Only six points separate top from bottom in Division 1B of the All-Ireland League following an eventful third round, which saw Ballymena, Buccaneers, City of Armagh and Ballynahinch all pick up their first wins.
ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, October 20
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BALLYMENA 40 ST. MARY’S COLLEGE 22, Eaton Park
Scorers: Ballymena: Tries: Tim Small, David Whann, John Andrew, Glenn Baillie; Cons: Tim Small 4; Pens: Tim Small 4
St. Mary’s College: Tries: Conor Dean, Richard Halpin, Mark Fogarty; Cons: Conor Dean 2; Pen: Conor Dean
HT: Ballymena 20 St. Mary’s College 17
Out-half Tim Small pulled the strings and top-scored with a terrific 25-point haul as Ballymena opened their win account in Division 1B with a 40-22 bonus point dismissal of St. Mary’s College at Eaton Park.
Having scored only three points in the previous two rounds, the Braidmen turned in their best attacking display of the season so far as they pushed clear of the Dubliners in the second half to claim a four-try victory despite losing two players to the sin-bin.
St. Mary’s did get off to the better start, with Connacht Academy out-half Conor Dean to the fore on his seasonal debut in the league. He landed a wind-backed penalty from near halfway and then took a well-timed Cormac Foley pass from a scrum to slip past two defenders and touch down, 13 minutes in.
That gave the visitors an early 10-7 lead, with Dean’s try cancelling out a converted score from his opposite number Small, who spotted his opportunity following some pick-and-goes from the home forwards. Missed tackles have proven costly for Mary’s so far this season, and another one allowed Ulster hooker John Andrew through for Ballymena’s second try.
That was sandwiched by two penalties from Small, leaving Mary’s 10 points behind before their pack hit back on the half hour mark. Ronan Watters’ well-won lineout led to a maul and some individual drives, chipping away at the home defence until hooker Richard Halpin took a great angle to score by the posts. Dean converted and Mary’s had a third try in their sights on the stroke of half-time, but a crucial scrum went awry.
A penalty for obstruction, two minutes into the second period, saw Small get the scoreboard moving again for Ballymena at 23-17. Mary’s frustration grew as they lost lineout possession, handing the initiative to the home forwards who set up lock David Whann for a well-taken 50th-minute try.
Small converted and added his fourth successful penalty, before centre Glenn Baillie got in on the scoring act with a 65th-minute bonus point effort, running in from the edge of the Mary’s 22 after a mix-up in the visitors’ defence on a kick ahead. Winger Mark Fogarty gained some consolation with a classy injury-time try, profiting from a dropped Ballymena ball in midfield to kick through twice and get the touchdown.
BALLYMENA: Matthew Norris; Jordan Foster, Darrell Montgomery, Glenn Baillie, Dean Reynolds; Tim Small, Michael Stronge; Nacho Cladera Crespo, John Andrew, Chris Cundell, JJ McKee, David Whann, Connor Smyth, Marcus Reilly, Stephen Mulholland.
Replacements: Josh Bill, Jonny Spence, Willie McKay, James Wheeler, Jonny McMullan.
ST. MARY’S COLLEGE: Dave Fanagan; Hugo Conway, Craig Kennedy, Marcus O’Driscoll (capt), Mark Fogarty; Conor Dean, Cormac Foley; Tom O’Reilly, Richard Halpin, Michael McCormack, Liam Corcoran, Daragh McDonnell, David Aspil, Ronan Watters, Mark Fallon.
Replacements: Stephen O’Brien, Colm McMahon, Paddy O’Driscoll, Max Kennedy, Ruairi Shields.
BUCCANEERS 41 OLD WESLEY 14, Dubarry Park
Scorers: Buccaneers: Tries: Simon Meagher, Darragh Corbett, Evan Galvin, Rory O’Connor, Thomas McGann; Cons: Luke Carty 5; Pens: Luke Carty 2
Old Wesley: Tries: Paul Harte, James Burton; Cons: Rory Stynes 2
HT: Buccaneers 14 Old Wesley 7
Buccaneers ended Old Wesley’s unbeaten start to the new season with a barnstorming five-try display at Dubarry Park where they secured their first league triumph under new head coach Peter O’Donnell.
Although Rory Moloney and Callum Boland missed out through injury, Buccaneers were able to welcome back Connacht Eagles duo Peter Claffey and Luke Carty along with experienced prop Martin Staunton, while ex-Bucc Paul Harte returned from injury to captain Old Wesley who included Josh Pimm for Stephen Boyle, a late withdrawal.
The Pirates opened the scoring after three minutes, winger Darragh Corbett weaving his way over from far out after Carty and Graham Lynch had supplied him with quick ball. A second quick-fire try followed barely three minutes later when Harte fumbled a kick from John Sutton and Thomas McGann prodded the ball forward for number 8 Simon Meagher to break through and score, with Carty adding both conversions.
Stung into action, Old Wesley profited from a missed touchfinder and a knock-on at a lineout as Buccs coughed up hard-earned metres and the visitors used scrum possession to work the ball wide to winger Harte who slid over for a 16th minute try, superbly converted from the touchline by Rory Stynes.
The second quarter was scoreless as Buccs took a 14-7 lead into the break, tightening up their defence with good discipline. Bill Corrigan almost claimed a levelling score for Wesley but the bounce of the ball, from a diagonal kick, evaded his clutches on the left wing. Another blistering start on the resumption saw O’Donnell’s men seize the initiative again.
They turned over a threatening Old Wesley attack inside their own 22 and McGann went raiding down the right flank where he linked up with Lynch. The full-back coolly chipped over his opposite number Stynes and McGann, continuing his run, fastened on to the ball to touch down with 42 minutes on the clock.
Centre Rory O’Connor picked off a risk skip pass from Wesley – leaping like a gazelle on his own 10-metre line – and showed the required pace to sprint clear for the bonus point try. Carty kept up his impressive place-kicking performance by knocking over both conversions and tagging on two penalties, leaving Wesley 34-7 adrift with less than half-an-hour remaining.
Tighthead James Burton bagged a maul try in response, but Wesley’s comeback hopes were soon dashed by Buccs’ fifth touchdown, flanker Evan Galvin burrowing over following a turnover-winning tackle from Conor Kenny and some patient build-up play. Carty converted to complete his 16-point tally and Portumna native Claffey claimed the man-of-the-match honours for a dynamic display up front.
BUCCANEERS: Graham Lynch; Thomas McGann, Rory O’Connor, Michael Hanley, Darragh Corbett; Luke Carty, Colm Reilly; Martin Staunton, John Sutton (capt), Niall Farrelly, Ruairi Byrne, Peter Claffey, Owen Treacy, Evan Galvin, Simon Meagher.
Replacements: Conor Kenny, Eoghan Maher, Torin Rensford, Frankie Hopkins, Dean McMahon.
OLD WESLEY: Rory Stynes; Tommy O’Callaghan, Bill Corrigan, Alan Gaughan, Paul Harte (capt); Tom Kiersey, Charlie O’Regan; Harry Noonan, Andrew McCrann, James Burton, JJ O’Dea, Iain McGann, Paul Derham, Josh Pimm, Mark Rowley.
Replacements: Craig Telford, Padraig Cullen, Donnchadh Phelan, David Poff, Josh Miller.
CITY OF ARMAGH 32 MALONE 3, Palace Grounds
Scorers: City of Armagh: Tries: Andrew Smyth, Josh McKinley, Nigel Simpson, Peter Lamb; Cons: Cormac Fox 3; Pens: Cormac Fox 2
Malone: Pen: Jack Milligan
HT: City of Armagh 17 Malone 3
City of Armagh scored four tries and kept previously-unbeaten Malone try-less as they ran out comprehensive 29-point winners of last Saturday’s Ulster derby clash at the Palace Grounds.
Willie Faloon’s charges, who gave a first senior start to Ireland Under-18 Schools flanker Ryan O’Neill, got off to a dream start with two converted tries inside the first eight minutes, while replacement hooker Peter Lamb’s bonus point score arrived in the final play of a match which was played in perfect autumnal conditions.
Hooker Andrew Smyth was driven over for an opening fifth-minute try, converted by Cormac Fox, to leave Malone already playing catch-up. The visitors fell further behind when Armagh strung phases together from the restart and lock Josh McKinley managed to stretch over for a second converted try following pressure in the Malone 22.
Malone’s first attack of the game earned them a 14th minute penalty which full-back Jack Milligan slotted over, but Armagh continued to dominate the exchanges with out-half Fox punishing an offside with three more points. Although 17-3 behind at half-time, Malone ended the first half with a one-man advantage after a series of penalties led to Armagh number 8 Robbie Whitten being sin-binned.
Luck was not on the Cregagh Red Sox’s side when they attacked through their lineout and scrum, with a turnover allowing Armagh to clear the danger, a scrum penalty lifting the pressure off the hosts, and a couple of lineout steals also thwarting the Belfast outfit.
A stop-start third quarter ended with Armagh extending their lead to 20-3, following a yellow card for Malone’s Milligan and a well-struck 30-metre penalty from Fox. The resolute Armagh defence continued to frustrate Malone who kicked a number of penalties down the line, and just as they looked set to score a try, they were foiled by another costly turnover.
Indeed, Armagh rubbed salt into their Ulster rivals’ wounds with two closing tries for a five-point return. Scrum half Harry Doyle’s box kick caused problems for the visitors’ defence, with Tim McNiece and Ryan Purvis both chasing hard, and the pressure led to flanker Nigel Simpson touching down.
Armagh captain Chris Colvin’s interception from the restart led to a ruck penalty and a well-executed lineout drive saw Lamb crash over, with Fox’s touchline conversion the perfect way to finish off a memorable afternoon for the hosts.
Their head coach Faloon said afterwards: “Our defensive effort was massive and getting those early scores settled any nerves. Our error count was really low today which pleased me, although the high number of penalties conceded is something we will have to improve on.”
CITY OF ARMAGH: Chris Cousens; Andrew Willis, Chris Colvin (capt), Evin Crummie, Tim McNiece; Cormac Fox, Harry Doyle; Daryl Morton, Andrew Smyth, Phillip Fletcher, Josh McKinley, Peter Starrett, Nigel Simpson, Ryan O’Neill, Robbie Whitten.
Replacements: Michael Hoey, Peter Lamb, James Hanna, Jonny Pollock, Ryan Purvis.
MALONE: Jack Milligan; Gareth Millar, Josh Pentland, Nathan Brown, David McMaster; Callum Smith, Connor Spence; Peter Cooper, Dan Kerr, Ricky Greenwood, Jonathan Davis, Michael Shiels, Joe Dunleavy, Matthew Agnew, Ross Todd.
Replacements: Scott Finlay, Ben Halliday, Matthew Hadden, Graham Curtis, Chris Jordan.
NAAS 16 BANBRIDGE 20, Forenaughts
Scorers: Naas: Try: Andy Ellis; Con: Peter Osborne; Pens: Peter Osborne 3
Banbridge: Tries: Peter Cromie 2, Caleb Montgomery; Con: Adam Doherty; Pen: Adam Doherty
HT: Naas 6 Banbridge 5
Ulster back rower Caleb Montgomery crossed for a 72nd-minute match-winning try as Banbridge came from behind to beat Division 1B leaders Naas by four points at Forenaughts.
This was a top class encounter between two fine sides with the result in the balance right up to the final whistle. The skill levels were extremely high and it was an absorbing contest to watch, at the end of which Bann hooker Peter Cromie had taken his try tally for the new league campaign to five.
After full-back Adam Doherty missed an early penalty, Banbridge continued to probe through their powerful forwards who forced Naas to collapse two lineout mauls. A third successive drive resulted in Cromie breaking off and diving over for a deserved try which went unconverted. In response, Naas rolled up their sleeves and got stuck into their opponents.
Adam Coyle, Graham Reynolds, Ryan Casey and Will O’Brien all stood out as the Cobras made better use of possession, and out-half Peter Osborne punished a 23rd-minute high tackle with a well-struck penalty goal. Montgomery saw yellow for a similar infringement, three minutes before half-time, and hands in the ruck allowed Osborne to make it 6-5.
Osborne provided the assist for the hosts’ opportunist try at the start of the second half. Doherty hesitated in dealing with a high kick from Osborne in the Bann 22 and Naas winger Andy Ellis swooped in to gather the ball and score under the posts. Osborne’s conversion opened up a 13-5 advantage. It took some superb defending from Johne Murphy’s side to keep Bann out over the next 15 minutes.
The Co. Down outfit were finally rewarded in the 58th minute when Naas ran out of numbers and a big overlap on the right saw Cromie go over in the corner. Doherty was back on target with a cracking conversion, and he followed up with a successful penalty after Naas were guilty of wheeling a scrum.
A purple patch from Naas drew successive penalties and Osborne’s ultra-consistent right boot delivered three more points for a 16-15 lead. It was not enough in the end, though, as Naas switched off and allowed Bann to dictate. They camped on the hosts’ line before blindside Montgomery forced his way over for the decisive five-pointer.
NAAS: Fionn Higgins; Fionn Carr, Ross Bailey-Kearney, Johne Murphy, Andy Ellis; Peter Osborne, Richard Fahy; Jordan Duggan, Graham Reynolds, Adam Coyle, Paul Monahan, David Benn, Ryan Casey, Will O’Brien, Paulie Tolofua (capt).
Replacements: Cathal Duff, Conor Doyle, Rudhan McDonnell, Rob Campbell, Cillian Dempsey.
BANBRIDGE: Adam Doherty; Conor Field, Andrew Morrison, James Hume, Adam Ervine; Jonny Little, Niall Armstrong; Schalk van der Merwe, Peter Cromie (capt), Stuart Cromie, Alex Thompson, Stevie Irvine, Caleb Montgomery, David McCann, Greg Jones.
Replacements: Corrie Barrett, Ross Haughey, Chris Allen, Aaron Kennedy, Benjamin Carson.
OLD BELVEDERE 17 BALLYNAHINCH 32, Anglesea Road
Scorers: Old Belvedere: Tries: Jack Keating, Peter O’Beirne; Cons: Steve Crosbie 2; Pen: Steve Crosbie
Ballynahinch: Tries: Rory Butler, Campbell Classon, James Simpson, Bradley Luney; Cons: Hilton Gibbons 3; Pens: Hilton Gibbons 2
HT: Old Belvedere 10 Ballynahinch 13
Ballynahinch came away from Anglesea Road last Saturday with a full haul of five points courtesy of a well-judged 32-17 bonus point success against a previously-unbeaten Old Belvedere team.
Trips to the Dublin 4 ground have rarely brought any joy for Ballynahinch sides in the past and two defeats to Old Belvedere last season much much to derail ‘Hinch’s promotion push. Brian McLaughlin was able to strengthen his line-up considerably for this third round tie with Zack McCall and Campbell Classon back in the front row, lock Bradley Luney making his league debut, and Rory Butler adding impetus to the midfield.
Despite a promising start from the visitors, it was Belvedere who sauntered into an 10-point lead. They came away with points from their first attack when Steve Crosbie slotted over a straightforward penalty. Just moments later, the player-backs coach and captain capitalised on a narrow ‘Hinch defence when his excellent cross-field kick sent winger Jack Keating over for his fourth try of the season.
Crosbie’s conversion made it 10-0, but Ballynahinch deservedly closed the gap thanks to their swarming defence and high-intensity breakdown work. Crosbie’s opposite number Hilton Gibbons sent two penalties through the posts to open ‘Hinch’s account, and a clever move from a scrum set up their first try of the afternoon after 34 minutes.
Captain Aaron Cairns came in off the blindside wing to burst into the 12 channel, profiting from Callum McLaughlin’s decoy run, and he passed for the supporting Butler to finish off the try which Gibbons converted. 13-10 is how it remained up to half-time, ‘Hinch standing firm against a furious late assault from ‘Belvo. Luney and McCall earned a pressure-relieving turnover.
Gibbons missed a penalty attempt, pushing his kick past the right hand post, before ‘Hinch hammered away in pursuit of their second try. Classon, Gibbons and Keith Dickson all went close before scrum pressure, including a penalty five metres out, and timely support from lock James Simpson shunted young loosehead Classon over the whitewash to make it 20-10.
A fascinating final quarter lay ahead after ‘Belvo hit back with a 57th minute try from scrum half Peter O’Beirne, following a nice line by openside Tom de Jongh off a ruck. However, McLaughlin’s men had more in reserve – a monster maul gained 20 metres – and they settled the issue with two more tries, the first from Luney who spotted some slack cover around the side of a ruck.
With ‘Hinch maintaining a high intensity in the final minutes, a well-executed grubber kick from flanker Dickson pinned ‘Belvo back on their own line, and a great line from second row Simpson onto a tapped penalty saw him thunder over for the bonus point score with time almost up.
OLD BELVEDERE: Daniel Riordan; Jack Keating, David Butler, Ben Carty, Peter Maher; Steve Crosbie (capt), Peter O’Beirne; Adam Howard, John McKee, Roman Salanoa, Jack Kelly, Eoin Sweeney, Karl Miller, Tom de Jongh, Colin Mallon.
Replacements: Killian O’Neill, Luke Crofts, Jim McWilliams-Gray, Fergus Flood, Jamie McAleese, James Bollard, Joe White.
BALLYNAHINCH: Conor Kelly; Richard Reaney, Callum McLaughlin, Rory Butler, Aaron Cairns (capt); Hilton Gibbons, Rhys O’Donnell; Campbell Classon, Zack McCall, Conor Piper, James Simpson, Bradley Luney, Keith Dickson, Ollie Loughead, Conall Boomer.
Replacements: Claytan Milligan, Jonny Blair, Tom Martin, Robin Harte, Ryan Wilson.
– Photos from Darrell O’Kane Photography, Michael Silke, Ken Redpath & Kayla Mullan