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Ulster Bank League: Division 2C Review

Ulster Bank League: Division 2C Review

All four provinces are represented in the top half of Division 2C currently, with Sligo’s 20-all draw at Bangor enough to keep them in pole position. At the other end, Tullamore’s hard-earned win at Seapoint means the bottom four sides are separated by just two points.



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Bangor 20 Sligo 20, Upritchard Park
Malahide 12 Omagh 19, Estuary Road
Midleton 12 Bruff 19, Towns Park
Seapoint 22 Tullamore 23, Kilbogget Park
Thomond 18 Bective Rangers 14, Liam Fitzgerald 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.

Scoring 17 unanswered points in the second half, Bangor battled back for a share of the spoils with table toppers Sligo. The game at Upritchard Park went ahead thanks to the Trojan work of the Bangor club staff and volunteers in clearing the snow-covered pitch.

Sligo’s swift distribution from an early lineout inside the hosts’ 22 saw Ryan Feehily launch a dangerous attack where Philip Carter got within two metres out of the line, and the winger’s excellent offload put full-back Jack Keegan powering over for a try which he did really well to convert himself.

Keegan added a well-struck penalty goal, three minutes later, as Ross Mannion’s men hit double figures. Returning lock Ciaran Cassidy made a good impact early on and Kiwi flanker Manu Parkin continued his recent rich vein of form.

Sligo moved the margin out to 17 points with their second converted try, as prop Mark Keegan joined his brother Jack on the scoresheet by muscling over to the right of the posts following a series of forward drives. The latter converted his sibling’s score.

Mark Widdowson, who had missed an earlier kick for Bangor, swapped penalties with Jack Keegan as the first half ended 20-3 in Sligo’s favour. The Seasiders lost their captain Phil Whyte to a nasty knee injury, but a strong attacking spell before half-time set them up for a much-improved final 40 minutes.

Jason Morgan’s side showed plenty of character while David Bradford was in the sin-bin for a tip tackle, as a second Widdowson penalty reduced the arrears to 14 points again. Upping the intensity through their forwards at scrum and ruck time, the hosts claimed their first try when lock Dave Caughey was driven over.

Bangor added a second Widdowson-converted try with 10 minutes remaining, drawing level at 20 points apiece through former captain Jamie Clegg from a monster 20-metre lineout maul. That set up a grandstand finish with both sides creating scoring opportunities in the dying minutes.

Sligo winger Calum Goddard was denied by a last-ditch tackle after collecting a cross-field kick from Mark Butler, while a difficult left-sided penalty, with just a minute remaining, was sent narrowly wide by Bangor place-kicker Widdowson.

Meanwhile, Omagh dug deep to end Malahide’s unbeaten home record this season just a week on from losing 27-5 to the Dubliners. The Accies’ 19-12 comeback victory at Estuary Road has lifted them up to third in the table as they look forward to 2018 with renewed optimism.

Omagh head coach Phil Marshall said: “I am delighted to have won, especially coming back from 12 points down. We showed great character, something we had discussed all week. We were really focused on defence in the second half, were well organised, had the rub of the green on occasion, but deserved this win. I got the reaction I was looking for.

“We were hurting from last week. It wasn’t good and disappointing we couldn’t follow on from a great away win in Thomond, but at least we have repaired the damage and can now look to work on a few things at training over the next few weeks ahead.”

Winger Marcus McAllister was first to threaten, going close to scoring his eighth try of the campaign, as Malahide transitioned swiftly from defence to attack. The hosts’ early dominance was eventually reflected on the scoreboard when prop Tom Collis touched down in the 15th minute via an excellent offload from McAllister.

Just five minutes later, Malahide captain Eoin Crowley managed to barrel over for a second try following good carries by Chris O’Brien and Ciaran Clifford. Conal Keane was unable to convert on this occasion, but with a 12-point deficit to overcome and number 8 Matthew Clyde and Yonga Taleni both going off with injuries, Omagh had it all to do.

However, the Accies regrouped in impressive fashion with their powerful scrum – going up against a bigger Malahide eight that included ex-Ireland prop Mike Ross – providing quick and clean ball for captain Stewart McCain and the backs.

With the ball moved from wing to wing, the pacy Scott Barr found a gap on the right to dive over in the corner and finish off a terrific team try which went unconverted. Scott Elliott was bang on target with his second conversion attempt of the afternoon, tying things up at 12 points apiece for half-time after a good run by Adam Pollock saw him make the line.

Omagh held onto the momentum early in the second period, holding out in defence when Malahide dropped the ball at a dangerous maul and then also knocked on in a promising position. It took an opportunist try from hooker Pollock to split the sides, as he won the chase to touch down after an initial hack through and some nifty dribbling by the front rower.

Elliott added the extras for a seven-point advantage and that proved to be the final score of the game, as Omagh missed two bites at the bonus point – including a pass which went behind replacement Neil Brown when he looked likely to score – and Ross was held up in a last-minute surge for the line by Malahide.

Tullamore won for the first time in four rounds as a late try saw them pip Seapoint 23-22 in a cracking contest at Kilbogget Park. The sides scored three tries each with the visitors touching down twice in the first half through Sean McCabe and Cathal Feighery.

Kiwi out-half Bain Champion bagged a brace for the hosts, finishing off a fantastic free-flowing attack from inside the ‘Point half and then running in an intercept effort in the second half. Winger Alex Guerin also crossed for his second senior try, dotting down in the right corner from Cian Buckley’s inch-perfect kick through.

Bruff took their scores well and defended manfully as they completed the double over Midleton with a 19-12 triumph at Towns Park. Jack O’Grady’s early try set them on their way, the inside centre scoring from 10 metres out off the platform of a strong scrum.

Midleton had two penalties in each half from the ever-reliable Stuart Lee, but Bruff carried more of a threat in the loose. O’Grady used a scrum to kick through and he got his boot to the ball again to touch down with his brother, out-half David, converting for a 12-9 scoreline.

A third try, this time via a lineout and scored by hooker John Hogan, gave the Limerick men enough of a buffer to see out the result, although Midleton picked up another losing bonus point as out-half Lee split the posts after Bruff flanker John Clery was sin-binned for not releasing.

Ger Finucane and Dean O’Brien were the try scorers for Thomond as they avenged last week’s defeat with an 18-14 victory over Bective Rangers at Liam Fitzgerald Park. Bective will draw encouragement from their second half performance, though, as Martin Smith scored his first senior try and Adam Philpott also touched down. The club’s Under-20 captain Mark O’Brien made his Ulster Bank League debut as a replacement.

Match Photos:

Bangor v Sligo – Ian Adamson/Desi Fusco Snr