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All-Ireland League Division 1B: Round 6 Review

All-Ireland League Division 1B: Round 6 Review

While it is neck-and-beck between Malone and Naas at the top of All-Ireland League Division 1B, there are only three points between third-placed Banbridge and Old Belvedere, who occupy eighth place, heading into December’s games.

ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, November 24

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BALLYNAHINCH 13 BANBRIDGE 12, Ballymacarn Park
Scorers: Ballynahinch: Try: Rhys O’Donnell; Con: Peter Nelson; Pens: Peter Nelson, Johnny McPhillips
Banbridge: Tries: Stevie Irvine, Andrew Morrison; Con: Adam Doherty

HT: Ballynahinch 10 Banbridge 7

Ballynahinch were hugely relieved to secure a one-point derby win over Ulster rivals Banbridge in front of a large home crowd. The hard-fought result banished a few memories from ‘Hinch’s three defeats to Banbridge last season which cost them promotion.

Brian McLaughlin’s men were almost at full strength, with Peter Nelson at full-back, Kyle McCall returning in the front row and Johnny McPhillips sprung from the bench in the second half. Conor Kelly was the only significant absentee, with Richard Reaney taking his place on the wing.

Banbridge were without most of their Ulster contingent, some of whom missed out through injury, and they will feel that they should have beaten a jittery home team. Defence dominated an attritional match and both sides were guilty of giving away penalties when in strong positions.

Nelson kicked Ballynahinch into the lead after five minutes following a positive start but Banbridge cranked up the pressure and had an excellent 10-minute spell. They were held up over the line following some excellent driving play and continued to pile on the pressure.

A charge-down led to a succession of five-metre scrums, and despite some heroic ‘Hinch defence, Bann scored when number 8 Stevie Irvine was driven over for a 22nd-minute converted try. The hosts then pinned Bann back in their 22 with some excellent carrying from forwards and backs.

A knock-on gave the Rifle Park outfit some respite, but as ‘Hinch began to build another ave of attacks, scrum half Rhys O’Donnell spotted a gap around a ruck, in the centre of the pitch, and ran in under the posts untouched for an excellent try. Nelson’s straightforward conversion made it 10-7 for half-time, with Banbridge’s Adam Doherty missing a late first half penalty.

Ulster out-half McPhillips replaced Hilton Gibbons at half time and knocked over a classy penalty early in the second half to stretch the lead to six points. However, Bannn were looking increasingly dangerous with ball in hand, especially from scrums.

Centre Andrew Morrison was a threat every time he received the ball and the visitors duly upped the tempo. A yellow card for ‘Hinch number 8 Conall Boomer in the 63rd minute following a collapsed maul invited pressure and only robust defending with 14 men kept them out.

The home try-line was eventually breached in the 76th minute when Morrison went over following a missed tackle in midfield. Nonetheless, the missed conversion gave ‘Hinch a lifeline and they held on despite more pressure from the well-drilled Bann side.

BALLYNAHINCH: Peter Nelson; Aaron Cairns (capt), Stuart Morrow, Rory Butler, Richard Reaney; Hilton Gibbons, Rhys O’Donnell; Campbell Classon, Zack McCall, Kyle McCall, John Donnan, James Simpson, Keith Dickson, Ollie Loughead, Conall Boomer.

Replacements: Conor Piper, Jonny Blair, Tom Martin, Callum McLaughlin, Johnny McPhillips.

BANBRIDGE: Adam Doherty; Conor Field, Andrew Morrison, Jonny Little, Hugo Harbinson; Josh Cromie, Niall Armstrong; Michael Cromie (capt), Peter Cromie, Stuart Cromie, Christopher Allen, Mike Bentley, Ben Carson, David McCann, Stevie Irvine.

Replacements: Jonathan Weir, Corrie Barrett, Robin Hewitt, Jonny Stewart, John Porter.

CITY OF ARMAGH 15 OLD BELVEDERE 9, Palace Grounds
Scorers: City of Armagh: Tries: Tim McNiece, Peter Starrett; Con: Cormac Fox; Pen: Cormac Fox
Old Belvedere: Pens: Steve Crosbie 3

HT: City of Armagh 3 Old Belvedere 3

Tim McNiece and Peter Starrett scored second half tries as City of Armagh made it three wins in four rounds with a 15-9 success against Old Belvedere in overcast conditions at the Palace Grounds.

Belvedere dominated the early possession but lost their first three lineouts, handing Armagh some valuable turnovers. ‘Belvo captain Steve Crosbie kicked them ahead with a 15th minute penalty, rewarding a strong scrum from the visitors’ pack.

Despite the ‘Belvo back-line, including the league’s joint-top try scorer Jack Keating, looking the sharper unit, Armagh carved out two try-scoring opportunities from a Cormac Fox cross-field kick and a terrific move involving both backs and forwards which ended with full-back McNiece almost breaking through.

Fox did kick the Ulstermen level at three points apiece, the scoreline stayed the same up to half-time despite the best efforts of Crosbie. The former Leinster, Munster ‘A’ and Connacht out-half showed his class with a break from halfway but a penalty for a double movement allowed Armagh to clear the danger.

Five minutes into the second half, Armagh broke the try deadlock from neatly-crafted attack. Starrett was involved in the build-up, making good ground before Harry Doyle quickly recycled the ball for Fox to give the scoring pass to McNiece to run in an unconverted effort.

Crosbie narrowed the gap to 8-6 with a 50th minute penalty, which owed much to a clever kick into the 22 from experienced full-back Daniel Riordan. However, ‘Belvo were pinned back in their own half for the next 20 minutes, defending doggedly until Starrett scored.

A penalty for side-entry was sent into the corner and a well-executed lineout maul saw the lock get the ball down over the line. Fox swept over a superb touchline conversion. Crosbie’s third successful penalty, with 76 minutes on the clock, made it a six-point game and ‘Belvo duly took home a losing bonus point.

Giving his reaction afterwards, Armagh boss Willie Faloon said: “The first half was a real nip and tuck affair with two evenly-matched teams. Our set piece was strong today and the guys that stepped in to cover injuries were fantastic. We dominated that second half and thankfully got the crucial score to secure the points.”

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

Replacements: Peter Lamb, Paul Mullan, James Morton, John Faloon, Shea O’Brien.

OLD BELVEDERE: Daniel Riordan; Jack Keating, Peter Robb, Jamie McAleese, 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, Tom de Jongh, Ben Carty, Tim Foley.

MALONE 36 NAAS 20, Gibson Park
Scorers: Malone: Tries: Nathan Brown, Ben McCaughey, Rory Campbell 2, Peter Cooper; Cons: Rory Campbell 4; Pen: Callum Smith
Naas: Tries: Andy Ellis, Peter Osborne, Max Whittingham; Con: Peter Osborne; Pen: Peter Osborne

HT: Malone 26 Naas 8

Full-back Rory Campbell starred with an 18-point contribution as Malone replaced Naas at the top of the Division 1B table after a 36-20 bonus point triumph over the Cobras at Gibson Park.

Naas fell behind in the fourth minute, some crisp passing across the back-line ending with Malone winger Nathan Brown dotting down in the corner. Campbell confidently knocked over a brilliant conversion to make it a seven-pointer.

The Kildare men recovered well, closing the gap to 7-5 thanks to an 11th minute try from replacement Andy Ellis, who had come on from the injured Fionn Higgins. Ellis’ fifth score of the campaign was set up by strong carries from Cathal Duff, David Benn and Will O’Brien.

Malone’s Ulster contingent increased their influence as they hit back with a devastating run of three tries in the space of 14 minutes. Academy centre Stewart Moore used a quickly-taken penalty to chip in behind and the in-form Ben McCaughey won the race to grab his third try of the season.

Campbell crossed in the 20th minute after a bout of forward pressure, which watching assistant coach Chris Henry would have been pleased with, and just five minutes later, a Naas pass was intercepted by Ulster ‘A’ prop Peter Cooper who had enough pace to make the line. Two Campbell conversions pushed the scoreline out to 26-5.

To their credit, Naas finished the first half strongly. Their ever-reliable goal-kicker Peter Osborne sent a 29th minute penalty through the posts, and All-Ireland League debutant Jordan Fitzpatrick was only just held up on the stroke of half-time as he narrowly missed out on a try. Callum Smith and Campbell came to Malone’s rescue.

After missing a 48th minute penalty, Campbell responded by complete his brace of tries five minutes later, collecting a pass from Josh Pentland to cross the whitewash and add the conversion himself. Soon it was Naas’ turn to dictate play and they put together back-to-back tries.

Osborne notched a 58th minute try, following up on good breaks by captain Paulie Tolofua and hard-working prop Adam Coyle, and he converted Max Whittingham’s effort which came from a turnover-winning tackle from Tolofua.

Thirteen points is as close as Johne Murphy’s men got, though, and the possibility of rescuing two bonus points soon evaporated. Out-half Smith had the final say when he fired home a 74th minute penalty to seal the Cregagh Red Sox’s fifth win in six rounds.

MALONE: Rory Campbell; Ben McCaughey, Stewart Moore, Josh Pentland, Nathan Brown; Callum Smith, Shane Kelly; Peter Cooper, Dan Kerr, Ross Kane, Jonathan Davis, Michael Shiels, Matthew Hadden, Dave Cave, Ryan Clarke.

Replacements: Scott Finlay, Ben Halliday, Josh Davidson, Graham Curtis, David McMaster.

NAAS: Peter Osborne; Fionn Higgins, Jordan Fitzpatrick, Johne Murphy, Niall Delahunt; Peter Hastie, Max Whittingham; Jordan Duggan, Cathal Duff, Conor Doyle, Paul Monahan, David Benn, Will O’Brien, James Connolly, Paulie Tolofua (capt).

Replacements: Graham Reynolds, Adam Coyle, Cillian Dempsey, Andy Ellis, Ryan Casey.

OLD WESLEY 27 BALLYMENA 16, Energia Park, Donnybrook
Scorers: Old Wesley: Tries: Tommy O’Callaghan, Tom Kiersey, Rory Stynes, JJ O’Dea; Cons: Rory Stynes 2; Pen: Rory Stynes
Ballymena: Try: Connor Smyth; Con: Tim Small; Pens: Tim Small 3

HT: Old Wesley 5 Ballymena 6

Old Wesley got back to winning ways with a convincing four-try display against bottom side Ballymena, moving to within a point of third-placed Banbridge in the Division 1B standings.

Second row JJ O’Dea, who applied the finishing touches to an excellent team try, joined backs Tommy O’Callaghan, Tom Kiersey and Rory Stynes in crossing the whitewash for Wesley, with goal-kicking full-back Stynes finishing with a 12-point haul.

Morgan Lennon’s men had two-thirds of the first half possession but could not transfer this onto the scoreboard. Ballymena defended smartly to lead 6-5 at half-time thanks to two penalty goals from out-half Tim Small, the first one after 15 minutes.

The Braidmen had a slight wind advantage, which contributed to an early miss from Stynes, but lost returning full-back Rodger McBurney to a harsh 26th-minute yellow card. During his time off, Wesley struck for the game’s opening try when Mark Rowley’s surging midfield break and pass set up winger O’Callaghan who managed to beat two defenders to score impressively in the corner.

The left boot of Small moved Ballymena back in front at the interval, and although a Kiersey tackle denied them a try following a terrific 43rd-minute run by centre Alan Smith, Andy Graham’s side won a penalty which saw Small extend the lead to 9-5.

However, the visitors fell away after that as Wesley strung together 22 points without reply to take a firm grip on proceedings. Stynes initially knocked over a penalty before the hosts stretched Ballymena across the back-line and centre Alan Jeffares was just held up short of the line.

Nonetheless, the incessant pressure paid off on the hour mark when Josh Pim, O’Dea and Rowley were to the fore and out-half Kiersey, showing his customary pace, cut through the Ballymena defence to touch down and Stynes tagged on the extras.

Wesley soaked up some Ballymena pressure before two more tries at the Bective end of the ground put the result beyond any doubt. The heavily-influential O’Dea launched his side forward again with a ruck steal and a charge-down, Jeffares running hard in midfield and Stynes finished off the attack with a try at the posts.

The bonus point was secured in the 70th minute when some fine interplay saw Wesley break out of their own 22 and Kiersey utilised an overlap on the left as his cross-field kick found O’Dea who galloped in, wide on the right, for a memorable score.

Second row Connor Smyth crashed over from a late lineout maul to gain some consolation for the Braidmen, who almost leaked a fifth try before the final whistle. Wesley replacement Darren Horan thought he had scored but the ground was ruled inconclusive.

OLD WESLEY: Rory Stynes; Tommy O’Callaghan, Alan Jeffares, David Poff, Paul Harte (capt); Tom Kiersey, Charlie O’Regan; Harry Noonan, Ben Burns, James Burton, JJ O’Dea, Iain McGann, Paul Derham, Josh Pim, Mark Rowley.

Replacements: Andrew McCrann, Ciaran McHugh, Darren Horan, Josh Miller, Bill Corrigan.

BALLYMENA: Rodger McBurney; Dean Reynolds, Darrell Montgomery, Alan Smith, Jonny McMullan; Tim Small, Michael Stronge; Nacho Cladera Crespo, Jonny Spence, Chris Cundell, David Whann, Connor Smyth, Marcus Rea (capt), Willie McKay, Clive Ross.

Replacements: James Taggart, Andrew Ferguson, Josh Bill, Matthew Norris, Eoin Ritson.

ST. MARY’S COLLEGE 34 BUCCANEERS 32, Templeville Road
Scorers: St. Mary’s College: Tries: Hugo Conway, Penalty tries 2, Nick McCarthy; Cons: Conor Dean 2, Pen try cons 2; Pens: Conor Dean 2
Buccaneers: Tries: Joe Maksymiw, Rory Moloney, Simon Meagher, Eoin Griffin; Cons: Luke Carty 3; Pens: Luke Carty 2

HT: St. Mary’s College 17 Buccaneers 6

Number 8 Nick McCarthy, a late inclusion in the team, turned in a try-scoring man-of-the-match performance as St. Mary’s College recorded a narrow bonus point victory over Buccaneers in a lively but error-strewn contest at Templeville Road.

Along with McCarthy replacing Mark Fallon before kick-off, Buccs had to rejig their pack when Connacht lock Peter Claffey was unable to start. His provincial colleague Eoghan Masterson came in at number 8, Evan Galvin moved to lock and Simon Meagher switched to blindside flanker.

This meeting of the two clubs relegated from Division 1A last season saw Mary’s make the brighter start with winger Hugo Conway finishing off an impressive sequence to score a seventh minute try, which Conor Dean converted. Dean also landed a penalty in response to a brace from Buccs number 10 Luke Carty.

A block-down from Mary’s captain Marcus O’Driscoll was deemed deliberate by referee Dan Carson but Carty missed the resulting penalty kick, and Buccs were left aggrieved by the concession of a penalty try just three minutes later.

Carson ruled that Shane Layden’s attempt to intercept inside his own 22 was worthy of both a yellow card to the returning Buccaneers captain and a penalty try to Mary’s. This gave the Dubliners a 17-6 buffer at the break, and Buccs’ woes were compounded nine minutes into the second half when Rory Moloney was sin-binned.

The Mary’s forwards used the numerical advantage to drive over and earn a second penalty try, making it 24-6. The Pirates recovered to send a 54th minute penalty to the corner, the resulting lineout won by flanker Simon Meagher who then popped up following a recycle to stretch over for a try converted by Carty.

A similar try, eight minutes later, further boosted Buccs’ comeback. Mary’s hooker Richard Halpin saw yellow for bringing down a maul. Connacht second row Joe Maksymiw followed up to mark his debut for Buccaneers with a try, reducing the arrears to 24-18.

The Athlone men nipped ahead with 10 minutes remaining, a brilliant break from Eoin Griffin leading to flanker Moloney touching down. Although Carty converted to move them ahead, their lead was a brief one with Dean’s 75th-minute penalty giving Mary’s a 27-25 advantage.

In a frantic finish, both sides conjured up bonus point tries as Mary’s made it three home wins out of three so far this season. McCarthy claimed his try when the home pack powered over the line. Dean crucially added the extras, before Griffin’s closing score sent Buccs home with two bonus points.

ST. MARY’S COLLEGE: Dave Fanagan; Craig Kennedy, Myles Carey, Marcus O’Driscoll (capt), Hugo Conway; Conor Dean, Paddy O’Driscoll; Tom O’Reilly, Richard Halpin, Michael McCormack, Liam Corcoran, Liam Curran, David Aspil, Ronan Watters, Nick McCarthy.

Replacements: Stephen O’Brien, Padraig Dundon, Daragh McDonnell, Dan Lyons, Ruairi Shields.

BUCCANEERS: Callum Boland; Shane Layden (capt), Eoin Griffin, Kieran Joyce, Darragh Corbett; Luke Carty, Colm Reilly; Martin Staunton, Dave Heffernan, Niall Farrelly, Evan Galvin, Joe Maksymiw, Simon Meagher, Rory Moloney, Eoghan Masterson.

Replacements: Rory Grenham, John Sutton, Peter Claffey, Graham Lynch, Michael Hanley.

– Photos from Hugh Wilkinson (Ballynahinch RFC), Ken Redpath (City of Armagh RFC), Yazz Coyle (Naas RFC) and Deryck Vincent (Old Wesley RFC)