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All-Ireland League Division 2C: Round 1 Review

All-Ireland League Division 2C: Round 1 Review

Four of the victorious teams in the opening round of All-Ireland League Division 2C chalked up try-scoring bonus points, including Ballina – on their return to senior rugby after a 13-year absence – and City of Derry who came down from Division 2B last term.

ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE DIVISION 2C: Saturday, September 29

ROUND 1 RESULTS –

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Ballina 23 Omagh 19, Heffernan Park
City of Derry 29 Tullamore 15, Craig Thompson Stadium, Judge’s Road
Malahide 19 Bangor 44, Estuary Road
Midleton 35 Bruff 8, Towns Park
Thomond 33 Seapoint 22, Liam Fitzgerald Park

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.

Undoubtedly the standout result was Bangor’s 44-19 bonus point success at Malahide, a complete reversal from last season’s 29-7 win for the north Dubliners. It was a superb start for Bangor’s new head coach Michael Ferguson who has Ulster and Ireland’s Stuart McCloskey and Craig Gilroy overseeing a young back-line.

The Seasiders outscored Malahide by seven tries to three, all while giving league debuts to four 18-year-olds – Declan Maguire, Oscar Yandall and Liam Preston in the backs along with flanker Stephen Moore. It was full-back Maguire who broke the deadlock with a 24th minute penalty from in front of the posts.

The sides had been cancelling each other out but the tries soon came, former Old Belvedere and Leinster flanker Richie Leyden breaking through for Malahide’s opener from turnover ball. Wind-backed Bangor worked their way forward, led by assistant coach Lewis Stevenson, and hooker Andrew Shaw was able to crash in under the posts with Maguire converting for a 10-5 lead.

With the Estuary Road elements at their backs, the visitors needed another score before half-time and they got it when lock Stevenson scooped up a loose ball from a Malahide lineout and Mark Widdowson fed flanker James Henly who wrong-footed the defence to dive over for a timely seven-pointer. The Bangor-born, New Zealand-raised Preston came on at scrum half and provided the assist for Phil Broderick’s 49th-minute try in the corner.

Now trailing 22-5, it was vital for Malahide to score quickly in Brendan Guilfoyle’s first league match in charge. Bangor prevented them from gaining momentum, though, and a thrilling breakaway try finished off by Henly registered their bonus point.

The hosts were left reeling when Bangor’s buoyant back-line tagged on two more tries as they made it 36 points without reply – Nathan Graham touched down from his own kick through and winger Broderick completed his brace following further good work by Henly, Moore and Maguire.

Malahide, who contested the promotion play-offs last season, salvaged some pride over the closing quarter of an hour with converted tries from full-back Shane McDonald, another ex-Old Belvedere player, and Dan Hayes who was sprung from the bench. However, Bangor finished the job in clinical fashion by pushing Malahide off their own scrum ball, allowing Preston to pick up and set off Widdowson, who had moved to centre, on a power-packed run to the line.

Full-back Chris O’Neill’s try in the final play will go down in the annals of Ballina club history after the Mayo side edged out Omagh 23-19 in a thrilling opener at Heffernan Park. Staring at defeat, Darragh Whyte chased down Craig McCormick’s pinpoint restart to set the 14-man hosts on the attack and fleet-footed New Zealander O’Neill duly popped up as the match winner.

The foundations for this most dramatic of victories were laid in the first half which ended 15-6 in Ballina’s favour. After leaking an initial penalty to Omagh’s new out-half Stuart Ballantine, the Moy men manufactured their first try when the strong-carrying Dan Molloy burst into the 22 and the ball was moved wide for flanker Tim Wallace to squeeze in at the corner.

Ballina were able to build a 15-6 interval lead but left two other tries behind them. The chances they did take saw key men Kieran Lindsay and Aiden McNulty turn some persistent phase play into tries, in answer to Ballantine’s second successful penalty in the 27th minute. Omagh too had been frustrated by Ballina’s robust defensive line.

The Accies fell further behind to a Whyte penalty before producing a terrific finish. They sensed blood after Ballantine landed his third penalty and his opposite number Lindsay saw yellow with four minutes remaining. Busy centre Luke Hanson forced his way over for a converted try, and Ballantine’s fourth and final penalty had Omagh ahead until O’Neill denied them right at the death.

Tries from Simon Logue (2), David Graham and Conall Gill shot City of Derry to an encouraging 29-15 triumph over Tullamore at the Craig Thompson Stadium. It was double delight for Derry as their seconds players, having won their own game, waited to cheer the first team off, showing how unified the club is under new director of rugby Paul O’Kane.

Doubling up as the senior head coach, O’Kane watched his new side absorb plenty of first half pressure from the beefy Tullamore pack, which included former Connacht tighthead Conor Higgins. Despite their territorial dominance, the opening score eluded the Tulliers as Sam Burns stuck a penalty wide, Derry winger Paddy Blennerhasset saved a certain try, and the hosts also escaped a penalty try at set piece time.

Instead it was Derry who hit the front just after the half hour mark when scrum half Logue sniped over for a converted try following an initial break by centre Graham. However, Tullamore replacement Ger Molloy barged over on the stroke of half-time to make it seven points apiece.

Logue slipped through a gap again to move Derry back in front early in the second half, before Barry Bracken and Gill swapped penalties. O’Kane’s men coped well during hooker David Ferguson’s sin-bin period and landed a killer blow when full-back Thomas Cole countered brilliantly from deep, linking with Graham at halfway and the centre surged in between three covering defenders to score at the posts.

Replacement Gill’s conversion stretched the margin out to 24-10, and although lock Eamonn Bracken took Tullamore’s try tally to two, Gill’s impressive cameo off the bench finished with his dive over in the corner to notch a last-minute bonus point.

Meanwhile, Munster clubs Midleton and Thomond both made the most of their home advantage when defeating Bruff (35-8) and Seapoint (33-22) respectively. The Red Devils are riding high at the top of the table with newly-arrived Kiwi Benji Cottle and Martijn Korterik, a Netherlands Under-20s cap last season, already striking up a promising centre partnership.

Cottle and Koterik got among the tries for Midleton, along with forwards Jon Gardiner and Mark Corby. The ever-impressive Stuart Lee contributed 15 points via three conversions and three penalties. Fellow out-half Evan Cusack also had his kicking boots with him on the opening day, landing 18 points in Thomond’s 11-point defeat of Seapoint.

Zac Jungmann and Jordan O’Donnell swapped first half tries with Cusack nailing three kicks for a 13-7 lead at the turnaround. Eric Miller’s men stung the Soda Cakes with two tries inside six minutes of the restart, hooker Conor Montayne plunging over from a lineout maul and Alex Guerin coming in off his right wing to finish off a cracking team try that showcased the Dubliners’ distribution and lines of running.

However, flanker Fintan Cross gave Thomond a timely lift with a 56th-minute intercept try, converted by Cusack who increased his influence with a penalty from halfway plus a 75th-minute drop goal. 26-17 became 33-17 when Richie Ryan reached over to make certain of the home win, but Seapoint earned a battling bonus point when Alexander McCauley crossed from close range in injury-time.

– Photos from Roger Corbett and Desi Fusco (Bangor), Corinne Beattie (Ballina) & City of Derry RFC