Shannon made sure they are top of the Division 1B tree for Christmas with a barnstorming 49-19 bonus point victory over Ballynahinch on Thomond Park’s back pitch last Saturday afternoon.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE DIVISION 1B: Saturday, December 9
ROUND 10 RESULTS –
SHANNON 49 BALLYNAHINCH 19, Thomond Park back pitch
Scorers: Shannon: Tries: Penalty try, Pa Ryan, Ty Chan, Fionn McGibney 2, Conor Fitzgerald 2; Cons: Pen try con, Conor Fitzgerald 6
Ballynahinch: Tries: Conor Kelly, Paddy Wright, Tom Rock; Cons: Richard Reaney 2
HT: Shannon 21 Ballynahinch 7
OLD BELVEDERE 26 BALLYMENA 7, Anglesea Road
Scorers: Old Belvedere: Tries: Aaron Sheehan, Shane McDonald, Jack Kelly; Con: Paul O’Keefe; Pens: Paul O’Keefe 3
Ballymena: Try: Matthew Norris; Con: Glenn Baillie
HT: Old Belvedere 6 Ballymena 7
OLD WESLEY 23 NAAS 23, Donnybrook
Scorers: Old Wesley: Tries: JJ O’Dea, Tommy O’Callaghan; Cons: Jack Maybury 2; Pens: Jack Maybury 3
Naas: Tries: Ben O’Connor, Peter Osborne; Cons: Peter Osborne 2; Pens: Peter Osborne 3
HT: Old Wesley 10 Naas 7
UCC 13 UL BOHEMIANS 7, the Mardyke
Scorers: UCC: Try: Peter Sylvester; Con: James Taylor; Pens: James Taylor 2
UL Bohemians: Try: Harry Fleming; Con: Mike Mullally
HT: UCC 13 UL Bohemians 7
DOLPHIN 11 BANBRIDGE 16, Irish Independent Park
Scorers: Dolphin: Try: Barry Fitzgerald; Pens: Barry Keeshan 2
Banbridge: Try: Stuart Cromie; Con: Adam Doherty; Pens: Ian Porter 2, Adam Doherty
HT: Dolphin 3 Banbridge 9
In the final Ulster Bank League round before the festive break, young out-half Conor Fitzgerald, who missed last week’s 42-15 defeat at Ballynahinch, top-scored with a handsome 22 points as ‘Hinch’s reign at the top of the table lasted only a week.
‘Hinch were severely weakened by Ulster ‘A’ British & Irish Cup call-ups, the big omissions being half-backs Johnny McPhillips and Aaron Cairns and lock Peter Browne, and Shannon took full advantage to build a 21-7 half-time lead.
Tom Hayes’ charges established an early stranglehold of the scrum, and after John Foley was held up and ‘Hinch suffered a yellow card, a powerful five-metre shove earned them a 10th-minute penalty try.
Winger Kieran Dunne, a European champion with the Ireland Under-18 Sevens team earlier this season, created the next try with a terrific break just two minutes later, linking with centre Pa Ryan to finish off and make it 14-0.
Try number three followed in the 17th minute when hooker Ty Chan crossed from a stolen lineout, but ‘Hinch improved as the first half wore on with centres Tom Rock and Will Stewart seeing more ball and in-form full-back Conor Kelly darting through for his sixth try of the campaign.
The second half was just two minutes old when Kelly’s opposite number Fionn McGibney replied with Shannon’s bonus point score in the corner, captain Lee Nicholas carrying well off a scrum before space was created out wide.
Brian McLaughlin’s side reduced the arrears to 28-12 with a similar score from winger Paddy Wright, six minutes later, but Fitzgerald ran in an intercept try while Shannon were down to 14 men, and the Munster Academy starlet swooped on another loose ‘Hinch pass to complete his brace in the 74th minute.
McGibney matched Fitzgerald’s try tally with his second effort after ‘Hinch number 8 Conall Boomer had picked up his second yellow card and Shannon attacked the blindside from a scrum. Fitzgerald converted to take his season’s haul to 115 points. This fast-paced top of the table clash finished with ‘Hinch centre Rock claiming a late consolation try from a quickly-taken penalty.
Meanwhile, a wet, wintry Irish Independent Park was the setting for Banbridge’s second hard-fought win over Dolphin in the space of a week. They secured a 16-11 verdict despite missing nine Ulster Academy and Development players.
Dolphin were penalised in the opening minute, allowing Bann captain Ian Porter to kick his side into a three-point lead. And when Adam Doherty was taken out following his chip into the hosts’ 22, Porter doubled the lead with 14 minutes played.
However, just three minutes later, the influential scrum half had to retire injured, forcing Bann to rejig their back line, with Josh Cromie taking over at half-back and Ben Carson coming off the bench to fill the number 10 position.
Dolphin’s assistant coach and captain Barry Keeshan pulled back three points with a successful 22nd-minute penalty kick, and after some slick handling almost put Bann over in the corner, full-back Doherty stroked over their third successful penalty.
The Co. Down outfit, who pressed from Josh Cromie’s 55-metre run before half-time, took a 9-3 lead into the second period, but Dolphin went on to dominate the third quarter, kicking astutely and using their strong pack to keep Bann contained in their own half.
Keeshan’s penalty effort on 51 minutes came off an upright but Bann knocked on to give the Corkmen a five-metre scrum. The pressure was relentless and eventually the defence cracked, with flanker Barry Fitzgerald crossing midway out for a try that Keeshan could not better off the tee.
As the game went into the final quarter, it was still Dolphin calling the shots and a drop goal attempt went just wide of the uprights. But Bann did well to retrieve the ball from the drop-out restart. Lock Matthew Laird picked up the ruck ball and his storming 40 metre run took play into the Dolphin 22 for the first time since the interval.
The Bann forwards then went through the phases, taking play close to the line and prop Stuart Cromie finished off with a try close to the posts. Doherty’s conversion took the score to 16-8 with 13 minutes remaining. Keeshan’s penalty made it a one-score game with, but Bann had enough nous to see out the game without offering the opposition a serious scoring opportunity.
Meanwhile, having lost to Naas in the last seconds of last week’s tussle at Forenaughts, Old Wesley were eager for revenge when they hosted them at Donnybrook. However, Peter Osborne’s late penalty earned the Kildare men a 23-all draw.
Old Wesley started with the greater presence, showing they were eager to run the ball at the opposition. After just four minutes, young lock JJ O’Dea drove over for the opening try following concerted pressure. Full-back Jack Maybury converted and then extended the lead to 10 points with a penalty.
Number 8 Paulie Tolofua led Naas’ response, going on to cause big headaches for the Wesley defence, but they remained scoreless until Wesley lost a lineout seven metres from their own line. Johne Murphy’s charges swung the ball wide for winger Ben O’Connor to dot down and scrum half Osborne struck the difficult conversion perfectly.
10-7 is how it stood at the interval and after an early penalty miss from Naas, Wesley got their side of the scoreboard moving again when Matthew Bursey and O’Dea carried strongly up into the opposition half and then, from a fairly innocuous looking situation, winger Tommy O’Callaghan snuck through to score close the posts for Maybury to convert.
Maybury and Osborne swapped penalties, splitting the posts from 35 and 25 metres out respectively, before Naas won clean ball from a five-metre lineout and swung the ball out the back-line for Osborne to outdo the defence and cross near the posts. His conversion reduced the arrears to three points – 20-17.
What followed was a series of three rapid-fire penalties. Osborne started with a well-struck effort from 40 metres to bring his side level. Straight from the restart, a Naas infringement allowed Maybury to boot the Dubliners back in front, but a ruck offence in the very last play saw Osborne complete his 18-point haul and earn a share of the spoils for Murphy’s men.
Elsewhere, winger Aaron Sheehan crossed the whitewash for the third week running as he helped Old Belvedere see off Ballymena’s challenge, 26-7, at Anglesea Road, while a fifth-minute try from UCC’s Ireland Under-18-capped full-back Peter Sylvester proved crucial as they claimed a 13-7 victory over UL Bohemians at the Mardyke.