A new name will grace Division 1A of the Ulster Bank League next season after Banbridge and UCC came through two high-scoring play-off semi-finals. Bann will have home advantage in next Saturday’s promotion decider against the Cork students.
UCC enjoyed a Racing-like start to their semi-final at St. Mary’s College, striking for tries through Rob O’Donovan, Peter Sylvester and Murray Linn inside the opening 24 minutes. Full-back Richard Walsh added a fourth for a comprehensive 26-7 interval lead.
Ronan Watters, Dave Fanagan and Marcus O’Driscoll all touched down for Mary’s, raising hopes of a comeback with the gap reduced to 26-21, but Brian Walsh’s talented youngsters had more in the tank. Impressive out-half James Taylor, who kicked 11 points, converted centre Sylvester’s second score to seal the result.
Bann, who drew and lost their regular season clashes with UCC, won their all-Ulster semi-final 28-24 against Ballynahinch in dramatic circumstances. Coming from 12 points down, three penalties from current Ireland Under-20 international James Hume and a late penalty try, awarded for a collapsed maul, saw Daniel Soper’s men prevail.
The league’s narrow margins were summed up by UL Bohemians’ relegation just a year on from almost qualifying for the top flight. The Red Robins have slipped down to Division 2A after losing 23-18 to a tenacious Nenagh Ormond side. Nenagh’s Kiwi full-back Clayton Stewart booted his third penalty in the 59th minute to add to first half tries from Derek Corcoran and Kevin O’Flaherty.
The winners of City of Armagh v Nenagh will be promoted to Division 1B, the Ulstermen advancing with a 27-13 semi-final success at Highfield, while the final Division 2A place will go to either Rainey Old Boys or Navan, and the Division 2B promotion/relegation decider is an all-Ulster affair between Belfast Harlequins, who were relegated the last two years, and ever-improving Omagh.
The Accies had one of the results of the day, winning 34-13 at home to Thomond thanks to tries from Adam Longwell, James Catterson, Kyle Alexander, Ryan Mitchell (2) and Ali Beckett. Influential out-half Scott Elliott showed great footwork to set up Catterson’s score, breaking the defensive line and stepping around a defender before getting his hands free in a tackle to send the supporting flanker over.
Braces from Daniel Molloy and Chris O’Neill in a 41-18 victory at Instonians has Connacht Junior champions Ballina on the cusp of securing a Division 2C spot. They top the All-Ireland Provincial League Championship table on 10 points, four clear of Bandon.
The west Cork outfit notched eight tries – including doubles from Gearoid Crowley, Billy Crowley and Christian Mulcahy – in an excellent 55-26 triumph at Ashbourne. First place and second place are still very much up for grabs in next Saturday’s final round.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE RESULTS: Saturday, April 21
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DIVISION 1A PROMOTION/RELEGATION PLAY-OFF SEMI-FINALS:
ST. MARY’S COLLEGE 24 UCC 36, Templeville Road
Scorers: St. Mary’s College: Tries: Ronan Watters, Dave Fanagan, Marcus O’Driscoll; Cons: Sean Kearns 3; Pen: Sean Kearns
UCC: Tries: Rob O’Donovan, Peter Sylvester 2, Murray Linn, Richard Walsh; Cons: James Taylor 4; Pen: James Taylor
HT: St. Mary’s College 7 UCC 26
ST. MARY’S COLLEGE: Sean Kearns; Terry Kennedy, Marcus O’Driscoll, Myles Carey, Dave Fanagan; Conor Dean, Paddy O’Driscoll; Tom O’Reilly, Richard Halpin, Adam Coyle, Ciaran Ruddock (capt), David O’Connor, David Aspil, Ronan Watters, Nick McCarthy.
Replacements: Hugo Kean, Emmet Ferron, Jack Dilger, Darren Moroney, Ryan O’Loughlin, Cathal O’Flaherty, Craig Kennedy, Matthew Timmons, Daragh McDonnell.
UCC: Richard Walsh; Murray Linn, Paul Kiernan (capt), Peter Sylvester, Cian Bohane; James Taylor, John Poland; Bryan O’Connor, Tadgh McCarthy, Rob O’Donovan, Cian Barry, Darragh Moloney, Daire Feeney, John Hodnett, Jack O’Sullivan.
Replacements: Travis Coomey, James French, Brian O’Mahony, Lee McSherry, Andrew Dorgan.
BANBRIDGE 28 BALLYNAHINCH 24, Rifle Park
Scorers: Banbridge: Tries: 2 penalty tries, Conor Field; Cons: 2 pen try cons; Pens: James Hume 3
Ballynahinch: Tries: Richard Reaney 2, David Busby, Aaron Cairns; Cons: Richard Reaney 2
HT: Banbridge 12 Ballynahinch 19
BANBRIDGE: Adam Ervine (capt); Conor Field, Andrew Morrison, James Hume, Ben Carson; Jonny Little, Jason Gribben; Eric O’Sullivan, Peter Cromie, Michael Cromie, Chris Allen, Stephen Irvine, Caleb Montgomery, Nick Hayes, Greg Jones.
Replacements: Jonny Weir, Stuart Cromie, Mike Bentley, Ryan Hughes, Robin Sinton, Neil Kilpatrick, Ross Cartmill.
BALLYNAHINCH: Peter Nelson; Conor Kelly, David Busby, Stuart Morrow, Richard Reaney; Ryan Wilson, Aaron Cairns (capt); Jerry Cronin, Claytan Milligan, Stuart Orr, James Simpson, John Donnan, Jack Regan, Josh Donaldson, Conall Boomer.
Replacements: Conor Piper, Campbell Classon, Zac Ward, Ollie Loughead, Willie Stewart, Callum McLaughlin, Chris Gibson, Jonny Blair, Connor Phillips.
DIVISION 1B PROMOTION/RELEGATION PLAY-OFF SEMI-FINALS:
UL Bohemians 18 Nenagh Ormond 23, University of Limerick 4G pitch
Highfield 13 City of Armagh 27, Woodleigh Park
DIVISION 2A PROMOTION/RELEGATION PLAY-OFF SEMI-FINALS:
Greystones 16 Navan 22, Dr. Hickey Park
Rainey Old Boys 26 MU Barnhall 14, Hatrick Park
DIVISION 2B PROMOTION/RELEGATION PLAY-OFF SEMI-FINALS:
Belfast Harlequins 19 Malahide 13, Deramore Park
Omagh 34 Thomond 13, Thomas Mellon Playing Fields
ALL-IRELAND PROVINCIAL LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP – ROUND 2:
Bandon 55 Ashbourne 26, Old Chapel
Instonians 18 Ballina 41, Shaw’s Bridge