Leaders Ballina blew Instonians away in the second half of their round 2 clash to register their second win of the All-Ireland Provincial League Championship and move within touching distance of promotion to the Ulster Bank League. Meanwhile, Bandon stormed their way into second place on the back of a fantastic 29-point victory over Ashbourne.
ALL-IRELAND PROVINCIAL LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP: Saturday, April 21
ROUND 2 RESULTS –
BANDON 55 ASHBOURNE 26, Old Chapel
Scorers: Bandon: Tries: Billy Crowley 2, Gearoid Crowley 2, Christian Mulcahy 2, Conall Bromwich, Enda Phelan; Cons: Kerry Desmond 6; Pen: Kerry Desmond
Ashbourne: Tries: Donal Crotty, Joey Szpara, Jake Wall, Simon Deevy; Cons: Donal Crotty 3
HT: Bandon 24 Ashbourne 7
INSTONIANS 18 BALLINA 41, Shaw’s Bridge
Scorers: Instonians: Tries: Gareth Burns-Delaney 2, James Campbell; Pen: Fraser Wright
Ballina: Tries: Daniel Molloy 2, Aiden McNulty, Calum Quinn, Chris O’Neill 2; Cons: Kieran Lindsay 4; Pen: Kieran Lindsay
HT: Instonians 13 Ballina 10
Ballina overturned a narrow half-time deficit to blitz hosts Instonians with five second half tries, earning themselves an outstanding 41-18 bonus point win in Belfast. They have maximum points at the top of the table and are just 80 minutes away from booking a place in Ulster Bank League Division 2C for next season.
The Moy men certainly did it the hard way at Shaw’s Bridge last Saturday, as a fired-up Inst side tore into an early 13-0 lead. Scrum half Matthew Keane’s break from halfway in the opening seconds was a portent of things to come. Although a knocked on pass ruined their first scoring opportunity, Instonians built quickly again and following some pressure from the forwards, the ball was swung wide for young full-back Gareth Burns-Delaney to touch down.
The Inst pack, which included John Andress in the front row and Roger Wilson in the second row, laid the groundwork for out-half Fraser Wright’s eighth-minute penalty from in front of the posts, while Ballina leaked a second unconverted try in the 25th minute when Burns-Delaney took a pass from kick receiver Ben Alexander and set off on a superb 70-metre run to the whitewash, leaking several defenders trailing in his wake.
However, the remainder of the first half belonged mostly to Ballina. Their attack began to click and with Inst losing Wilson to the sin-bin, number 10 Kieran Lindsay got the visitors on the board with a well-struck penalty. The momentum was suddenly shifting and with another penalty turning into a powerful lineout drive, excellent number 8 Daniel Molloy was able to crash over two minutes before the break.
Lindsay converted to make it a three-point game at the turnaround, and scrum half Mickey Murphy’s interception early in the second period gave Ballina further encouragement. The next score would be vital and the Connacht champions claimed it in the 53rd minute, varying their attack in impressive fashion with lock Aiden McNulty cutting back intelligently to go over for a seven-pointer.
Their 17-13 lead became 22-13 early in the final quarter. Before that, Cian Mullarkey came to Ballina’s rescue with a vital intervention after Inst flanker Lewis McNamara had threatened to charge over for a try. Instead, Balina’s advantage blossomed in a one-sided finish to what had been a very competitive match.
The tiring hosts missed the running of Burns-Delaney who had gone off injured, and Ballina centre Calum Quinn’s well-timed run saw him take a pass off Murphy’s shoulder to score in the corner. The bonus point was pocketed by Molloy when he burst over from a close range scrum, with 13 minutes remaining.
With the Ballina forwards now dominant, Murphy used scrum ball to feed onrushing full-back Chris O’Neill and he evaded five defenders on his way to the line. Lindsay tagged on the extras for a 34-13 scoreline. Centre James Campbell ran in a consolation score for the Ulstermen, but Ballina had the final say when a big tackle from McNulty put the visitors back on the attack and O’Neill’s pace took him clear from near halfway to complete his try double.
So, having been relegated in 2005, Ballina are in pole position to make it back to the Ulster Bank League. They travel to Ashbourne with a four-point lead over second-placed Bandon who, after drawing with Instonians in their opener, opened their win account with a superb eight-try display at home to the Meath men.
All four clubs have something to play for in the final round, with Inst (two points) and Ashbourne (four) both still in contention to claim the runners-up spot and book a trip to Bruff for next week’s Division 2C promotion/relegation play-off. Ulster Bank Junior Cup champions Ashbourne need to quickly recapture their best form after a tough couple of weeks.
They have been on the end of two heavy defeats to Enniscorthy in the Provincial Towns Cup and Bandon in the Round Robin qualifiers respectively, and now face into their 28th game of a long season which, no matters how it finishes, has still seen them pick up two prized possessions in the All-Ireland Junior Cup and the Leinster Junior League Division 1A trophy.
Last Saturday’s second round encounter with Bandon began well for Ashbourne who, despite missing some key men through injury, opened the scoring with an 11th-minute converted try from out-half Donal Crotty. However, that proved to be their only score of a first half which ended 24-7 in the hosts’ favour.
In sunny conditions, Bandon were level by the quarter hour mark thanks to a Billy Crowley try converted by his centre partner Kerry Desmond. Ashbourne’s powerful winger Casey Dunne was repeatedly getting over the gain-line for his team until his unfortunate withdrawal through injury on the half hour, and Bandon used the final 10 minutes before the break to stretch clear.
Flanker Jake Wall’s subsequent sin-binning was another blow for the Leinster outfit, and unconverted tries from backs Christian Mulcahy and Gearoid ‘Pizza’ Crowley gave Regis Sonnes’ Corkmen a 17-7 buffer. Blindside Wall was back on the pitch for Bandon’s bonus point score from his opposite number Conall Bromwich, although it could have been chalked off for a forward pass.
Gearoid and Billy Crowley completed their braces in the third quarter as the home side extended their lead to 38-7. It was at this stage that Ashbourne’s attack began to fire again, as young openside Joey Szpara’s 59th-minute try was followed by two more from his back row colleagues, Wall and Simon Deevy. Crotty added two conversions to reduce the arrears to 38-26 with 11 minutes remaining.
Unfortunately for the travelling support, Ashbourne were outplayed for the remainder as Bandon found another gear to string together two more tries and a penalty, pushing through the half-century mark in the process. Desmond steadied the ship with the aforementioned penalty, and Mulcahy and second row Enda Phelan both crossed the whitewash in the dying minutes of an accomplished performance by Sonnes’ troops.
ALL-IRELAND PROVINCIAL LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP – ROUND 3 FIXTURES:
Saturday, April 28 –
BANDON (2nd) v INSTONIANS (4th), Old Chapel, 2.30pm
ASHBOURNE (3rd) v BALLINA (1st), Milltown House, 2.30pm
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