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All-Ireland League Division 1B: Round 5 Review

All-Ireland League Division 1B: Round 5 Review

Malone, who are the new leaders, Naas, City of Armagh and Old Belvedere all jumped places in All-Ireland League Division 1B last Saturday, with Belvedere taking the Dublin derby spoils against St. Mary’s College to win for the first time in four rounds.

ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, November 3

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BALLYMENA 13 CITY OF ARMAGH 22, Eaton Park
Scorers: Ballymena: Try: JJ McKee; Con: Tim Small; Pens: Tim Small 2
City of Armagh: Tries: Andrew Willis, Ryan Purvis, Robbie Whitten; Cons: Cormac Fox 2; Pen: Cormac Fox

HT: Ballymena 0 City of Armagh 15

The latest Ulster derby in Division 1B brought together two of the losing sides from the last round, bottom side Ballymena and mid-table City of Armagh. The big Eaton Park crowd watched Armagh attack first, their centre Jonny Pollock breaking deep into the hosts’ 22.

The fast start from Willie Faloon’s men was eventually rewarded in the ninth minute when despite Ballymena defending Armagh’s initial thrust from a penalty kicked to the corner, the ball was worked wide and Ryan Purvis came off his wing at pace to ghost in by the posts for a try converted by Cormac Fox.

Ballymena’s attempts to respond were blighted by a crooked lineout throw and the concession of a scrum penalty. A spill near the Armagh try-line also allowed the visitors to clear the danger, and into the second quarter, Chris Colvin and Daryl Morton led a break which resulted in Ballymena killing the ball and their lock JJ McKee seeing yellow.

Facing into a stiff wind, out-half Fox landed the penalty to put Armagh into double figures. Ballymena’s indiscipline was a serious problem for them as it allowed Armagh to dominate territorially in the first half. They used a series of penalties to set up an attacking lineout, closing in on half-time, and the ball was spread wide for winger Andrew Willis to ground the ball in the right corner.

Handling errors prevented the Braidmen from hitting back just before the break, but despite trailing 15-0, they showed more of an attacking threat while playing into the wind in the third quarter. With Purvis in the bin and just when Ballymena looked to drive a maul over, Armagh prop Morton came up with a crucial steal.

Fox missed a 40-metre penalty attempt before Ballymena narrowly missed out on a try, a foot in touch denying them. They finally opened their account with a 62nd minute penalty from out-half Tim Small, who punished an offside five minutes later to cut the gap to 15-6.

That was as close as Andy Graham’s charges got, though, as Armagh’s scrum took over, winning three successive penalties with Ballymena tighthead Chris Cundell dispatched to the bin. The next scrum saw Armagh drive over for a pushover try, scored by number 8 Robbie Whitten, with Fox adding the extras.

The winning margin was nine points after the Braidmen gained some consolation with a last-minute maul try from McKee, which was brilliantly converted by Small. Giving his reaction afterwards, Armagh head coach Faloon said: “Our first half performance was excellent and although we didn’t push on in the second half to close the match out sooner, we’re pleased to secure another win in Division 1B against the odds.”

BALLYMENA: Bruce Houston; Jordan Foster, Darrell Montgomery, Glenn Baillie, Dean Reynolds; Tim Small, Michael Stronge; Nacho Cladera Crespo, Jonny Spence, Chris Cundell, JJ McKee, David Whann, Connor Smyth, Marcus Rea (capt), Stephen Mulholland.

Replacements: Andrew Ferguson, Josh Bill, Willie McKay, Alan Smith, Jonny McMullan.

CITY OF ARMAGH: Tim McNiece; Andrew Willis, Chris Colvin (capt), Jonny Pollock, Ryan Purvis; Cormac Fox, Harry Doyle; Daryl Morton, Andrew Smyth, Phillip Fletcher, Josh McKinley, Peter Starrett, Nigel Simpson, James Hanna, Robbie Whitten.

Replacements: Michael Hoey, Jonny Morton, Gareth McNiece, Chris Cousens, Shea O’Brien.

BANBRIDGE 8 OLD WESLEY 15, Rifle Park
Scorers: Banbridge: Try: Conor Field; Pen: Adam Doherty
Old Wesley: Tries: Lachlan Anderson, Tom Kiersey; Con: Tom Kiersey; Pen: Tom Kiersey

HT: Banbridge 5 Old Wesley 12

First half tries from Lachlan Anderson and Tom Kiersey, combined with some well-organised and stubborn defending after the break, got the job done for Old Wesley as they upset the odds in defeating leaders Banbridge 15-8 at Rifle Park.

Incredibly, it was only Bann’s second defeat in an All-Ireland League regular season home game in four years, showing how big a result this as for Old Wesley who play Naas in their game in hand at Energia Park this Friday night (kick-off 8pm).

If it was the power of the visitors’ pack that gave them the early edge, it was a subtle grubber in behind the Bann defence that allowed Wesley to take the lead in the 18th minute. Armed with a penalty advantage, influential out-half Kiersey slid a beautifully-weighted kick into Bann’s in-goal area and full-back Anderson won the race to touch it down, with Kiersey converting.

Approaching the half hour mark, Kiersey shrugged off two attempted tackles to score Wesley’s second try out wide after another penalty had given them a strong lineout platform. The visitors continued to stamp their authority on the game with JJ O’Dea and Mark Rowley both carrying strongly.

With their lineout misfiring, Bann were struggling to make headway but they were able to capitalise when a Ben Carson tackle dislodged the ball. Conor Field scooped it up to Ethan Harbinson and the flanker fed Andrew Morrison who raced 30 metres down the right wing. Field was back in support to take the inside pass and cover the final 30 metres to the try-line, reducing the deficit to 12-5 at the break.

If Bann’s lineout was struggling at times, their scrum had no such problems and off the base of that they put the Wesley defence under extreme pressure in the third quarter. Field was almost in for his second try, just failing to ground the ball after Carson’s break from halfway had sent Peter Cromie tearing down the right wing. But the pressure eventually yielded a simple penalty which Adam Doherty converted.

The Wesley scrum was now coming under increased pressure and was dealt a major blow when talismanic second row O’Dea was shown a yellow card. Simon McKinstry’s side continued to pepper the Wesley line, opting to run a number of penalties. However, the visitors dug deep and defended doggedly.

The siege was eventually lifted following a turnover and a long kick downfield. The Ulstermen, who were missing the services of the Ulster-tied Greg Jones and the injured Caleb Montgomery and Michael Cromie up front, continued to press in the closing stages, but again Wesley’s defence allowed them little or no opportunities.

Having successfully hung on at 12-8 in front, Morgan Lennon’s men went on to finish as seven-point winners thanks to a last-minute penalty from Kiersey, whose crisp strike from 40 metres out split the posts and signalled the start of the deserved Old Wesley celebrations.

Giving his reaction afterwards, disappointed Bann boss McKinstry said: “We had said that we needed to step up from the Ballymena game but instead we took a step backwards. The players have taken responsibility for the defeat – there were just too many errors and too many malfunctions.

“Wesley dominated the breakdown and the contact in the first half, slowing our ball down a lot more than we would have liked. That’s probably because they were that bit more physical than us. And that gave their defence more time to spread out and prepare for our next attack.”

BANBRIDGE: Adam Doherty; Conor Field, Andrew Morrison, Benjamin Carson, Hugo Harbinson; Jonny Little (capt), Aaron Kennedy; Corrie Barrett, Peter Cromie, Stuart Cromie, Matthew Laird, Alex Thompson, Michael Bentley, Ethan Harbinson, Stevie Irvine.

Replacements: Andrew Jackson, Ross Haughey, Ryan Hughes, Niall Armstrong, John Porter.

OLD WESLEY: Lachlan Anderson; Tommy O’Callaghan, Bill Corrigan, David Poff, Paul Harte (capt); Tom Kiersey, Charlie O’Regan; Martin Gately, Andrew McCrann, James Burton, JJ O’Dea, Iain McGann, Paul Derham, Josh Pim, Mark Rowley.

Replacements: Ben Burns, Padraig Cullen, Darren Horan, Josh Miller, Cillian Monahan.

BUCCANEERS 23 MALONE 24, Dubarry Park
Scorers: Buccaneers: Tries: Rory O’Connor, Darragh Corbett; Cons: Luke Carty 2; Pens: Luke Carty 3
Malone: Tries: Ben McCaughey, Dan Kerr, Callum Smith; Cons: Rory Campbell 3; Pen: Rory Campbell

HT: Buccaneers 16 Malone 14

A sustained and disciplined defensive finish by Malone saw them hang on to pip Buccaneers by a single point in a terrific Division 1B duel at Dubarry Park. The lead changed hands seven times before this hard-earned victory nudged Paddy Armstrong’s side to the top of the table.

However, Buccaneers will be wondering how they had to settle for a losing bonus point as they pounded the visitors’ line for a prolonged spell with the clock in the red, failing to attempt a drop goal when it looked the obvious option. They made one change from the defeat to Ballynahinch with captain Rory Moloney starting in place of Simon Meagher.

Buoyed by their bonus point success against Old Belvedere, Malone pitched up in Athlone with three personnel changes. Dan Kerr and Josh Davidson replaced Adam McBurney and Michael Shiels in their pack, while Ulster Academy teenager Stewart Moore came in at inside centre.

With a diagonal breeze favouring Buccs, their Connacht Academy out-half Luke Carty opened the scoring with a second minute penalty but, seven minutes later, Nathan Brown found a gap in the home defence to send Ben McCaughey scampering in for a converted try wide on the right.

At the end of the opening quarter, Peter Claffey tapped down lineout ball on the left and the Pirates moved it swiftly to the opposite flank where rapid right winger Rory O’Connor outstripped the cover for a try which Carty converted to regain the lead – 10-7.

Carty landed a quite magnificent penalty from over 60 metres out to extend Buccs’ advantage in the 28th minute, yet Malone continued to carry a significant try-scoring threat. Following a maul penalty, they kicked to the left corner and a robust lineout drive sent hooker Kerr over for Rory Campbell to add another terrific conversion from out wide.

A third successful penalty from Carty saw them nip into a 16-14 lead for half-time, but Campbell cancelled out that kick with one of his own, four minutes into the second period. The midlanders hit back with some purposeful phases and quick recycling, setting up winger Darragh Corbett to pirouette smartly and notch his fourth try of the campaign.

The top-class goal-kicking continued with Carty successfully negotiating the touchline conversion for a 23-17 advantage. Frustratingly for Buccs, the harsh sin-binning of Connacht winger Rory Scholes, who collided with McCaughey as the players competed for a garryowen, gave Malone some crucial momentum.

The Pirates looked like holding Malone at bay until scrum half Colm Reilly’s telegraphed pass in front of his own posts was intercepted by Callum Smith for a soft 62nd-minute try which Campbell converted, putting the Cregagh Red Sox ahead by the minimum.

The otherwise-enterprising Reilly suffered another intercept shortly afterwards but Carty did well to bravely tidy up. The exchanges remained nip and tuck right until the dying moments. Hunting a match-winning score, Buccs put together a move of some 40 phases in which Claffey and man-of-the-match Conor Kenny were prominent to go from inside their own 22 all the way to the visitors’ line.

On a number of occasions a try seemed sure to be the outcome but Malone defended with resolve and discipline to somehow keep their line intact. In the end, Buccs took the wrong option when Carty tried to angle a kick pass to Scholes on the right but the defending David McMaster got there first to avert the danger when the Athlone men had an overlap on the opposite flank.

The home side were left to rue their failure to set up a drop goal – and they had a number of good opportunities to do so – as they spurned a chance to snatch the win right at the death. It was a gallant effort from Peter O’Donnell’s outfit, but their errors are having major repercussions for them as they struggle to get a winning sequence going.

BUCCANEERS: Callum Boland; Rory O’Connor, Kieran Joyce, Michael Hanley, Darragh Corbett; Luke Carty, Colm Reilly; Martin Staunton, John Sutton, Conor Kenny, Ruairi Byrne, Peter Claffey, Owen Treacy, Rory Moloney (capt), Evan Galvin.

Repacements: Niall Farrelly, Darren Buckley, Frankie Hopkins, Rory Scholes, Torin Rensford, Simon Meagher.

MALONE: Rory Campbell; Nathan Brown, Josh Pentland, Stewart Moore, Ben McCaughey; Callum Smith, Shane Kelly; Peter Cooper, Dan Kerr, Ross Kane, Jonathan Davis, Josh Davidson, Joe Dunleavy, Ross Todd (capt), Ryan Clarke.

Replacements: Scott Finlay, Ben Halliday, Matthew Hadden, Graham Curtis, David McMaster.

NAAS 27 BALLYNAHINCH 14, Forenaughts
Scorers: Naas: Tries: Fionn Higgins 2, Paul Monahan, Max Whittingham; Cons: Peter Osborne 2; Pen: Peter Osborne
Ballynahinch: Tries: Aaron Cairns, James Simpson; Cons: Hilton Gibbons, Richard Reaney

HT: Naas 12 Ballynahinch 7

After suffering their first defeat at the hands of Banbridge a fortnight ago, Naas resumed their league campaign against another of the Ulster clubs, Ballynahinch, who were chasing a hat-trick of away wins at Forenaughts after winning there in April 2017 (16-14) and last February (27-24).

The Kildare men suffered a setback even before a ball was kicked when influential back rower Ryan Casey was forced to withdraw due to an injury picked up in the warm-up. He was replaced by Pierce Dargan who went on to have a fine game.

Playing with the wind first off, Ballynahinch’ carrying game did not have much impact against a well-drilled Naas defence led by influential number 8 Paulie Tolofua and they were turned over at crucial times during the first 15 minutes.

However, ‘Hinch captain Aaron Cairns then provided the first moment of quality in a scrappy match when he came off his wing on a set play following an excellent scrum and raced through the 12 channel to score from 40 metres out. The conversion from Hilton Gibbons made it a seven-pointer.

Despite going behind, two Naas tries in as many minutes changed the complexion of the game on the half hour mark. The sin-binning of busy flanker Ollie Loughead for loose use of the boot also left Ballynahinch down a man.

Opting for a scrum from a 27th minute penalty, good handling by the home backs moved to ball out wide to Andy Ellis. He was stopped just short but managed to get his pass away to fellow winger Fionn Higgins who dived over in the corner.

Following the missed conversion, Naas were quickly back on the attack thanks to the strong running of prop Adam Coyle and Tolofua. Out-half Peter Hastie was fed from a ruck and sent a deft chip towards the corner where the onrushing Higgins swooped to complete his brace. Full-back Peter Osborne landed a peach of a conversion to put the Cobras 12-7 in front.

Gibbons pulled a central wide on the stroke of half-time, and within ten minutes of the restart, Johne Murphy’s men had the match sewn up as a contest. ‘Hinch full-back Conor Kelly knocked on a grubber kick from Higgins, giving the home side a five-metre scrum. The ‘Hinch set piece crumbled on this occasion and Naas scrum half Max Whittingham picked up to go over untouched for try number three.

Osborne hit the post with the conversion but did add the extras to lock Paul Monahan’s 50th-minute bonus point score, which saw him pick up from a close-in ruck and crash over. The Naas goal-kicker smacked over a 40-metre penalty, entering the final quarter, to extend the lead out to 27-7.

With the result effectively decided, the intensity of the game dropped for the final 15 minutes, although ‘Hinch did muster a late consolation try from second row James Simpson. Stuart Morrow also made a welcome return as a replacement and young front rower Claytan Milligan got some significant game-time, but the visitors’ all-round performance was below par.

NAAS: Peter Osborne; Fionn Higgins, Ross Bailey-Kearney, Johne Murphy, Andy Ellis; Peter Hastie, Max Whittingham; Jordan Duggan, Graham Reynolds, Adam Coyle, Paul Monahan, Cillian Dempsey, Pierce Dargan, Will O’Brien, Paulie Tolofua (capt).

Replacements: Cathal Duff, Conor Doyle, Rudhan McDonnell, Rob Campbell, Andy Kearney.

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, John Donnan, Tom Martin, Ollie Loughead, Conall Boomer.

Replacements: Claytan Milligan, Jonny Blair, Graham McKittrick, Stuart Morrow, Ryan Wilson.

OLD BELVEDERE 29 ST. MARY’S COLLEGE 24, Anglesea Road
Scorers: Old Belvedere: Tries: Eoin Sweeney, Jack Keating, Martin Moloney, Peter O’Beirne, Roman Salanoa; Cons: Steve Crosbie 2
St. Mary’s College: Tries: David Aspil, Tim MacMahon, Penalty try; Cons: Conor Dean 2, Pen try con; Pen: Conor Dean

HT: Old Belvedere 17 St. Mary’s College 10

Roman Salanoa’s injury-time try swung a dramatic Division 1B clash in favour of hosts Old Belvedere at Anglesea Road. Despite enjoying 14-point advantages in both halves, ‘Belvo were left reeling by the concession of back-to-back converted tries.

St. Mary’s College looked set to claim a share of the spoils, only for replacement prop Salanoa, who had only just returned from the sin-bin, to dramatically intervene. Mary’s were in confident mood ahead of their short trip to Ballsbridge and they broke the deadlock with just under three minutes on the clock.

A series of attacking phases led to a 35-metre penalty, which the reliable Conor Dean, who is now part of the Connacht Academy, converted with minimal fuss. Despite falling behind early on, Old Belvedere gradually grew in stature as the first half progressed.

Experienced full-back Daniel Riordan released winger Fergus Flood for an overlap on the left flank, although the retreating Mary’s defence was able to gather his kick up the line. The hosts looked set to cross over when Ben Carty charged down an attempted clearance, but the centre knocked on just shy of the whitewash.

However, when player-backs coach and out-half Steve Crosbie kicked a 15th minute penalty to touch, it was the catalyst for the game’s maiden try. A powerful lineout maul saw the hosts gobble up the yards and lock Eoin Sweeney applied the finishing touches for a 5-3 scoreline.

After Crosbie’s conversion rebounded off the near left-hand post, Belvedere remained on the front foot and the 25th-minute sin-binning of Mary’s lock Liam Curran offered them a gilt-edge chance to kick on. They turned down several kicks at goal before the decision to spread play out to the right paid off with Riordan releasing Jack Keating for the winger’s fifth try of the campaign.

Backed by their vocal home support, Andy Kenny’s charges stung Mary’s with a third try as Crosbie, who was beginning to dictate affairs from half-back, unlocked the defence with an incisive break to set up young flanker Martin Moloney for a well-crafted seven-pointer.

However, Mary’s found their rhythm in attack to close the gap to 17-10 in time for the break. Dean sent a penalty to the left corner and openside David Aspil was able to round off a concerted attack by touching down against the base of the post. Dean knocked over the straightforward conversion to leave just seven points between them.

Belvedere had the better of the exchanges on the resumption, and it took just 11 minutes to register their bonus point try. Scrum half Peter O’Beirne scored it after getting on the end of Riordan’s spectacular break on the left. Crosbie’s conversion, coupled with the sin-binning of Mary’s replacement Paddy O’Driscoll, strengthened the hosts’ hand.

Again though, Mary’s showed their battling qualities and stayed in the hunt in impressive fashion. The dynamic Dean identified some space in behind the ‘Belvo defence and his well-weighted kick past the try-line was grounded by replacement Tim MacMahon for another confidence-boosting converted score.

The Mary’s forwards were causing increasing problems for Belvedere, making the lineout option all the more enticing for number 10 Dean. The back-up hooker, Stephen O’Brien, led the latest charge in the 66th minute which ended with referee Oisin Quinn awarding a penalty try for an illegally sacked maul.

That meant the sides were level at 24 points apiece but, crucially, Mary’s could not take advantage of the yellow cards for Belvedere front row replacements John McKee and Solanoa. Instead it was under-strength ‘Belvo who largely controlled possession for the remainder. They were denied a kick at goal but 21-year-old powerhouse Salanoa had other ideas, grounding the ball under a pile of bodies right at the death.

OLD BELVEDERE: Daniel Riordan; Jack Keating, Jamie McAleese, Ben Carty, Fergus Flood; Steve Crosbie (capt), Peter O’Beirne; James Bollard, Ed Rossiter, Declan Lavery, Eoin Sweeney, Connor Owende, Martin Moloney, Eoin O’Neill, Colin Mallon.

Replacements: John McKee, Roman Salanoa, Michael Oyuga, Jack Kelly, Joe White, Adam Howard, Simon Killeen.

ST. MARY’S COLLEGE: Tim MacMahon; Craig Kennedy, Myles Carey, Marcus O’Driscoll (capt), Mark Fogarty; Conor Dean, Cormac Foley; Tom O’Reilly, Richard Halpin, Michael McCormack, Liam Corcoran, Liam Curran, David Aspil, Ronan Watters, Mark Fallon.

Replacements: Stephen O’Brien, Colm McMahon, Nick McCarthy, Paddy O’Driscoll, Hugo Conway.

– Photos from Ken Redpath (City of Armagh RFC), Yazz Coyle Photography (Naas RFC) & Kayla Mullan (Banbridge RFC)