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Ulster Bank League: Division 2B Review

Ulster Bank League: Division 2B Review

Struggling Belfast Harlequins finally showed what they are capable of when pushing Division 2B leaders Old Crescent all the way in the weekend’s most memorable encounter, while the other found games finished in home wins for MU Barnhall, Navan, Dungannon and Rainey Old Boys.

MU Barnhall 49 City of Derry 14, Maynooth University North Campus
Navan 32 Sunday’s Well 10, Balreask Old
Belfast Harlequins 27 Old Crescent 29, Deramore Park
Dungannon 17 Wanderers 12, Stevenson Park
Rainey Old Boys 23 Skerries 8, Hatrick Park

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.
Maynooth University’s Open Day witnessed a stylish bonus point performance from Barnhall at the North Campus venue as they put 49 points on lowly City of Derry. The Blue Bulls ran in eight tries, including braces from the in-form Conor Lacey and ex-Leinster winger Darren Hudson, who started at centre.
Robbie Holt, Matt Alborough, Nathan Veltom, who finished off a fantastic 80-metre, seven-pass attack, and replacement Luke Mellett, who broke clear from halfway, also touched down in the 49-14 success which makes it four home wins for Barnhall so far this season.
Derry, who have dropped to bottom spot, took advantage of a Brendan McSorley yellow card, early in the second half, to notch two tries – both scored by out-half Neil Burns, who touched down from his own chip and then stepped inside the final defender for his second. Two excellent conversions were also added by Burns from out wide.
After four winless rounds, Dungannon appear to have turned a corner by ending the month with back-to-back wins. Their latest triumph was a 17-12 dismissal of Wanderers at Stevenson Park where they scored three cracking tries and thwarted the visitors’ running game in midfield.
An exciting and fast-paced first half ended 10-7 in Dungannon’s favour, winger Mervyn Brown bagging the opening try out wide in the 12th minute after an initial 40-metre bust through midfield by dynamic number 8 Jonah Mau’u.
Wanderers missed two penalty attempts and the hosts doubled their lead approaching the half hour mark, as the ball broke from a well-contested kick and returning back rower James McMahon was on hand to feed the supporting Chris Swash who scored in the corner.
The visitors wasted little time in responding as centre Rob O’Beirn slipped through to score at the posts for Peter Brougham to convert. Three points remained the difference up to the half-time whistle, although ‘Gannon missed out on a third try late on when a cross-field kick evaded Brown and rolled into touch.
A scoreless third quarter meant it was anyone’s game despite Dungannon’s apparent dominance of play. Finally, they gave themselves a match-winning cushion when excellent approach work by Seamus Mallon and Paul Armstrong, with the latter breaking past two defenders up into the 22, led to McMahon collecting an offload and sending out-half Swash over to complete his brace in impressive fashion.
Wanderers, who have dropped to fourth place with ‘Gannon staying seventh overall, showed their battling qualities to claim a late losing bonus point. Their forwards took up the baton and a 72nd-minute maul saw flanker Harley Murray mauled over the line to close the gap to five points.
Navan have moved above Wanderers into third position thanks to a 32-10 bonus point win over Sunday’s Well at Balreask Old. This was a close game at half-time with the hosts’ South African centre Riaan van der Vvyer splitting the sides at 8-3 with an unconverted try following some patient build-up play.
The ‘Well, who had lost their last two games, pressed right from the restart and quick recycling after an initial burst by scrum half Eoin Geary led to Shane O’Riordan wriggling his way over the whitewash for Geary to convert. Willie Staunton responded with a 57th minute penalty to move Navan back in front and set up a tense final quarter, with the ‘Well losing their captain Cyprien Jouve to the sin-bin.
However, the Corkmen controlled much of the play in the centre’s absence – although O’Riordan, faced with a difficult long range penalty, watched his kick go narrowly wide. Unfortunately for the visitors, they endured a nightmare finish with three tries leaked and two key men – James Mulcahy and Francis Moynihan – to injury.
A key moment came when Navan replacement Staunton spotted space on the opposite wing and nudged a terrific cross-field kick over for winger Sean McEntagart to touch down. Staunton converted for an 18-10 scoreline and Leigh Jackson, another player on from the bench, added Navan’s third try soon after.
Alan Kingsley’s men were rewarded for their strong finish with an elusive try-scoring bonus point – only their second of the campaign. It came from an intercept as the speedy McEntagart sprinted to the line from halfway to stretch the winning margin out to a flattering 22 points in the end.
Out-half Andrew Magrath helped himself to 18 points as he guided Rainey Old Boys to a 23-8 triumph over a Skerries side that proved a tough nut to crack. The Dubliners’ tackling was of a high standard throughout – the back row of Peter O’Neill, Thomas O’Hare and Barry Murphy all impressed in that regard – meaning second-placed Rainey had to rely on Magrath’s boot to keep up the scoring momentum.
A well-worked try by Skerries’ debutant full-back Conor Lennox, after good work by captain Mikey Sherlock and Ross Dempsey in midfield, had the visitors leading 8-3 with 17 minutes on the clock. However, Rainey struck back nine minutes later, with backs and forwards combining to good effect down the right before the pack edged towards the posts for wily back rower Paul Pritchard to touch down.
Magrath, who had previously landed his second penalty, converted for a 13-8 interval advantage. A third penalty goal from Magrath enabled the home side to breathe a little easier with an eight-point gap, before a 76th minute try wrapped up the win, the Rainey pack again doing the damage with some strong carrying and Magrath was able to check back inside to ground the ball at the posts for the clinching seven-pointer.
Meanwhile, Ronan McKenna’s 67th-minute penalty rescued a nerve-jangling 29-27 victory for Old Crescent at Belfast Harlequins as they extended their winning streak to eight games. Harlequins came desperately close to one of the upsets of the season so far and had to console themselves with moving off the bottom rung of the league’s ladder.
Crescent led 19-10 at half-time with the best of the first half tries scored by winger Val McDermott in the 22nd minute, as he collected a superbly-executed chip ahead by out-half McKenna. Darragh O’Brien bagged the visitors’ bonus point before ‘Quins came hurtling back into contention, scoring two converted tries and a penalty to lead by a single point (27-26) entering the final quarter of an hour.
One of those tries was a pushover effort, and a sterling performance in the set piece by tighthead James Harrison earned him the man-of-the-match honours. Captain Callum Leckey, Conor McAuley and Mark Gribben also stood out for the home side but after McKenna’s crucial penalty, they were unable to respond – a missed drop goal and a knock-on in a promising position ensured a frustrating finish for Nick Wells’ side.

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