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All-Ireland League Division 1B: Round 2 Review

All-Ireland League Division 1B: Round 2 Review

Division 1B pacesetters Naas and Malone doubled up with their second victories of the new All-Ireland League season on Saturday, while Banbridge’s front row impressed as they opened their win account at home to St. Mary’s College.


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Scorers: Ballynahinch: Pen: Richard Reaney
City of Armagh: Pen: Cormac Fox

HT: Ballynahinch 0 City of Armagh 3

The first ever All-Ireland League meeting between Ballynahinch and City of Armagh ended three points apiece, with the late drama at Ballymacarn Park provided by Richard Reaney’s levellling injury-time penalty for ‘Hinch.

With both sides chasing their maiden win of the campaign, this was a keenly-contested Ulster derby which was unfortunately blighted by torrential rain. Armagh were first out of the blocks, a strong burst by Paul Mullen taking play in the hosts’ 22 and a fifth-minute penalty for offside saw out-half Cormac Fox make it 3-0.

Fox’s opposite number Hilton Gibbons tested out the Armagh back-line with a booming kick from which a knock-on denied ‘Hinch an opportunist try. Scoring chances were few and far between as handling conditions were very difficult, Armagh winger Andrew Willis pressing from an interception on halfway before winger Reaney sent a 25th minute penalty wide.

Defences were on top for the most part as the first half ended 3-0, with Ireland Under-18 Schools flanker Ryan O’Neill coming on to make his senior debut for Armagh. The conditions showed no sign of improving and Armagh let ‘Hinch off the hook on the hour mark when they won two scrum penalties, five metres out, but knocked on in the next phase.

It was Ballynahinch’s turn to press during the final 10 minutes, winning three penalties on the trot before their misfiring lineout let them down. However, Armagh handed them back possession late on, and a ruck offence 30 metres out allowed Reaney to turn the central kick into three points and a stalemate ensued.

Disappointed Armagh head coach Willie Faloon said afterward: “We kicked away possession far too often on a day where conditions meant it was important to keep our hands on the ball. We’re disappointed our inexperience cost us this victory today but hopefully we will learn from our mistakes as it’s still early days in this league.”

BALLYNAHINCH: Conor Kelly; Richard Reaney, Callum McLaughlin, Ryan Wilson, Aaron Cairns (capt); Hilton Gibbons, Rhys O’Donnell; Ben Cullen, Conor Piper, Kelvin Hamilton, James Simpson, Keith Dickson, Tom Martin, Ollie Loughead, Conall Boomer.

Replacements: Jonny Blair, Graham McKittrick, Matt Connolly, Gareth Gill, Ronan Patterson.

CITY OF ARMAGH: Chris Cousens; Andrew Willis, Chris Colvin (capt), Evin Crummie, Ryan Purvis; Cormac Fox, Gerrard Treanor; Paul Mullen, Andrew Smyth, Phillip Fletcher, Josh McKinley, Peter Starrett, Robbie Whitten, Nigel Simpson, Neil Faloon.

Replacements: Jonathan Morton, Daryl Morton, Ryan O’Neill, Jonny Pollock, Tim McNiece.

Scorers: Banbridge: Tries: Penalty try, Peter Cromie, Schalk van der Merwe; Cons: Pen try con, Adam Doherty 2; Pen: Adam Doherty
Buccaneers: –

HT: Banbridge 7 Buccaneers 0

Banbridge’s powerful pack, which included Ulster prop Schalk van der Merwe, laid the platform for their first win of the new league season as they swept Buccaneers aside to take a 24-0 verdict at home.

Buccs were held scoreless on their first visit to Rifle Park but they were much more competitive than the final scoreline suggests. Rory O’Connor threatened in both halves, having a try ruled out for a prior infringement, and fellow backs Thomas McGann and Darragh Corbett were also prominent in attack.

The Pirates did well to avoid conceding while under the pump from a series of early scrums on their five-metre line. It was van der Merwe’s first outing in Bann colours and he featured in a beefed-up front row alongside Peter and Stuart Cromie. The scrum pressure eventually translated into a 24th-minute penalty try and a 7-0 half-time lead.

Evan Galvin’s excellence in the lineout helped Buccs retain enough possession to stay in the hunt, but an Adam Doherty penalty on the hour mark boosted Banbridge’s advantage to 10 points and a decisive second try followed 10 minutes from time. With Buccs replacement hooker Harry O’Reilly in the sin-bin, Dale Carson and Andrew Morrison gobbled up the yards in a move off a lineout before the centre released hooker Peter Cromie to finish off, with full-back Doherty converting.

Buccs’ final flurry resulted in a turnover which saw Cromie pick up and send South African van der Merwe charging clear and in behind the posts for Doherty to convert. Bann boss Simon McKinstry cut a satisfied figure afterwards, although there was a feeling that his side had left a bonus point behind them.

“Maybe we should have scored the fourth try,” McKinstry told the club website. “But the weather conditions were a great leveller and it was still our biggest winning margin since moving up to Division One. So we’ll settle for the four points and build on what was a much improved performance from the previous week.

“The performance was a whole lot better than last week anyway. Certainly Buccaneers weren’t as strong as Belvedere but we were a lot better too. The lineout was well-improved. Maybe we tried to push the pass a bit in the opening quarter hour when perhaps we should have just held onto the ball and gone through an extra phase or two. But we got there in the end.”

BANBRIDGE: Adam Doherty; Conor Field, Andrew Morrison, Benjamin Carson, John Porter; Jonny Little (capt), Niall Armstrong; Schalk van der Merwe, Peter Cromie, Stuart Cromie, Chris Allen, Matthew Laird, Mike Bentley, David McCann, Stephen Irvine.

Replacements: Paul Ross, Ross Haughey, Dale Carson, Aaron Kennedy, Adam Ervine.

BUCCANEERS: Graham Lynch; Thomas McCann, Rory O’Connor, Callum Boland, Darragh Corbett; Michael Hanley, Colm Reilly; James Kelly, John Sutton, Niall Farrelly, Torin Rensford, Ruairi Byrne, Evan Galvin, Rory Moloney (capt), Simon Meagher. 

Replacements: Harry O’Reilly, Eoghan Maher, Owen Treacy, Frankie Hopkins, Dean McMahon.

MALONE 18 ST. MARY’S COLLEGE 10, Gibson Park
Scorers: Malone: Tries: David Irvine 2, Ryan Clarke; Pen: Callum Smith
St. Mary’s College: Try: Dave Fanagan; Con: Ruairi Shields; Drop: Sean Kearns

HT: Malone 13 St. Mary’s College 3

A brace of first half tries from winger David Irvine guided Malone to an 18-10 victory over St. Mary’s at Gibson Park, in a game which saw Ulster and Ireland back rower Chris Henry relive his youth with a start in the hosts’ number 7 jersey.

Mary’s cohesion and decision-making was lacking this week in the rain-soaked conditions, with Malone’s ability to draw in defenders and move the ball wide seeing them strike at crucial stages. The hosts fell behind to a Sean Kearns drop goal in the fourth minute, but Mary’s number 8 Ronan Watters’ subsequent tip tackle earned him ten minutes in the sin-bin.

Watters returned to the pitch with Mary’s 5-3 down, a missed tackle allowing Irvine through for a well-taken try. He got over in the same corner with 31 minutes on the clock, and a penalty goal from out-half Callum Smith, in the 38th minute, gave the Cregagh Red Sox a 13-3 buffer to take into the second period.

Malone pushed 15 points clear just two minutes after the restart, kicking a penalty to the corner to set up a lineout maul and, playing with a penalty advantage for Mary’s coming in at the side, the Belfast outfit moved the ball at pace through three phases before number 8 Ryan Clarke touched down out wide.

With Malone staying locked on 18 points, new Mary’s captain Marcus O’Driscoll willed his team-mates on and they salvaged a late try through pacy full-back Dave Fanagan. Replacement scrum half Cormac Foley and O’Driscoll lifted the tempo and supplied quick ball across the back-line, with Fanagan hitting the line at the ideal angle to make it over in the corner.

Leinster Under-19 representative Ruairi Shields, who came on at out-half, landed a terrific conversion from the touchline to close the gap to eight points, however time ran out on Mary’s search for a losing bonus point. Kearns, a standout player for Mary’s in the number 10 jersey in recent seasons, is emigrating so Connacht Academy recruit Conor Deans and Shields will step up in his absence. 

MALONE: Jack Milligan; David Irvine, Josh Pentland, Nathan Brown, David McMaster; Callum Smith, Connor Spence; Chris Griffith, Dan Kerr, Ricky Greenwood, Jonathan Davis, James McAlister (capt), Michael Shiels, Chris Henry, Ryan Clarke. 

Replacements: Scott Finlay, Gary Crawford, Matthew Hadden, Shane Kelly, Gareth Millar.

ST. MARY’S COLLEGE: Dave Fanagan; Mark Fogarty, Craig Kennedy, Marcus O’Driscoll (capt), Hugo Conway; Sean Kearns, Paddy O’Driscoll; Tom O’Reilly, Richard Halpin, Michael McCormack, Max Kennedy, Liam Corcoran, Daragh McDonnell, David Aspil, Ronan Watters. 

Replacements: Stephen O’Brien, Colm McMahon, Mark Fallon, Cormac Foley, Ruairi Shields.

NAAS 28 BALLYMENA 3, Forenaughts
Scorers: Naas: Tries: Pierce Dargan, Johne Murphy 2, Andy Ellis; Cons: Peter Osborne 4
Ballymena: Pen: Tim Small

HT: Naas 7 Ballymena 3

Persistent rain failed to hinder in-form Naas as they ran in four tries in overcoming Ballymena 28-3 at Forenaughts, with player-coach Johne Murphy touching down twice from the inside centre position.

The Cobras kept the errors to a minimum despite the bad weather, going on to dominate the second half as they made it back-to-back bonus point triumphs to stay top of the table. Despite a committed all-round effort, Ballymena remain try-less and bottom of the league ladder after two rounds.

The visitors suffered an early setback with hooker Jonny Spence’s dangerous fourth-minute tackle earning a yellow card. Naas had a couple of near misses as they were held up from a lineout maul and winger Andy Ellis was also stopped inches short of the try-line. A subsequent knock-on allowed the Braidmen to clear the danger.

Indeed, it was Ballymena who got on the board first thanks to a 15th-minute penalty goal from Tim Small following Naas captain Paulie Tolofua’s sin-binning for a high tackle. However, Andy Graham’s men failed to take their chances leading up to half-time, and Naas stung them with lock Pierce Dargan’s late try, on the back of Ellis’ initial midfield break and some solid ground-gaining phases from the pack.

Peter Osborne converted to make it 7-3 at half-time, and added the extras to Murphy’s first score of the afternoon as Naas went up through the gears in the third quarter. Ballymena held them at bay until Ryan Casey’s slick 56th-minute lineout take set the backs in motion and Murphy barged over to put 11 points between the sides.

Man-of-the-match Ellis picked off an intercept to run in try number three just four minutes later, and Naas nabbed a last-minute bonus point when Murphy powered over with the donkey work again done by his industrious forwards. Osborne swung over the conversion for good measure, taking his tally for the season so far to 24 points.

NAAS: Peter Osborne; Fionn Higgins, Ross Bailey-Kearney, Johne Murphy, Andy Ellis; Peter Hastie, Richard Fahy; Conor Doyle, Graham Reynolds, Adam Coyle, Mike Russell, Pierce Dargan, Ryan Casey, Will O’Brien, Paulie Tolofua (capt).

Replacements: Cathal Duff, Jack Barry, Paul Monahan, Fionn Carr, Cillian Dempsey.

BALLYMENA: Matthew Norris; Dean Reynolds, James Wheeler, Sam Millar, Mark Thompson; Tim Small, Glenn Baillie; Nacho Cladera Crespo, Jonny Spence, Chris Cundell, JJ McKee, Connor Smyth, Ryan Mattison, Willie McKay, Stephen Mulholland.

Replacements: James Taggart, Josh Bill, Jacques Bolger, Scott Willoughby, Jonny McMullan.

OLD WESLEY 9 OLD BELVEDERE 9, Energia Park, Donnybrook
Scorers: Old Wesley: Pens: Rory Stynes 3
Old Belvedere: Pens: Steve Crosbie 3

HT: Old Wesley 6 Old Belvedere 3

Player-backs coach and captain Steve Crosbie’s 60th-minute penalty saw him match Rory Stynes’ hat-trick of place-kicks as Old Belvedere drew with local rivals Old Wesley at Energia Park on Saturday afternoon.

Played in wet and grey conditions, this Dublin 4 derby had draw written all over it from start to finish. There were never more than three points between the teams who defended manfully and had an equal share of possession and territory through most of the contest.

Old Wesley made the early running with a number of visits to the opposition 22, but their defence was well able for it. Equally, after a blocked down kick, Old Belvedere returned the compliment with a visit to the Wesley 22, which was soon relieved with a kick to touch. Wesley were then dealt a blow when knee injury victim Jack Maybury had to be replaced by Josh Miller.

The first score came after 23 minutes with a 35-metre penalty goal from Crosbie. Old Wesley full-back Stynes responded with a crisp strike from 25 metres out. Belvedere had a couple of strong attacks but they came to nothing following a knock-on and then a tackle into touch.

Wesley out-half Tom Kiersey led a promising attack for the hosts, taking them back into the ‘Belvo half. An infringement 40 metres out allowed Stynes to split the posts and hand Morgan Lennon’s charges a 6-3 advantage at the interval.

Kiersey increased his influence with another quick-witted run and kept the ‘Belvo defence on their toes following a levelling penalty from Crosbie. With a try remaining frustratingly out of reach for both sides, two more penalties from the place-kickers sent the teams into the closing stages at level-pegging.

There were chances to win it at both ends, Wesley blowing a near certain try when Bill Corrigan’s pass to supporting lock Iain McGann did not go to hand and the Tommy O’Callaghan-inspired attack came to naught. The usually reliable Crosbie also let Wesley off the hook when he sent a 35-metre penalty wide of the posts.

OLD WESLEY: Rory Stynes; Tommy O’Callaghan, Bill Corrigan, Alan Gaughan, Jack Maybury; Tom Kiersey, Charlie O’Regan; Harry Noonan, Andrew McCrann, James Burton, JJ O’Dea, Iain McGann, Paul Derham, Stephen Boyle, Mark Rowley.

Replacements: Craig Telford, Paddy Cullen, Darren Horan, Josh Pim, Josh Miller.

OLD BELVEDERE: Daniel Riordan; Jack Keating, Joe White, Ben Carty, Peter Maher; Steve Crosbie (capt), Peter O’Beirne; James Bollard, John McKee, Darragh Higgins, Jack Kelly, Connor Owende, Karl Miller, Tom de Jongh, Eoin Sweeney.

Replacements: Ethan Baxter, Luke Crofts, Martin Moloney, Fergus Flood, Paraic Cagney, Adam Howard, Jamie McAleese.

– Photos from Deryck Vincent, Hugh Wilkinson & Neil Biggerstaff