A fantastic five-try first half performance saw Highfield tear Navan apart to win their top of the table clash in Division 2A. Indeed, it was a Munster clean sweep with all five sixth round fixtures won by clubs from the province.
ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE DIVISION 2A: Saturday, November 10
ROUND 6 RESULTS –
Blackrock College 8 Cashel 22, Stradbrook
Galwegians 12 Old Crescent 13, Crowley Park
Highfield 40 Navan 10, Woodleigh Park
Nenagh Ormond 24 Dolphin 23, New Ormond Park
UL Bohemians 36 Queen’s University 24, Annacotty
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.
Unbeaten leaders Navan had opened the season with five impressive wins, but they were stung by two Highfield tries inside 12 minutes. Luke Kingston and Gavin O’Leary, the latter profiting from a Shane O’Riordan cross-field kick, both touched as Tim Ryan’s men got off to a flying start at Woodleigh Park.
The pace was relentless and Highfield continued to prosper, prop Michael Dillane reaching over for their third try after just 17 minutes. Having been starved of attacking chances, Navan scored from their very first opportunity as winger Sean McEntagart was fed out wide and his excellent footwork saw him ghost past two defenders for an unconverted try.
However, the visitors’ decision-making and handling let them down at times, and turnover ball led to Highfield centre Dave O’Sullivan touching down out wide. Some bruising phases also saw Navan lose the services of out-half Colm O’Reilly and flanker Conor Farrell, and with another miscued lineout, Highfield used the possession to break downfield and set up O’Sullivan to complete his brace.
Highfield out-half O’Riordan was also having a fine day with the boot, landing five of his six conversion attempts. Trailing 33-5 at half-time, the Meath men scored first on the resumption when hooker David Clarke got his boot to a loose ball, collected his own kick and crashed over for a much-needed try.
A superb break from full-back Kingston got the Highfield attack firing again, and from the resulting five-metre scrum, replacement Eddie Earle powered over for try number six. Injuries continued to mount for Navan in what was a game full of tough tackling and very physical exchanges, the scoreboard remaining the same despite two yellow cards for the new table toppers.
Speaking to the Evening Echo, Highfield head coach Ryan said: “I thought we made hard work of it in the second half but at the same time, it is 40-10 at home against the top team that have not been beaten yet. I think we have set a marker down there today.
“To be honest about it, they only scored one try and the other was when we dropped the ball and they flukily kicked it through. At the same time Navan did do a lot of nice things and you could see why they are doing well. Against Queen’s we started badly and that is fair enough, but having seen them there today it came out like we were really on fire from the beginning of the game.”
Ryan’s charges travel to Temple Hill to take on Cork Constitution in Friday’s Munster Senior Cup semi-final, before resuming their league campaign away to Old Crescent on Friday, November 30. Crescent won for the first time since the opening round when edging out bottom side Galwegians 13-12 at Crowley Park.
Ronan McKenna converted Gary Fitzgerald’s 62nd-minute try and kicked two penalties in a gritty victory for Matt Brown’s charges. Galwegians had looked the better team for long spells and likely to come out on top, but again they failed to follow through in what was scrappy match between two sides desperate for points.
The hosts had a dominant scrum and were hugely frustrated to be only 5-3 ahead at half-time, despite yellow cards for Crescent lock David O’Brien, who was guilty of a high tackle, and hooker Niall Hardiman. From a 35th-minute scrum penalty and after a couple of resets, ‘Wegians shoved the visitors backwards and number 8 Matt Towey touched down in the right corner.
Having missed an earlier penalty, luckless out-half Dave Clarke watched his conversion attempt rebound off the post – his second such miss in consecutive games. Although repeated penalty offences saw Hardiman binned soon after, 14-man Crescent managed to turn over a ‘Wegians scrum and force a penalty for offside, which McKenna converted to get them off the mark just before the interval.
At a key stage of the game, Crescent strung together 10 points in little over two minutes around the hour mark. McKenna’s second penalty put them ahead following ‘Wegians hooker John Moloney’s sin-binning, and then an inside pass put scrum half Fitzgerald clear for his seven-pointer as the home defence was split wide open.
The young Blues took up the baton and a searing break from his own half by Connacht Eagles winger Hugh Lane led to Sean O’Sullivan being just bundled into touch near the corner. But a lineout steal kept the pressure on and centre Brian Murphy crossed the whitewash from a trademark crash-ball run.
Replacement scrum half Mohi Parata added the extras to make it a one-point game with five minutes remaining, yet ‘Wegians were unable to create another scoring opportunity. Crescent held out despite Hardiman receiving his second yellow of the afternoon, and some knock-ons also proved costly for the Galway outfit.
Meanwhile, it is a Munster one-two at the summit following Cashel’s three-try 22-8 victory away to Blackrock College. The Tipperary men have only conceded three tries in their last three outings, their miserly defence being a key element of their rise to second place in the standings.
Jason Newton and Aiden McDonald both touched down for the visitors, the latter’s score coming from a brilliant between-the-leg pass by Newton, and Cashel were also awarded a penalty try. Blackrock gained some consolation with a late try but Denis Leamy’s side were well out of reach by that stage.
Out-half Alex Ropeti’s last-minute drop goal guided Nenagh Ormond to a hard-fought 24-23 win at home to Munster rivals Dolphin. It was three tries apiece at New Ormond Park with Dolphin trailing 21-8 at one stage. Early pressure from the home forwards led to prop John Coffey bagging a brace and they also forced a penalty try on the half hour mark.
Dolphin, who have fallen back into the bottom two, rallied and matched those scores with touchdowns from out-half Conor Flanagan and back rowers Emmet McCarthy and John Fitzgerald. Their tireless captain Daryl Foley fired over eight points from the tee, leaving the Corkmen 23-21 ahead with six minutes remaining. However, New Zealander Ropeti denied them right at the death.
The student derby at Annacotty was won 36-24 by UL Bohemians who are now just a point outside of the top four. Fourth-placed Queen’s University were 29-10 down by half-time with full-back Joe Murray crossing in the left corner for the opening try, winger Oige Scannell running in an terrific intercept score and hooker Joe Bennett weighing in with two tries from well-executed mauls.
Two quick-fire tries had the Belfast students right back in the hunt. They had three in all as lock James Catterson, flanker Curtis Pollock and winger Jonny Hunter all made it over the whitewash. But, sealing the result in the 78th minute, Bohs built from a lineout, carrying hard close to the line before centre Harry Fleming raided over to the left of the posts.
The Red Robins’ out-half Robbie Bourke also had a crucial contribution from the tee, tallying up 11 points thanks to four conversions and a first half penalty. Two of his conversions were from the touchline as he took his league haul so far this season to 36 points.
– Photos from Adam Delahunt (Navan RFC) & Harry Ryan (UL Bohemian RFC)