsequent seven-pointer earned ‘Belvo a losing bonus point which keeps them within reach of the top four.

Banbridge, who remain third in the standings, welcomed back scrum half and captain Ian Porter after he missed the defeat the Shannon. It was Porter’s reliable right boot which opened the scoring with a third minute penalty, inspired by a turnover from a lineout.

Bann resumed on the attack and from a shortened lineout 17 metres out, Richard Graham collected Greg Jones’ feed. The young flanker powered through the tail of the opposition line and carried two defenders, including Old Belvedere captain Ed Rossiter, over the whitewash as he touched down for a try that went unconverted.

Belvedere began to enjoy some periods of possession and build momentum, and on their first incursion into the home 22, with 17 minutes played, lock Jack Kelly finished off near the posts after some impressive offloading in the build-up, with Tim Foley’s conversion taking his side within a point – 8-7.

The remainder of the first half was evenly contested with both defences forcing handling errors. But it was the Dubliners, operating under the tutelage of former Ireland head coach Eddie O’Sullivan, who had the better scoring opportunities. Foley took shots off the tee from 48 and 37 metres but crucially neither found the mark and that single point separated the sides at the break.

Six minutes into the second period, Bann broke on the blindside of a scrum just inside the opposition half. Porter made ground initially before feeding centre Andrew Morrison who linked with Field, some 35 metres out. Faced with the last defender, the winger chipped deftly over his head and collected the ball before diving over in the right corner. Porter’s superb conversion put two scores between the sides.

A yellow card for offside for Bann’s Chris Allen should have given ‘Belvo the edge in such a keenly-fought battle. But during his enforced absence, it was Soper’s charges who had the better scoring opportunity, with Porter’s penalty shot at goal from 31 metres range drifting wide.

With eight minutes remaining, the visitors won a penalty at a set scrum and from the lineout that ensued they set up camp deep within the Banbridge 22, eventually wearing down the defence to put replacement back O’Dwyer in for a try out wide that Foley converted.

Now sensing victory, ‘Belvo again battled their way into home territory but when a throw-in went over the back of a lineout it was Bann who reacted the quicker, regaining possession and kicking the ball dead to confirm their one-point success.

BANBRIDGE: Adam Doherty; Conor Field, Andrew Morrison, Johnny Little, Robert Lyttle; Josh Cromie, Ian Porter (capt); Eric O’Sullivan, Peter Cromie, Michael Cromie, Chris Allen, Stephen Irvine, Richard Graham, Nick Hayes, Greg Jones.

Replacements: Jonny Weir, Stuart Cromie, Tom O’Toole, Ben Carson, John Porter.

OLD BELVEDERE: Daniel Riordan; Shane McDonald, David Butler, Tim Foley, Chris Carey; Pat Hughes, Ian Vance; Omar Dahir, Ed Rossiter (capt), Declan Lavery, Connor Owende, Jack Kelly, Diarmuid Kennedy, Pierce Dargan, Dave Sherry.

Replacements: Andrew McGrath, Adam Howard, Karl Miller, Aaron Sheehan, Phil O’Dwyer, Eddie Weaver.

UL BOHEMIANS 7 OLD WESLEY 13, University of Limerick 4G pitch
Scorers: UL Bohemians: Try: Daragh Frawley; Con: Robbie Bourke
Old Wesley: Try: Jack Maybury; Con: Jack Maybury; Pens: Jack Maybury 2

HT: UL Bohemians 0 Old Wesley 13

Old Wesley made it two wins out of two with a gritty 13-7 triumph away to UL Bohemians. Jack Maybury, who moved from full-back to the wing, scored all of their points in the first half, including a well-taken chip-and-chase try, to take his season’s haul to 62 points.

Second row Daragh Frawley broke off a maul to notch Bohs’ try but Wesley’s reinforced defence came out on top in the final quarter, with UL unable to force a match-winning seven-pointer despite ending the game camped on the Wesley line.

It was very much a game of two halves, Old Wesley having the advantage of the wet and windy conditions at the UL North Campus venue in the opening half with their half-backs Tim Clifford and Aaron Atkinson keeping them in the right areas of the pitch.

Wesley countered brilliantly for the opening try after just two minutes, lock JJ O’Dea leading the charge from their own 22 and the in-form Maybury launching a pinpoint kick into the UL 22. The ball squirted free from Bohs full-back Matt McDonald’s grasp and the onrushing Maybury was able to dive on it and score.

Maybury increased his influence by converting and then knocking over two penalties – one from distance and the other from inside the UL 22 – to leave the hosts trailing by 13 points. Bohs had a big opportunity to respond just before half-time, however having ghosted through a gap outside the 22, lock Noel Kinnane was thwarted by Rory Stynes’ try-saving tackle.

Wesley suffered a double whammy in the third quarter as resilient Bohs began to take control of proceedings. Frawley’s well-taken seven-pointer off the platform of a 62nd-minute maul was quickly followed by a yellow card to Wesley hooker Conor Maguire for a high tackle.

Nonetheless, Morgan Lennon’s men kept the home side scoreless while Maguire was off the pitch, with their defence in the back-line and their scrum both in resilient form, aided by strong performances by props Cronin Gleeson and James Burton.

Bohs, who battled ferociously throughout, endured a ultimately frustrating finish. Despite knocking on the door for the guts of the last 20 minutes and regularly testing the Wesley defence, a second try remained just out of their reach.

UL BOHEMIANS: Matt McDonald; Jamie McNamara, Adrian Enright, Harry Fleming, Shane Scannell; Robbie Bourke, Rob Hennessy; Joey Conway, Joe Bennett, Mike Lynch, Noel Kinnane, Daragh Frawley, James Ryan, Ian Condell (capt), Darragh O’Grady.

Replacements: David Rowsome, Padraig Nesbitt, Ed Kelly, Brian Walsh, Ogie Scannell.

OLD WESLEY: Rory Stynes; Jack Maybury, James O’Donovan, David Poff, Tommy O’Callaghan; Tim Clifford, Aaron Atkinson; Cronin Gleeson, Conor Maguire, James Burton, Kieran Murphy, JJ O’Dea, Darren Horan (capt), Stephen Boyle, Matthew Bursey.

Replacements: Craig Telford, Martin Gately, John Fitzgerald, Conor Barry, Cillian Monahan.

UCC 20 DOLPHIN 19, the Mardyke (played on Friday)
Scorers: UCC: Tries: John Poland, Richard Walsh; Cons: James Taylor 2; Pens: James Taylor 2
Dolphin: Try: Anthony Mason; Con: Barry Keeshan; Pens: Barry Keeshan 3, Cian McGovern

HT: UCC 10 Dolphin 6

UCC climbed into the top four on the back of a nail-biting one-point derby win over Dolphin, as the Mardyke crowd acclaimed young out-half James Taylor for his coolly-struck match-winning penalty in the 80th minute.

The Cork students saw out the remaining six nervy minutes of injury-time to claim their fourth victory on the trot, while bottom side Dolphin, who contributed much to what was an exciting edge-of-the-seat encounter, were unable to repeat last November’s triumph at the same venue.

Scores proved hard to come by during a defence-dominated opening spell. The game’s first twist seeing former Dolphin favourite Ryan Murphy, who captained UCC on the night, sin-binned for a late tackle on Dolphin winger Colin Sisk.

Chris Rowe’s side hit the front following Murphy’s return, with Rowe’s assistant coach Barry Keeshan sending a 24th minute penalty through the UCC posts. Taylor missed a long range penalty in response, but UCC took the lead on the half hour when scrum half John Poland touched down following excellent work in the build-up by Cian Bohane and Kevin Slater.

Taylor added the extras for 7-3 and landed a penalty on the stroke of half-time, cancelling out a second successful kick from Keeshan, the league’s all-time record points scorer, to leave UCC 10-6 in front at the end of a closely-fought and cagey first half.

The margin was down to the minimum after Keeshan’s third penalty goal towards the end of the third quarter, but UCC were the team creating try-scoring chances. Crossing in midfield denied lock Ben Mitchell a score and although Taylor missed a penalty, Brian Walsh’s youngsters responded by sending full-back Richard Walsh over for a 66th-minute converted try.

Dolphin hit back seven minutes later when replacement Anthony Mason burrowed over from close range for Keeshan to convert, restoring the one-point gap. A booming penalty goal from centre Cian McGovern had Dolphin on the cusp of a late comeback win, until Taylor had the final say for UCC as he took his season’s haul to a very impressive 77 points after seven rounds.
UCC: Richard Walsh; Kevin Slater, Cian Bohane, Murray Linn, James Kiernan; James Taylor, John Poland; Shane O’Hanlon, Tadhg McCarthy, Rob O’Donovan, Ben Mitchell, Darragh Moloney, Jack O’Sullivan, Daire Feeney, Ryan Murphy (capt).

Replacements: John Hodnett, Bryan O’Connor, Cian Barry, Peter Sylvester, Paul Kiernan.

DOLPHIN: Olan Crowley; Colin Sisk, Cian McGovern, Ian O’Donoghue, Will Hanly; Barry Keeshan (capt), Daryl Foley; Liam Walsh, David Byrne, James Rochford (capt), Rob O’Herlihy, Dave O’Mahony, Barry Fitzgerald, Kevin Allen, Kevin O’Leary.

Replacements: Anthony Mason, Darren Collins, Alex Denby, James Vaughan, Killian O’Keeffe.

BALLYMENA 0 BALLYNAHINCH 27, Eaton Park (played on Friday)
Scorers: Ballymena: –
Ballynahinch: Tries: Aaron Hall, Jonny Simpson, Conall Boomer, David Busby; Cons: Johnny McPhillips 2; Pen: Johnny McPhillips

HT: Ballymena 0 Ballynahinch 12

Man-of-the-match Johnny McPhillips piloted Ballynahinch to a memorable 27-0 bonus point victory over Ballymena in a one-sided Ulster derby encounter on Friday night.

It was Ballymena’s fifth defeat in their last six league games and a huge disappointment for head coach Andy Graham and his players, as they were outplayed and outfought by a hungrier Ballynahinch side.

With Shannon losing to Naas, ‘Hinch’s fifth win of the campaign has moved them within three points of the summit, while the off-colour Braidmen have fallen to eighth in the table ahead of their trip to leaders Shannon in two weeks’ time.

Blindside flanker Aaron Hall helped ‘Hinch burst out of the traps at Eaton Park, timing his run to perfection to score a terrific individual try in the fifth minute, which out-half McPhillips converted. Ballymena duly tightened up in defence and although ‘Hinch dictated much of the first half’s play, they could only add one other score via a well-worked lineout maul.

Prop Jonny Simpson’s unconverted 39th-minute effort, which came after hooker Zack McCall had returned from the sin-bin, gave Brian McLaughlin’s men a 12-0 advantage at the interval. They ended the third quarter armed with a 22-point lead, McPhillips booting a penalty before the visitors went through the phases and number 8 Conall Boomer crashed over for try number three.

Not even a second yellow card for McCall could knock Ballynahinch off their stride. With Ballymena unable to truly stretch the ‘Hinch defence, the visitors came with a late surge and got their just reward when captain Aaron Cairns and Conor Kelly combined down the short side to set up winger David Busby for the bonus point score.

BALLYMENA: Rodger McBurney; Dean Reynolds, Angus Kernohan, Alan Smyth, Jonny Rosborough; Glenn Baillie, Michael Stronge; Nacho Cladera Crespo, James Taggart, Chris Cundell, Mark Foster, Connor Smyth, Marcus Rea, Matthew Agnew, Clive Ross.

Replacements: Adam McBurney, Scott Agnew, JJ McKee, Joe Thompson, David O’Hara.

BALLYNAHINCH: Conor Kelly; Richard Reaney, Stuart Morrow, Rory Butler, David Busby; Johnny McPhillips, Aaron Cairns; Campbell Classon, Zack McCall, Jonny Simpson, Jack Regan, Keith Dickson, Aaron Hall, Ollie Loughead, Conall Boomer.

Replacements: Claytan Milligan, Zac Cinnamon, Graham McKittrick, Rhys O’Donnell, Callum McLaughlin.

Match Photos:

Banbridge v Old Belvedere – Ariane Boudias Photography
Ballymena v Ballynahinch – Darrell O’Kane Photography