There were runaway victories for Dungannon and Wanderers in the last round in Division 2B, while Old Crescent hit the halfway stage of the league season with their excellent 100% record intact thanks to a hard-fought defeat of promotion rivals Navan.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE DIVISION 2B: Saturday, December 2
ROUND 9 RESULTS –
City of Derry 6 Dungannon 51, Craig Thompson Stadium, Judge’s Road
Old Crescent 22 Navan 20, Rosbrien
Skerries 18 MU Barnhall 30, Holmpatrick
Wanderers 42 Belfast Harlequins 13, Aviva Stadium back pitch
Backs coach Brian Tuohy and out-half Ronan McKenna steered Old Crescent past fellow in-form side Navan but they only had two points to spare at the finish (22-20). McKenna landed a crucial 75th-minute penalty to complete a nine-match clean sweep for Crescent over the first half of the season – an achievement only Lansdowne, in the top flight, have matched.
Tuohy, the 35-year-old former Connacht winger, was the game’s principal figure early on with two well-taken tries after five and 25 minutes, both converted by McKenna from close to the posts. A brace of penalties by Colm O’Reilly closed the gap to 14-6 for half-time.
Good work from McKenna and Shane Mullally saw a kick put through for the onrushing Val McDermott to dot down just five minutes into the second half. However, two Navan tries in quick succession saw them nip ahead before the hour mark. Some terrific interplay set up Brian Haugh for the first one after 50 minutes, and Robbie Waters followed him over the whitewash with Willie Staunton landing both conversions.
Crescent’s winning streak was suddenly under serious pressure, and they had to be patient before a place-kicking opportunity presented itself and McKenna delivered the decisive three points. The result sees the Limerick men extend their lead at the summit to eight points, with second-placed Rainey Old Boys’ match against Sunday’s Well rescheduled to December 16.
Meanwhile, Dungannon dominated from start to finish in their Ulster derby against City of Derry, running in nine tries in a facile 51-6 victory at Craig Thompson Stadium. Number 8 Jonah Mau’u bagged a brace in another terrific performance from the young New Zealander.
The impending departure of play-making scrum half Tyler Rogers-Holden back to New Zealand is a serious blow to Derry’s chances of recovering to avoid relegation. His half-back partner, Neil Burns, is also set to leave for a spell playing with Tauranga in New Zealand.
Two Burns penalties appeared to steady the ship for Derry after a nightmare start. Dungannon flooded forward in the opening seconds and veteran centre Seamus Mallon was stopped just short of the line before some desperate defence from the hosts led to flanker Adam Bratton being sin-binned.
Mau’u’s opening score off the back of a scrum was followed by Burns’ brace of place-kicks, But Andy Hughes’ ‘Gannon side went up through the gears to score six tries by the half hour mark. Matt Montgomery (2), Glenn Sinnamon, Mau’u and Mallon all crossed the whitewash, as Derry struggled to cope with the injury-enforced losses of key backs Rogers-Holden, who suffered a broken nose, and Paddy Blennerhassett.
The Tyrone men led 34-6 at the turnaround and added three more tries through James McMahon, who made his return from a long-term injury last week, Stephen Todd and Mallon. It was a fourth win of the campaign and a fourth try-scoring bonus point for Hughes’ charges who are now only four points outside the top four.
MU Barnhall are fifth and just above Dungannon in the standings, having seen off the challenge of Skerries 30-18 at Holmpatrick. The Blue Bulls came away with their third try-scoring bonus point since the start of November, with Darren Hudson, who captained the Ireland Students team last season, grabbing their final two scores against the Goats.
There was no brotherly love on show between Skerries full-back Conor Lennox and his sibling Hugo, who donned the number 10 jersey for Barnhall. Hugo, a European Under-18 Sevens title winner with Ireland in September, scored a try against his former club to add to an earlier Gareth Murray effort as the Kildare men took an 18-11 half-time lead.
Skerries, who have been out of sorts lately, lifted themselves with tries from centre Ross Dempsey and lock Tom Mulvany, who stole a five-metre lineout to crash over in the 49th minute. However, Matt Alborough came off the bench and offloaded brilliantly for Hudson to hit back in the 62nd minute, and the latter capitalised on a Skerries error to cross again in the 77th minute and seal a late bonus point.
Wanderers tallied up 30 second half points as they put Belfast Harlequins to the sword on the Aviva Stadium’s back pitch. Greg Lynch’s men ran out 42-13 winners over second-from-bottom ‘Quins, with Eoin O’Shaughnessy, Eoghan Clarke, Conor Quaid, Paddy Mallon (2) and Eddy Quinn sharing out the tries.