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Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Review

Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Review

It was a winning weekend for three of the four Munster clubs in Division 1B as Shannon maintained their four-point lead at the top of the table and UL Bohemians and Dolphin, both in the bottom two, claimed hard-fought and much-needed victories.



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SHANNON 25 NAAS 3, Thomond Park back pitch
Scorers: Shannon: Tries: Stephen Fitzgerald, Duncan Casey, Aaron Hehir; Cons: Conor Fitzgerald 2; Pens: Conor Fitzgerald 2
Naas: Pen: Peter Osborne

HT: Shannon 13 Naas 3

A flying start helped Division 1B leaders Shannon on their way to a 25-3 triumph over Naas on Thomond Park’s back pitch, as they exacted revenge for a 21-18 November defeat to the same opposition.

The Kildare men, who were the only team to beat Shannon during the first half of the season, were outscored by three tries to one in Limerick as Tom Hayes’ side maintained their four-point lead at the top of the table.

Naas fell behind inside four minutes. Having won a lineout on halfway, they proceeded to run the ball but the Shannon backs were up very quickly and this led to winger Stephen Fitzgerald intercepting and running in unopposed under the posts. His younger brother Conor converted and Shannon led 7-0.

Backed by a strong wind in the first half, Shannon had the rub of the green when the match officials missed a knock-on. Referee Kieran Barry then penalised the visitors for hands in the resulting ruck, with Conor Fitzgerald’s crisply-struck penalty stretching the lead to 10 points.

Naas restored the seven-point gap within a minute as Shannon infringed from the restart and the ever-accurate Peter Osborne slotted over the difficult penalty to open their account. However, that proved to be their only score of the afternoon.

Shannon enjoyed most of the possession and territory in the second quarter, but a clear grounding was not evident when a powerful maul made it over the Naas whitewash. A Fitzgerald penalty after 26 minutes made it 13-3 for half-time, but the hosts had a late scare when pacy breaks from Fionn Carr and Fionn Higgins had Johne Murphy’s men on the cusp of a try before the final pass just failed to go to hand.

Despite now playing into the wind, Shannon dominated the early exchanges in the second period and increased their lead on 49 minutes. From a lineout they again march forward in a lineout drive and this time they were not to be denied as Munster’s Duncan Casey crashed over for an unconverted try.

Any lingering hopes of a Naas comeback were extinguished just before the hour mark. The visitors were enjoying a decent period of possession and were making the Shannon defence work overtime, when Carr was high tackled, giving Naas a penalty. Player-coach Murphy tapped and went himself but the referee deemed that he led with his elbow into the face of the tackler, and awarded a penalty to Shannon and gave Murphy a yellow card.

To their credit, Naas kept trying and went close to scoring on a couple of occasions, before Shannon replacement Aaron Hehir scored a breakaway try that was converted by Fitzgerald right on full-time.

SHANNON: Fionn McGibney; Nathan Randles, Jack O’Donnell, Will Leonard, Stephen Fitzgerald; Conor Fitzgerald, Keith Kavanagh; Tony Cusack, Ty Chan, Ciaran Parker, Ronan Coffey, Sean McCarthy Lee Nicholas (capt), Kelvin Brown, John Foley.

Replacements: Duncan Casey, TJ Relihan, Elliott Fitzgerald, Aaron Hehir, Kieran Dunne.

NAAS: Fionn Higgins; Rob O’Connor, Donal Droney, Johne Murphy, Fionn Carr; Michael Skelton, Peter Osborne; Jordan Duggan, Graham Reynolds, Conor Doyle, Paul Monahan, David Benn (capt), Warren Larkin, Will O’Brien, Cillian Dempsey.

Replacements: Charlie Kings, Stephen Lackey, Paulie Tolofua, Max Whittingham, Ross Bailey-Kearney.

BALLYNAHINCH 28 BALLYMENA 13, Ballymacarn Park
Scorers: Ballynahinch: Tries: Richard Reaney, Zack McCall, Aaron Cairns; Cons: Richard Reaney 2; Pens: Richard Reaney 3
Ballymena: Try: Brett Herron; Con: Brett Herron; Pens: Brett Herron 2

HT: Ballynahinch 11 Ballymena 6

Goal-kicking winger Richard Reaney weighed in with a try and 13 points from the tee as Ballynahinch beat Ulster rivals Ballymena 28-13 at Ballymacarn Park to stay four points off the summit.

Despite the bitterly cold conditions, a bumper crowd turned out to watch this provincial derby between two teams at opposite ends of the table. Eighth-placed Ballymena were virtually at full strength, bolstered by the inclusion of Callum Patterson, Brett Herron, David Shanahan, John Andrew and Ross Kane from the Ulster squad.

Ballynahinch were boosted by the return of club captain James Simpson and John Donnan in the second row, while Peter Nelson was a very able replacement for the Ulster-tied Johnny McPhillips at out-half. Backs coach Tom Rock stepped in to deputise for the injured Rory Butler in midfield and Aaron Cairns captained the side from scrum half.

Ballymena had a strong breeze at their backs but failed to use it well as ‘Hinch dominated the first half both in possession and territory. The 6-3 scoreline in their favour after 25 minutess did not reflect how well they had coped with the wind in their facse and how little Ballymena had offered in attack.

A superbly-created try from Reaney took them further ahead. Veteran centre Stuart Morrow smashed his man in midfield, dislodging the ball. Quick hands found a charging Zack McCall and he put Nelson away up the left touchline. After rounding full-back Rodger McBurney, Nelson passed inside for Reaney to score and stretch the lead to eight points.

The conversion was missed and ‘Hinch coughed up an easy penalty at the scrum, having failed to gather the restart. Ulster younger Herron slotted the three points to leave his side just five points adrift.

Despite losing influential lock David Whann to the sin-bin for killing the ball, Ballymena finished the first half strongly, camping on the ‘Hinch line for the final five minutes, but they were spurned by resolute defence from the hosts to leave it 11-6 at the break.

Early in the second half, Conall Boomer made a great break and put boot to ball as he tried to tee up a score for the onrushing McCall but Ballymena centre Patterson did brilliantly to get back and dot the ball down. Minutes later, ‘Hinch hooker McCall got the score his all-round game deserved after another break from Boomer almost put Reaney in. He was stopped short of the line and McCall was on hand to score when the ball was recycled.

Reaney converted to make it 18-6, and with the game drifting away from them, the Ballymena forwards hammered away at the ‘Hinch defence. After multiple phases they were eventually held up over the line.

Following a scuffle, play resumed with a Ballymena five-metre scrum. ‘Hinch defended the attack well and looked to have weathered the storm until a weak tackle from Rock allowed Herron through to score. He added the conversion to close the gap to 18-13 and Ballymena were right back in contention.

Cairns then ended the game as a contest with a brilliant individual try from 40 metres out. He broke from a ruck and scorched away from the back-field defence to score, despite the best efforts of Ballymena captain and former ‘Hinch player McBurney.

Reaney converted for a 25-13 scoreline and added a further penalty to put the result beyond any doubt as Brian McLaughlin’s men cemented their position behind Shannon after the opening round of 2018.

BALLYNAHINCH: Conor Kelly; David Busby, Stuart Morrow, Tom Rock, Richard Reaney; Peter Nelson, Aaron Cairns (capt); Jerry Cronin, Zack McCall, Stuart Orr, James Simpson, John Donnan, Matt Connolly. Keith Dickson, Conall Boomer.

Replacements: Claytan Milligan, Campbell Classon, Josh Donaldson, Chris Gibson, Paddy Wright, Brian Howard.

BALLYMENA: Rodger McBurney (capt); James Beattie, Angus Kernohan, Callum Patterson, Glenn Baillie; Brett Herron, David Shanahan; Nacho Cladera Crespo, John Andrew, Ross Kane, David Whann, Connor Smyth, Marcus Rea, Matthew Agnew, Adrian Hamilton.

Replacements: James Taggart, Chris Cundell, James Gallagher, Stephen Mulholland, Jonny Rossborough.

Scorers: Old Belvedere: Tries: Shane McDonald, Chris Carey; Con: Tim Foley; Pen; Tim Foley; Drop: Tim Foley
Banbridge: Tries: Adam Doherty, Nick Hayes; Con: Ian Porter; Pen: Ian Porter

HT: Old Belvedere 7 Banbridge 10

OLD BELVEDERE: Daniel Riordan; Shane McDonald, Peter Robb, David Butler, Chris Carey; Tim Foley, Ian Vance; Adam Howard, Ed Rossiter (capt), Omar Dahir, Connor Owende, Pierce Dargan, Max Ludwig, Eoin O’Neill, Dave Sherry.

Replacements: Killian O’Neill, James McWilliams-Gray, Diarmuid Kennedy, Tom Moloney, Aaron Sheehan.

BANBRIDGE: Adam Doherty; Conor Field, Andrew Morrison, Johnny Little, John Porter; Josh Cromie, Ian Porter (capt); Eric O’Sullivan, Peter Cromie, Michael Cromie, Stephen Irvine, Matthew Laird, Dale Carson, Nick Hayes, Caleb Montgomery.

Replacements: Jonny Weir, Stuart Cromie, Richie Graham, Ben Carson, Neil Kilpatrick.

Scorers: Old Wesley: Tries: Tommy O’Callaghan 2; Con: Adam Kennedy; Pen: Adam Kennedy
UL Bohemians: Tries: Mike Lynch, Noel Kinnane; Cons: James Hart 2; Pen: James Hart

HT: Old Wesley 12 UL Bohemians 3

Munster’s Jame Hart converted Noel Kinnane’s late try to complete a stirring fight-back from UL Bohemians who came away from Donnybrook as 17-15 victors over Old Wesley on Saturday.

Wesley was eager to put recent disappointing results behind them with a much-needed win. And for the first quarter of this contest it looked as though they would do so in style. However, as with recent matches, they lost their way in the final quarter and allowed the opposition to claim the victory.

Played in cold but dry conditions, Wesley had a dream start when winger Tommy O’Callaghan dotted down in the corner in the first play of the game. Flanker Conor Barry had made a fine break, bringing play into the opposition 22, before it was recycled resulting in the try.

The in-form O’Callaghan was on hand again a few minutes later when he finished off a neat run down the wing by Eoghan O’Reilly, to score his second try, midway between the posts and the corner flag. Adam Kennedy converted to make it 12-0 to the hosts, virtually before the opposition had a chance to touch the ball.

Morgan Lennon’s charges continued to look by far the better side, even forcing a penalty in the first scrum of the match. Despite what appeared to be an obvious knock-on, UL Bohemians eventually got close to the Wesley try-line only to be penalised for a high tackle.

After two unsuccessful attempts, the Limerick side eventually got on the scoreboard after 30 minutes with a penalty from Hart. However, they lost young full-back James McCarthy to the sin-bin after an incident which denied O’Callaghan his third try of the day.

The second period started with both sides guilty of handling errors. Kennedy had a chance to extend the lead with a long-range penalty kick but was wide of the mark. A kick ahead by Rory Stynes had the opposition in some trouble. After a bit of a comedy of errors, Wesley were nearly over again but the players were beaten to the touchdown by the dead ball line.

Now approaching the final quarter, Christy Neilan’s Red Robins were starting to gain the upper hand. A defensive mix-up allowed them to get into the Wesley 22. After a number of attacks a try looked imminent, however the referee spotted some obstruction by the visitors allowing Wesley to relieve the siege. There was also a yellow card for Bohs number 4 Dara Frawley.

However, despite being down a man, a penalty kick to the corner and some strong line out pressure eventually resulted in their first try. Now in sight of a win Bohs ran the ball straight from the kick off, and a kick ahead brought play back into the 22, putting Wesley under pressure once again. Wesley looked to have escaped when a maul was held up and they were awarded a scrum.  However the Limerick men kept attacking and with just 5 minutes remaining, and following some strong carries, Frawley got over for a try to avenge his earlier punishment.  The try was converted and for the first time in the match UL Bohemian were in the lead.  Then dramatically Wesley were thrown a lifeline with a penalty 35 metres out in front of the posts.  In the last play of the game Tim Clifford stepped up for his first place kick of the match, but pushed the ball well wide of the posts before the referee blew the final whistle.

OLD WESLEY: Rory Stynes; Eoghan O’Reilly, Paul Harte, David Poff, Tommy O’Callaghan; Tim Clifford, Adam Kennedy; David Henshaw, Conor Maguire, James Burton, Mark Robinson, JJ O’Dea, Darren Horan (capt), Conor Barry, John Fitzgerald.

Replacements: Craig Telford, Padraig Cullen, Kieran Murphy, Matthew Bursey, Craig Miller.

UL BOHEMIANS: James McCarthy; Joe Murray, Adrian Enright, Harry Fleming, Jamie McNamara; Mike Mullally, James Hart; Mark Bromell, Joe Bennett, Mike Lynch, Daragh Frawley, Noel Kinnane, James Ryan, Ian Condell (capt), Brian Walsh.

Replacements: Dave Rowsome. David O’Connor, Ed Kelly, Robbie Bourke, Colin Ryan.

DOLPHIN 12 UCC 9, Irish Independent Park (played on Friday)
Scorers: Dolphin: Pens: Barry Keeshan 2; Drops: Barry Keeshan 2
UCC: Pens: Peter Syvlester 2; Drop: Peter Sylvester

HT: Dolphin 3 UCC 6

DOLPHIN: Timmy Phelan; Colin Sisk, Cian McGovern, Ian O’Donoghue, Will Hanly; Barry Keeshan, Daryl Foley; Liam Walsh, David Byrne, James Rochford (capt), Rob O’Herlihy, Barry Fitzgerald, Anthony Mason, Kevin Allen, Kevin O’Leary.

Replacements: John Leahy, Caolan O’Flynn, Alex Denby, James Vaughan, Sam Kennedy, Alan O’Sullivan, Peter Hyde.

UCC: Shane McAuliffe; Kevin Slater, Cian Bohane, Paul Kiernan (capt), Richard Walsh; Peter Sylvester, John Poland; Shane O’Hanlon, Tadhg McCarthy, Rob O’Donovan, Cian Barry, Darragh Moloney, Jack O’Sullivan, John Hodnett, Ryan Murphy.

Replacements: Bryan O’Connor, James French, Brian O’Mahony, Murray Linn, James Kiernan.