Only two matches went ahead in Division 2B last Saturday with Old Crescent making it ten out of ten with a narrow victory over fellow promotion chasers Navan, while MU Barnhall put over 50 points on Skerries as they climbed into third place ahead of the Christmas break.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE DIVISION 2B: Saturday, December 9
ROUND 10 RESULTS –
MU Barnhall 54 Skerries 29, Parsonstown
Navan 18 Old Crescent 19, Balreask Old
Rainey Old Boys v Sunday’s Well, Hatrick Park (match postponed due to unplayable pitch)
Belfast Harlequins v Wanderers, Deramore Park (match postponed due to unplayable pitch)
Dungannon v City of Derry, Stevenson Park (Dungannon awarded walkover win)
Old Crescent showed their title credentials again with a stunning finish away to Navan. In a hugely physical encounter, the table toppers came from six points down with seven minutes remaining as a late penalty try proved crucial.
Player-coach Brendan Guilfoyle showed them the way with a well-taken third-minute intercept try, as he broke from halfway and beat the cover to score in the corner. Young out-half Ronan McKenna added the conversion for an early 7-0 lead for Crescent.
Guided by experienced number 10 Willie Staunton, Navan recovered well from that setback and should have got on the scoreboard before Staunton eventually opened their account with a 33rd minute penalty. However, Crescent took advantage of a yellow card for the hosts as Sean Monaghan’s late try gave them a 12-3 interval lead.
The pendulum swung in Navan’s favour when play resumed as they used their strong scrum to hit back with two tries of their own. They heaped pressure on Crescent at a close range set piece and reaped the rewards with a 55th-minute penalty try, and suddenly the gap was down to just two points.
With 70 minutes on the clock, the Navan pack won a scrum against the head and from a quickly-taken penalty, Staunton made it over in the corner. He missed the conversion but was bang on target with a 73rd minute penalty to put six points between the sides.
Unfortunately for Navan and their passionate supporters, there was just enough time for Crescent to strike back with a dramatic penalty try, awarded by referee Rob Watson, as the Limerick men did the double over Navan and took another step closer to automatic promotion.
Meanwhile, Skerries picked up a try-scoring bonus point in an improved performance as they went down 54-29 to free-scoring MU Barnhall at Parsonstown. Full-back Conor Lennox ran in two superb tries for the visitors, his first laid on by the fast-breaking Eoghan Carron and the second set up by his cousin Billy Mulcahy.
Lennox returned the favour with a terrific pass to tee up a try for Mulcahy, while the Goats’ bonus point was registered by Cormac Marrey who crossed at the end of a brilliant break, in which fellow prop Tom O’Hare was also to the fore.
11 tries were scored in all, with Barnhall leading from early on thanks to a maul try. Eoghan Quinn and Matt Alborough also touched down before the break, and there was no catching the Blue Bulls in the second half as Simon Gillespie continued to kick well off the tee, full-back Quinn completed a well-earned hat-trick, and number 8 Tom McKeown bagged himself a brace.
Barnhall have climbed above Navan and Wanderers, whose trip to Belfast Harlequins was postponed, and end the calendar year as the division’s third-placed team. They are two points behind Rainey Old Boys, in second spot, who have two games in hand – the first of which will be played tomorrow afternoon away to Sunday’s Well.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 2B: Saturday, December 16
Sunday’s Well (8th) v Rainey Old Boys (2nd), Irish Independent Park, 2.30pm
Neither of these sides have played since November 25, with this game rescheduled from earlier in the month and last week’s return match at Hatrick Park postponed due to the wintry weather. So, both sets of players will be dying to get stuck in.
Since losing by the minimum margin to Old Crescent in the first round, Rainey Old Boys have strung together seven wins in a row. Although they will have some notable absentees tomorrow in Tommy O’Hagan, Tim Barker and Oisin Quinn, prop Fintan Quinn is back after concussion, Scott McLean, who joins the bench, is set for his first appearance after a long injury spell, and Ulster have released John McCusker to start in the second row.
Sunday’s Well are winless in the last three rounds. Captain Cyprien Jouve and his team-mates need a big performance and result here, especially as their first three fixtures of 2018 are all against promotion-chasing teams – Old Crescent, Rainey and Navan.