Back-to-back wins have St. Mary’s College in fifth place and only two points behind leaders Malone, showing how tight it is at the moment in Division 1B of the All-Ireland League. It was also a productive weekend for bottom side Ballymena and Buccaneers who both got back to winning ways.
ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, December 1
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OLD WESLEY 16 BALLYNAHINCH 27, Energia Park, Donnybrook
Scorers: Old Wesley: Try: Mark Rowley; Con: Rory Stynes; Pens: Rory Stynes 3
Ballynahinch: Tries: Campbell Classon, Ross Adair; Con: Peter Nelson; Pens: Peter Nelson 5
HT: Old Wesley 13 Ballynahinch 12
Ulster back Peter Nelson’s reliable left boot dominated Ballynahinch’s clash with Old Wesley as he kicked 17 points in their 27-16 win in dark and drizzly conditions at Energia Park on Saturday.
Both clubs were looking to start the new month with their second successive victory, and a tightly-contested first half ended with Wesley leading 13-12. Nelson, who started at full-back in a ‘Hinch side captained by fellow Ulster player Aaron Cairns, landed an early penalty before the hosts claimed the game’s opening try.
With only seven minutes on the clock, a terrific offload from Paul Derham led to a close-in ruck and number 8 Mark Rowley slipped through a gap for a converted score. Nelson, with an excellent strike from halfway, and Rory Stynes exchanged penalties in a second quarter that saw both sides eager to move the ball at pace.
Nelson became more of a central figure with two more well-struck penalties after 26 and 36 minutes, as Wesley’s indiscipline continued to hurt them. They lost young centre David Poff to a yellow card, but some good approach work was rewarded with a second successful penalty from Stynes which restored the one-point lead – 13-12.
Morgan Lennon’s men should have gone into the interval with a bigger advantage as Tom Kiersey and Tommy O’Callaghan spearheaded their team’s best move of the match, but Stynes was unfortunate not to capitalise on a resulting cross-field kick which he was adjudged to have knocked on before grounding.
Into the second period, Ballynahinch enjoyed the best of the territory and possession with their much-improved defence limiting opportunities for the Wesley backs. There was another exchange of penalties between Stynes and Nelson before ‘Hinch notched a crucial 57th-minute try, launching a lineout maul on the back of a scrum penalty and replacement Ross Adair managed to crash over.
That made it 20-16 to the Ulstermen and after a missed Wesley penalty, ‘Hinch struck the killer blow when replacement Campbell Classon touched down in the 71st minute. Nelson converted to widen the margin to 11 points, and despite Wesley throwing the kitchen sink at Brian McLaughlin’s side in the closing stages, their best chance saw a lineout maul halted by the impressive defence.
OLD WESLEY: Rory Stynes; Tommy O’Callaghan, Bill Corrigan, David Poff, Alan Jeffares; Tom Kiersey, Charlie O’Regan; Ciaran McHugh, Ben Burns, James Burton, JJ O’Dea, Iain McGann (capt), Paul Derham, Josh Pim, Mark Rowley.
Replacements: Andrew McCrann, Martin Gately, Darren Horan, Josh Miller, James O’Donovan.
BALLYNAHINCH: Peter Nelson; Richard Reaney, Callum McLaughlin, Robin Harte, Aaron Cairns (capt); Hilton Gibbons, Rhys O’Donnell; Kyle McCall, Zack McCall, Tommy O’Hagan, John Donnan, Tom Martin, Keith Dickson, Ollie Loughead, Conall Boomer.
Replacements: Claytan Milligan, Campbell Classon, Connor Phillips, Ryan Wilson, Ross Adair.
BALLYMENA 28 OLD BELVEDERE 14, Eaton Park
Scorers: Ballymena: Tries: Connor Smyth 2, Marcus Rea, Penalty try; Cons: Tim Small 3, Pen try con
Old Belvedere: Tries: Martin Moloney, Ben Carty; Cons: Steve Crosbie 2
HT: Ballymena 21 Old Belvedere 14
Versatile forward Connor Smyth touched down twice to take his season’s tally to four as Ballymena ended their three-match losing run with a 28-14 bonus point success against Old Belvedere at Eaton Park.
Playing towards the town end of the ground, the Braidmen stung Belvedere with an opportunist first-minute try in dull and drizzly conditions. Second row Smyth charged down an attempted clearance kick at a ruck and grounded the ball for a confidence-boosting score converted by out-half Tim Small.
Andy Graham’s men, who had lost five of their previous six games, continued to take the game to ‘Belvo, dominating the forward exchanges with two more converted tries by the half hour mark. Smyth completed his brace and captain Marcus Rea crossed from his own powerful break with Small supplying the extras on both occasions.
However, Rea’s older brother Matthew, who started at number 8, was sin-binned for a tip tackle which could have been a red on another day. Belvedere reacted with two tries in the space of eight minutes, scored by flanker Martin Moloney and centre Ben Carty, to reduce the arrears to 21-14 by half-time.
The Dubliners kept hold of the momentum early in the second half but were unable to finish off a couple of breaks, with Ballymena centres Darrell Montgomery and Matthew Norris both standing out for their defensive work, and the returning Matthew Rea won some hard-earned turnovers.
The influence of the hosts’ provincial players grew with hooker John Andrew and flanker Clive Ross both prominent, while Small kicked smartly to ensure the forwards were playing in the right areas of the pitch. Captain and assistant coach Steve Crosbie tried his best to inspire ‘Belvo, but the home pack had the bit between their teeth.
The Ballymena eight forced a penalty try in the 67th minute as Belvedere lock Jack Kelly was penalised for dragging down a maul and he also received a yellow card. The visitors left frustrated that they missed out on a losing bonus point, though, as they had the better of the remainder of the match.
Former Ballymena scrum half Ian Vance came on and had the desired impact for ‘Belvo, aiding their search for a late try. They looked destined to score when Ballymena winger Jonny McMullan was sin-binned for slapping the ball down. It was 14-man Ballymena’s turn to hold out as they emerged as double-score winners.
BALLYMENA: Rodger McBurney; Jordan Foster, Matthew Norris, Darrell Montgomery, Jonny McMullan; Tim Small, Michael Stronge; Josh Bill, John Andrew, Chris Cundell, David Whann, Connor Smyth, Clive Ross, Marcus Rea (capt), Matthew Rea.
Replacements: Nacho Cladera Crespo, Jonny Spence, Stephen Mulholland, James Wheeler, Eoin Ritson.
OLD BELVEDERE: Daniel Riordan; Jack Keating, Jamie McAleese, Ben Carty, Fergus Flood; Steve Crosbie (capt), Paraic Cagney; James Bollard, Ed Rossiter, Roman Salanoa, Jack Kelly, Connor Owende, Eoin Sweeney, Martin Moloney, Tom de Jongh.
Replacements: Conor Byrne, Declan Lavery, Colin Mallon, Tim Foley, Ian Vance.
BANBRIDGE 21 MALONE 11, Rifle Park
Scorers: Banbridge: Tries: Stevie Irvine, Andrew Morrison; Con: Adam Doherty; Pens: Adam Doherty 3
Malone: Try: Peter Cooper; Pens: Rory Campbell, Callum Smith
HT: Banbridge 6 Malone 3
Division 1B pacesetters Malone succumbed to their Ulster rivals Banbridge whose superior scrum proved vital in a 21-11 derby victory in murky conditions at Rifle Park on Saturday.
Bann head coach Simon McKinstry said Malone were ‘the best team we’ve played this season’ following an absorbing battle between two teams that look destined to feature in the top four come April. Malone’s in-form full-back Rory Campbell swapped penalties with his opposite number Adam Doherty inside the opening nine minutes.
Scores were very hard to come by in a defence-dominated first half, during which Banbridge stole three lineouts. Neither try-line came under serious threat, though, and Doherty’s boot made it 6-3 to the hosts for half-time. Malone suffered a setback early in the second half when Campbell was yellow-carded for his efforts in bundling Conor Field into touch near the Bann line.
Doherty missed a 42-metre penalty attempt and Callum Smith, kicking in Campbell’s absence, landed a kick on the other side of halfway to bring the Cregagh Red Sox level. Doherty was also just wide with a penalty attempt set up by the home scrum, but Malone was penalised after Ulster scrum half Jonny Stewart had taken a quick tap and made it back into the 22, with Doherty successful with his kick on this occasion for a 9-6 lead.
Incredibly, the final 10 minutes of the match produced three tries. Bann centre Andrew Morrison, with a chip-and-chase effort, and flanker Caleb Montgomery both went close before a prolonged bout of scrum pressure worn down the Malone pack and number 8 Stevie Irvine was able to pick up and touch down with Doherty’s conversion make it 16-6 to the County Down side.
Malone should have hit back from a Josh Pentland-inspired attack, but John Porter’s interception rescued the situation for Banbridge who were soon relentless in their pursuit of a clinching try. Montgomery and Irvine were just held up and Michael Cromie was also denied close to the posts, yet the recycled possession gave Morrison enough time and space to score out on the left flank – 21-6.
Malone’s swift response from the restart saw prop Peter Cooper claw five points back, and while that try gave them a shot at a last-gasp losing bonus point, Pentland failed with a drop goal attempt as this stirring contest ended in a 10-point home win. McKinstry said: “It was pretty tight going into the last twenty – they talk about the championship minutes – the last 15-20 minutes when games are won and lost. And that’s when we came on strong.
“We practise scrums a lot and the lads work really hard at it. It worked well for us those last 15 minutes when we put the pressure on. And we had done our homework on their lineout, so with Greg (Jones) leading and Chris (Allen) and Caleb also working hard we were able to win a number of balls on their throw. Michael Cromie had a great game too, leading from the front like the good skipper he is.”
BANBRIDGE: Adam Doherty; Conor Field, Andrew Morrison, Jonny Little, John Porter; Josh Cromie, Jonny Stewart; Michael Cromie (capt), Peter Cromie, Stuart Cromie, Christopher Allen, Mike Bentley, Greg Jones, Caleb Montgomery, Stevie Irvine.
Replacements: Jonathan Weir, Ross Haughey, Matthew Laird, Niall Armstrong, Ben Carson.
MALONE: Rory Campbell; David McMaster, Stewart Moore, Josh Pentland, Nathan Brown; Callum Smith, Shane Kelly; Ben Halliday, Dan Kerr, Peter Cooper, Jonathan Davis, Michael Shiels, Matthew Hadden, Ross Todd (capt), Ryan Clarke.
Replacements: Scott Finlay, Ricky Greenwood, Josh Davidson, Graham Curtis, Gareth Millar.
BUCCANEERS 24 CITY OF ARMAGH 17, Dubarry Park
Scorers: Buccaneers: Tries: Eoin Griffin, Callum Boland 2; Cons: Luke Carty 3; Pen: Luke Carty
City of Armagh: Tries: Chris Colvin, Andrew Smyth; Cons: Cormac Fox 2; Pen: Cormac Fox
HT: Buccaneers 24 City of Armagh 7
Just like bottom side Ballymena, Buccaneers succeeded in putting a stop their three-match losing run by overcoming City of Armagh 24-17 in a compelling five-try Division 1B encounter at Dubarry Park.
Buccaneers looked to be heading for a comprehensive win when romping to a 24-0 lead inside the opening quarter of their first ever All-Ireland League fixture with Armagh. But Willie Faloon’s well-drilled team refused to capitulate and a strong second half effort secured them a worthy losing bonus point.
On a wind-free but murky afternoon, Buccs made two changes to their pack where injury again ruled Peter Claffey out. Ruairi Byrne returned at lock in place of Joe Maksymiw with John Sutton starting at hooker instead of Dave Heffernan. Armagh’s changes were also in the forwards with Paul Mullan and Andrew Smyth coming into the front row and Jonny Morton replacing Gareth McNiece in the back row.
Luke Carty punished an Armagh offside with a successful fourth-minute penalty before the Pirates picked up three tries in a blistering six-minute spell. Tim McNiece fumbled Callum Boland’s garryowen under pressure from Darragh Corbett, and Boland duly swooped to touch down wide on the left after 11 minutes.
Again a defensive error allowed Buccs through for a second try four minutes later. Boland’s long clearance caused problems, and Carty used an advantage to grubber through and the onrushing Boland fastened onto the kick to complete his brace.
The try-coring full-back then turned provider when Armagh lost possession in their 22 and he scampered up the left before setting up experienced centre Eoin Griffin to score at the posts, with Connacht Academy member Carty converting again.
Nonetheless, Armagh eked their way back into the game, benefiting from Buccs flanker Rory Moloney’s 19th-minute yellow card for taking Ryan Purvis out in the air. They made the most of the hosts’ hesitancy to deal with an angled grubber kick, and possession was recycled across the pitch where the overlapping Chris Colvin got in for a try which Cormac Fox converted to make it 24-7.
Armagh breathed a sigh of relief when Carty missed a drop goal attempt, hitting the crossbar, and Andrew Willis had to react quickly to deny Boland his hat-trick at the corner flag. It was Armagh who hoovered up the points on the resumption, stringing together ten in a row under the floodlights.
Following a couple of penalties punted to the left corner and some pick-and-goes, hooker Smyth scored his fourth try of the campaign in the 44th minute. Fox converted and nailed a penalty, either side of a Carty miss at the other end, cutting Buccs’ lead down to 24-17 with half-an-hour remaining.
There was a cup final fervour with huge tackle counts for both sides. The exchanges were fast and furious all the way to the final whistle, with a knock-on denying Buccs’ Rory O’Connor a good opportunity ten minutes from time, and a crunching Corbett tackle ended a promising Armagh raid late on. Boland missed the closing quarter due to injury but was deservedly picked out as the match-of-the-match winner.
BUCCANEERS: Callum Boland; Shane Layden (capt), Eoin Griffin, Kieran Joyce, Darragh Corbett; Luke Carty, Colm Reilly; Martin Staunton, John Sutton, Niall Farrelly, Evan Galvin, Ruairi Byrne, Simon Meagher, Rory Moloney, Eoghan Masterson.
Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Rory Grenham, Torin Rensford, Graham Lynch, Rory O’Connor.
CITY OF ARMAGH: Tim McNiece; Andrew Willis, Chris Colvin (capt), Jonny Pollock, Ryan Purvis; Cormac Fox, Harry Doyle; Paul Mullan, Andrew Smyth, Phillip Fletcher, Josh McKinley, Peter Starrett, Jonny Morton, James Hanna, Robbie Whitten.
Replacements: Peter Lamb, Oisin Mickerman, James Morton, John Faloon, Shea O’Brien.
NAAS 8 ST. MARY’S COLLEGE 23, Forenaughts
Scorers: Naas: Try: Andy Ellis; Pen: Peter Osborne
St. Mary’s College: Tries: Craig Kennedy, Penalty try, Richie Halpin; Con: Pen try con; Pens: Conor Dean 2
HT: Naas 8 St. Mary’s College 15
St. Mary’s College outscored recent Division 1B leaders Naas by three tries to one and defended superbly at times as they came away from Forenaughts with a 23-8 win and four valuable league points.
The omens were not good for Naas when winger Niall Delahunt had to be helped off with a shoulder injury after just 30 seconds. They took a while to recover and St. Mary’s punished an offside at a ruck to take a seventh-minute lead in the misty rain, out-half Conor Dean comfortably landing a penalty.
The visitors hit double figures just three minutes later, setting up a lineout maul which was collapsed by the Naas pack and referee Jonathan Peak had not hesitation in awarding a penalty try. Second row David Benn’s yellow card compounded Naas’ woes but the sin-bin period actually worked out well for them with Peter Osborne kicking a 14th minute penalty.
There was near miss when Mary’s influential scrum half Paddy O’Driscoll made a lovely break at the end of the first quarter, splitting the Naas defence wide open but the supporting Craig Kennedy failed to hold onto his pass with the try-line at his mercy. Instead, Andy Ellis’ sixth try of the campaign lifted the Kildare men closing in on half-time.
Loosehead prop Jordan Duggan did the initial damage with a powerful burst in midfield that provided quick ruck ball, and some crisp handling released centre Ellis for the corner. However, Mary’s took a 15-8 lead into the break courtesy of a well-worked move from a scrum, Myles Carey’s outside break and well-timed pass giving winger Kennedy the chance to outpace two defenders and slide in at the corner.
Naas had most of the possession in the second half, running hard lines and rucking efficiently throughout. However, it was Mary’s who clinically put themselves out of reach on the scoreboard. Dean landed a terrific long-range penalty in the 54th minute, and they kicked off the final quarter with their third try.
Their pack laid the platform after Dean kicked a penalty towards the corner. The maul took over, and with backs joining in, replacement hooker Richie Halpin was driven over amid a piles of bodies. Dean missed the conversion but it was not needed, and Naas did well to withstand some late pressure and deny Mary’s a bonus point try.
NAAS: Peter Osborne; Fionn Carr, Andy Ellis, Johne Murphy, Niall Delahunt; Peter Hastie, Max Whittingham; Jordan Duggan, Graham Reynolds, Adam Coyle, Paul Monahan, David Benn, Will O’Brien, James Connolly, Paulie Tolofua (capt).
Replacements: Cathal Duff, Conor Doyle, Ryan Casey, Jordan Fitzpatrick, Eoin Walsh.
ST. MARY’S COLLEGE: Dave Fanagan; Hugo Conway, Myles Carey, Marcus O’Driscoll (capt), Craig Kennedy; Conor Dean, Paddy O’Driscoll; Tom O’Reilly, Stephen O’Brien, Michael McCormack, Liam Corcoran, Liam Curran, David Aspil, Ronan Watters, Nick McCarthy.
Replacements: Richie Halpin, Padraig Dundon, Hugo Diepman, Daragh McDonnell, Ruairi Shields.