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Ulster Bank League: Division 2C Review

Ulster Bank League: Division 2C Review

Apart from Malahide’s impressive 27-5 bonus point win at Omagh, round 9 in Division 2C produced some very tight winning margins – ranging from two points to six points. Seapoint and Bective Rangers have now both climbed out of the bottom two.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE DIVISION 2C: Saturday, December 2

ROUND 9 RESULTS –

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Sligo 9 Bangor 7, Hamilton Park
Bective Rangers 9 Thomond 3, Donnybrook
Bruff 17 Midleton 13, Kilballyowen Park
Omagh 5 Malahide 27, Thomas Mellon Playing Fields
Tullamore 20 Seapoint 23, Spollanstown

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.

Sligo were held try-less in Strandhill but full-back Jack Keegan split the posts three times to see them pip Bangor 9-7. Ross Mannion’s table toppers came through a titanic tussle with the Seasiders to avoid their second successive defeat.

Although missing the influential Lewis Stevenson in the second row, Bangor more than held their own during a lively first quarter. Their running and handling was much-improved from last week, while their well-organised defence was able to thwart Sligo’s impressive back-line.

The game’s first scoring opportunity was missed by Bangor’s Nathan Graham who had the distance but not the accuracy from a penalty kick on the Sligo 10-metre line. With a slight breeze behind him, he had a second attempt which drifted wide after the visitors’ scrum had dominated the set piece.

There were 35 minutes on the clock when Bangor’s superior scrummaging translated into a 7-0 interval lead. Number 8 Jamie Clegg controlled the ball at the back of a five-metre scrum as it advanced towards the line, and with Sligo pulling it down, referee Mike Scanlon duly awarded the penalty try.

Mark Widdowson missed a late chance to added to Bangor’s lead before half-time, hitting a post with a penalty from the 22-metre line, but Sligo increased their work-rate and intensity on the resumption, particularly at the breakdown, and it gradually paid dividends.

They took the bare look off their side of the scoreboard with a well-struck Keegan penalty in the 55th minute, and he repeated the dose five minutes later to set up a tense and thrilling final quarter. The latter score was preceded by a yellow card for Bangor back rower David Bradford for a dump tackle.

The league leaders smelt blood and won another penalty on the 10-metre line – a hotly-contested scrum decision which annoyed Bangor – with five minutes remaining. Keegan coolly slotted over the kick to put Sligo ahead for the first time. Stout Sligo defending subdued Bangor for the remainder, leaving the visitors with just a losing bonus point to show for their efforts.

The second legs of these back-to-back games should be fascinating ties next weekend, particularly in the case of Bective Rangers and Thomond after the division’s second-placed team went down 9-3 to the 14-man Rangers at Donnybrook. Gearoid O’Grady’s 74th-minute penalty proved to be the match-winning score.

It was Bective’s third win on the trot which gives them renewed hope of avoiding relegation, although they are sure to meet a backlash from Thomond in their pre-Christmas visit to Liam Fitzgerald Park. Win number three looked a long way from Rangers’ reach when their hooker Adam Cullen was red-carded in the sixth minute for an off-the-ball offence.

However, a superb collective effort in defence saw Bective keep the first half scoreless with Thomond guilty of some poor decision-making and handling errors in attack. Home out-half O’Grady opened the scoring with a penalty from inside the 10-metre line, five minutes after the restart.

A forward pass denied Thomond in their attempts to respond, but a penalty from Evan Cusack brought them level on the hour mark. O’Grady had the answers for Bective, with his right boot doing the damage with penalty goals in the 70th and 74th minutes. Thomond’s frustration grew with a pass that went straight into touch.

The Soda Cakes had two gilt-edged lineout opportunities, deep in the Bective 22, one of which came after French flanker Bastien Brethes’ sin-binning left the hosts playing with just 13 men. Again though, Thomond’s accuracy was lacking in the dying minutes and Bective’s relentless defending earned them a rousing win in front of their delighted supporters.

Meanwhile, Bruff won for the first time since late October as tries from Jack O’Grady (5 minutes) and Danny Keogh (46) propelled them past Midleton on a 17-13 scoreline at Kilballyowen Park. Aidan Ware’s first half try had Midleton level at the break and a late penalty from Stuart Lee confirmed their losing bonus point.

A power-packed lineout maul earned a late penalty try as Seapoint squeezed past Tullamore at Spollanstown. Claiming back-to-back wins, the south Dubliners prevailed 23-20 in a clash that could have gone either way. Their three-try haul including a first senior score from winger Alex Guerin, who crossed in the left corner via a neat necklace of passes in the 21st minute.

After four wins on home soil, Malahide broke their duck on the road in emphatic fashion with a 27-5 bonus point success at Omagh. They hit the front amid a promising start, with centre John Kennedy crossing from a sharp counter attack led by Ciaran Clifford. Conal Keane’s conversion went over off a post and he also added a penalty soon after.

Omagh looked a shadow of the side that had toppled Thomond last week. Their scrum gave them a decent platform but their lineout came under serious pressure from the Malahide jumpers, while the visitors’ two flankers, Leo Weiss and Simon Kinsella, put in some dominant tackles and won the battle of the breakdown.

Just when the Accies looked like hitting back, having built up a head of steam through several phases in the Dubliners’ 22, Omagh captain Stewart McCain attacked the blindside with a try very much on the cards. However, Malahide’s dangerous winger Marcus McAllister picked off an intercept and ran the length of the field for a sucker-punch score and a 15-0 half-time lead.

Malahide had the better of the third quarter, during which Omagh lost flanker James Catterson to the sin-bin. They were a pass away from scoring again, but the hosts hung in there and were rewarded with a big line-break by Kyle Alexander and a stylish try from full-back Ali Beckett, who hit the line at a great angle to take Scott Elliott’s pass and get past two defenders to score in the left corner.

Elliott’s conversion attempt hit an upright and bounced wide, but Malahide, whose superior fitness showed over the remainder of the game, rattled off two more tries to take home maximum points and climb to third in the table. McAllister completed his brace, taking John O’Brien’s pass to get over in the corner, and an overlap, five minutes from time, saw out-half Keane step inside the defence to touch down and convert.

Match Photos:

Sligo v Bangor – Desi Fusco/Bangor RFC
Omagh v Malahide – Sandra Armstrong Photography