Wins for perennial promotion challengers Highfield and newly-promoted pair Old Crescent and Navan were among the most notable results on the opening Saturday of the All-Ireland League Division 2A season.
ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE DIVISION 2A: Saturday, September 29
ROUND 1 RESULTS –
Blackrock College 30 Galwegians 20, Stradbrook
Cashel 26 Dolphin 10, Spafield
Navan 36 Nenagh Ormond 16, Balreask Old
Queen’s University 19 Old Crescent 21, Dub Lane
UL Bohemians 10 Highfield 36, University of Limerick 4G pitch
Clubs are invited to post the best tries from their All-Ireland League fixtures on the club’s Twitter, Facebook or Instagram pages using the hashtag #AILTry and tag @irishrugby. The scorer of #AILTry of the Month will receive a voucher for €;250 and each of the monthly winners will be entered into the #AILTry of the Season competition.
Highfield were very impressive 36-10 bonus point winners over UL Bohemians who were relegated from the second tier at the end of last season. Captain Miah Cronin and winger Paul Stack scored two tries each and half-backs Chris Bannon and Shane O’Riordan, who kicked three conversions, also touched down.
It was quite a statement of intent from Tim Ryan’s men who pushed 12 points clear before UL Bohs cut the gap to two just before half-time. Full-back Robbie Bourke lifted Bohs with a well-taken intercept try to add to his earlier penalty on the University of Limerick’s 4G pitch.
The second half was one to forget for the Red Robins, however, as Cronin and O’Riordan grounded tries to rack up the bonus point with 15 minutes still to play. UL had to cope without yellow-carded flanker Darragh O’Grady for 10 minutes, and Highfield compounded the hosts’ woes by adding two closing tries from Stack and Bannon, with O’Riordan landing both conversions.
Blackrock College were one of four winning clubs to register a try-scoring bonus point, coming from seven points down to defeat Galwegians 30-20. Mick Carroll’s charges reeled off three tries during the closing 20 minutes to leave ‘Wegians without a point from his entertaining clash.
The opening match of a unique men’s and women’s All-Ireland League double header at Stradbrook saw the Galway men lead 13-10 at the interval. Out-half Morgan Codyre kicked two penalties and converted Dave Clarke’s early try, while his opposite number Peter Quirke crossed for the first of ‘Rock’s tries in the 14th minute.
The south Dubliners had the wind behind them in the second half but the ‘Wegians backs continued to look dangerous and centre Clarke brilliantly completed his brace in the 54th minute, cancelling out a Quirke penalty from halfway. Frustratingly for Brian McClearn’s side, that proved to be their final score of the game at 20-13 up.
Blackrock number 10 Quirke used well-won lineout ball to throw a dummy and break through for his second try of the afternoon, squaring things up at 20-all. ‘Wegians hooker Christy Reilly was penalised for crawling as they missed out on a try, and in a tense finish which included a yellow card each, ‘Rock triumphed thanks to two tries in the dying minutes.
Speaking to Irish Rugby TV afterwards, Blackrock head coach Mick Carroll said: “It was a tough start. ‘Wegians came out of the blocks and I think last year, looking back on it, our lads probably won have dropped the head and let that lead grow. However, we’ve been working on a lot of things over the break – new people coming in who have added a little extra edge to that.
“We were able to claw it back and take the lead, slowly just chip away at it. Delighted with the result. The structure this year with the blocks of three games in the AIL is huge and hopefully we can carry that momentum through this first block, because last year it took us a long time to find our feet.”
Cashel kicked off their centenary year in winning style by taking a 26-10 verdict at home to Dolphin. Their Kiwi recruit Jonty Rae got on the scoresheet and efforts from Keith Melbourne and Niall Fitzgerald, allied to a penalty try, completed their four-try haul. The visitors forced a penalty try before half-time but 14-10 is as close they got.
Ray Moloney’s first league match in charge of Navan saw them account for Nenagh Ormond on a 36-16 scoreline, with the Tipperary club also adjusting to life under new head coach Dermot Dunne. The Balreask Old faithful witnessed a flying start as Brian Haugh and Riaan van der Vyver ran in tries inside the opening eight minutes, the latter one a 60-metre intercept score.
Scrum half Nick Irwin notched Nenagh’s only try to briefly pull the deficit back to 14-10, while new centre Alex Ropeti kicked a total of 11 points. However, they could not quash Navan’s clinical attack which saw talented former Munster Academy player Haugh rack up two tries and 21 points in all.
Conor Hand, who was released by Ben McEntagart, and Paddy Fox both got over in the corner to hand the Meath outfit their bonus point before half-time, establishing a 26-10 lead. Ropeti slotted over two more penalties but Haugh’s 44th-minute try, coupled with his penalty approaching the hour mark, had Navan out of sight.
Out-half Ronan McKenna fired over three penalties and a conversion in Old Crescent’s hard-earned 21-19 success away to Queen’s University. A strong start was key to Crescent pocketing the four points in Belfast, with player-backs coach Brian Tuohy taking advantage of a sizable gap in the home defence to score a ninth-minute try.
Queen’s closed the gap to 8-7 in swift fashion as centre Conor McKee swept over from close range on the quarter hour mark. But a brace of McKenna penalties in the final nine minutes of the first half put seven points between the sides at the turnaround. Crescent struck a considerable blow five minutes in the second period when they won a scrum against the head and back rower Kevin Doyle muscled over for a seven-pointer.
Back came Queen’s, determined to recapture their best early season form under new head coach Derek Suffern. Hooker Andrew McGrath’s powerful carry and pop pass sent full-back Johnny Milliken over for a converted score on the 50-minute mark. Milliken almost turned provider in the students’ next serious attack, but he threw a forward pass to Johnny Hunter.
Crescent breathed a big sigh of relief when Ritchie McMaster, striking the ball from a tight angle, missed the conversion of scrum half Conor McAuley’s blindside try off a five-metre scrum. That left the Limerick men still in front at 21-19 and they managed to hang on despite losing prop Alex Simpson to a 75th-minute yellow card for his part in a melee.
– Photos from Desmond Loughery Photography & Navan RFC