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Ulster Bank League: Division 2C Review

Ulster Bank League: Division 2C Review

Bective Rangers ended their losing run at the foot of the table with a morale-boosting 29-8 victory over Donnybrook, while Bangor’s draw with Ulster rivals Omagh has edged them up to third in a race from promotion that continues to be led by unbeaten Sligo.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE DIVISION 2C: Saturday, November 11

ROUND 7 RESULTS –

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Midleton 21 Malahide 17, Towns Park
Omagh 6 Bangor 6, Thomas Mellon Playing Fields
Sligo 40 Tullamore 22, Hamilton Park
Bective Rangers 29 Seapoint 8, Donnybrook (played on Friday)
Bruff 6 Thomond 8, Kilballyowen Park (played on Friday)

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.

After running the division’s top two sides close in recent weeks, Midleton got back to winning ways against Malahide – doing it the hard way as they came from 17-3 down to run out 21-17 winners in front of their home support at Towns Park.

The visitors were the better team in the opening 25 minutes, as strong running from both backs and forwards produced two converted tries. Prop Tom Collis scored the first one, powering over from close range after an initial five-metre scrum and a series of pick-and-goes had worn down the Midleton defence.

There was plenty of kicking in wet and heavy underfoot conditions, with one wayward effort allowing Malahide full-back John O’Brien to counter dangerously. The kick chase was slow and he scythed through the defence from 40 metres out, connecting with his support, and then a long pass out to the wing sent Dave Mongan clear for try number two.

However, with some timely changes off the bench, Midleton managed to close the gap to 17-8 by half-time. Their pack suddenly looked rejuvenated and started to make inroads via their strong set piece game. A cracking try followed, some strong carrying sucking in the defence and offering space out wide for Kieran Moynihan who took off from the Malahide 10-metre line, dodging and weaving his way over the whitewash, leaving a number of red-faced defenders in his wake.

Stuart Lee, who provided the assist, missed the conversion but went on to have a big impact with a crucial 16-point haul. Into the second period, Midleton quickly got on the front foot and it was talented half-back Lee who chipped over the defence and was first to the bouncing ball to dot down. He converted his own try to reduce the arrears to 17-15.

Midleton captain Rob Smyth opted for the posts after Malahide were guilty of going off their feet on their own 10-metre line. Lee stepped up to comfortably land the three-pointer and move his side ahead for only the second time. A penalty for offside, five minutes later, allowed Lee to turn it into a six-point lead. The Red Devils had learned their lessons from the last two rounds and there was no way back for Malahide.

Second row Jamie Sproule’s ankle injury, which could rule him out for three months, marred Omagh’s six-all draw with Bangor at a very wet Thomas Mellon Playing Fields. Eoin Murnaghan and Nathan Graham kicked two penalties apiece but both teams left chances behind them.

Murnaghan, starting at out-half for the second week running after a couple of early season outings at full-back, kicked Omagh ahead in the 27th minute. The lead score came after the Accies injected some pace into the game and made a half-break to set up the 30-metre kick.

Graham had missed an early penalty attempt and Murnaghan was unsuccessful with his second effort just before half-time, as the first half ebbed away gently in ever gloomy conditions. The visitors made a bright start to the second period, a powerful lineout drive giving them a boost and a subsequent infringement allowed Graham to kick them level in the 42nd minute.

Hands in the ruck, following good work in attack by Yonga Taleni and James Catterson, allowed Murnaghan to kick Omagh back in front six minutes later. Although Bangor were back in terms thanks to a straightforward strike from Graham, they had to negotiate a tricky spell when their ex-Ulster lock Lewis Stevenson was in the sin-bin for a second high tackle.

Crucially, Omagh turned down a kickable shot at the posts from the penalty and they got no return from the subsequent scrum, with their possession slowed down and a turnover, a couple of phases later, allowing the determined Seasiders to clear their lines.

Omagh replacement Adam Beatty could have been the hosts’ match winner, however he was narrowly wide with a penalty attempt in the 72nd minute, and then he was foiled, on a blindside break, by a terrific cover tackle by Bangor full-back Jules Storey. The Accies had one further try-scoring opportunity when an overlap was created in the last play, but the final pass did not go to hand and Bangor hung on for a share of the spoils.

Omagh head coach Phil Marshall told the club website afterwards: “It was a game in which we were the better side, coped with their much bigger pack very well and should have gone on to win. We took a couple of wrong technical decisions which ultimately cost us two points today.

“On the other hand, we have added another two points to our total and are nine points clear of the bottom of the table. I’ve said all along that this season is all about learning and ultimately survival. Bangor survived last year, built again and are looking strong, but we more than matched them today and I have to be happy about that.

“We have now played seven matches with a very tough away game against Thomond in two weeks’ time before we go back-to-back against Malahide in December and will be in a better place to judge how we have done so far, but you have to take the positives and it’s another two points to our total.”

Thomond were briefly top of the table until Saturday afternoon, having pipped Bruff 8-6 in a titanic all-Limerick tussle the night before. Centre Ger Finucane’s 29th-minute try had the Soda Cakes leading 8-3 after a first half that was played in foul weather conditions.

A further heavy rain shower greeted the teams at the start of the second half at Kilballyowen Park. David O’Grady outscored his opposite number, Evan Cusack, by two penalties to one, but O’Grady’s 57th-minute strike proved to be the final score. Thomond’s tenacious defence won them the game, particularly when holding out from a five-metre lineout – with 71 minutes on the clock – and forcing a turnover penalty.

Meanwhile, Sligo took advantage of the dry conditions in Strandhill on Saturday to chalk up their third try-scoring bonus point of the campaign. Ross Mannion’s table toppers carved out a 40-22 victory over Tullamore, outscoring their visitors by six tries to three.

Midway through the first half, a sweeping move out to the right gave flanker Manu Parkin the opportunity to drive into the Tullamore 22 before being stopped five metres short. The ball was quickly recycled to dynamic prop Kuba Wojtkowicz who crashed over to open the scoring.

Tullamore responded well and a Karl Dunne penalty narrowed the gap to two points, however Sligo scored again on the stroke of half-time to lead 12-3. Having tested the Tulliers’ defence infield off the lineout and then with a switch back to the left, Sligo catapulted full-back Jack Keegan into a gap at pace and he linked with the supporting Ryan Feehily who raced clear for a try which Keegan converted.

The second half was only five minutes’ old when Sligo centre Mark Rooney touched down under the posts, profiting from number 8 Matthew Cosgrove’s kick return which saw him drive into the heart of the Tullamore defence. Keegan went close to bagging the bonus point before prop Shane McGuinness proved unstoppable from the subsequent ruck, with the gap now out to 26-3.

Mannion’s charges had all their scoring done by the 65-minute mark, quick recycling after Cosgrove was tackled short from a five-metre scrum seeing Feehily complete his brace, before the scrum again provided the platform for lock James Wilson to notch a well-worked score.

Tullamore did at least salvage some pride with a trio of late tries, spread between the 75th minute and injury-time, and it will give them a lift as they face into an important November 25 trip to Midleton, the team who moved above them into seventh place on Saturday.

Sligo are away to Seapoint when the league resumes in ten days’ time. The south Dubliners had a night to forget under the Donnybrook floodlights where Bective Rangers secured their best result yet under new coaches Nigel Osborne and Fergal Campion – a 29-8 triumph which moves them level with second-from-bottom Seapoint on 10 points.

Match Photos:

Midleton v Malahide – Midleton RFC
Omagh v Bangor – Roger Corbett/Bangor RFC
Sligo v Tullamore – Jean McConnell/Sligo RFC