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All-Ireland League Division 2C: Round 8 Review

All-Ireland League Division 2C: Round 8 Review

Bruff’s six-match winning streak was ended by Malahide, allowing Midleton to nip back into second place in Division 2C. Fourth-placed Omagh gained ground with a bonus point win at home, while Tullamore edged further clear of trouble with a 27-20 success at Thomond.



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Omagh 34 Seapoint 5, Thomas Mellon Playing Fields
Ballina 14 Bangor 12, Heffernan Park
Malahide 19 Bruff 14, Estuary Road
Midleton 36 City of Derry 7, Towns Park
Thomond 20 Tullamore 27, Liam Fitzgerald Park

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.

Omagh bounced back from their loss at Bruff to put six tries past a spirited Seapoint side at the Thomas Mellon Playing Fields. They laid the foundations with a four-try first half, negating the visitors’ wind advantage. The Dubliners’ out-half Cian Buckley sent a penalty attempt wide.

In the final 24 minutes of the half Omagh racked up 22 points without reply. Full-back Scott Elliott scored the opening try on the right following a multi-phase attack. Openside Michael Gibson swiftly joined him on the scoresheet with a neat charge-down and pick-up.

The Accies countered superbly from their own half, putting the ball through six pairs of hands with scrum half and captain Stewart McCain applying the finishing touches to the try of the game. They secured their bonus point in the 38th minute, hooker Phil Ewing supporting the fast-breaking McCain to touch down following an initial break by Ryan Mitchell and a five-metre scrum.

Seapoint’s frustration was obvious as knock-ons and solid Omagh defence continued to keep them scoreless. The gap was out to 27 points after ever-alert winger Neil Brown intercepted a long pass and provided the assist for out-half Stuart Ballantine’s 57th-minute try.

Eric Miller’s men finally got off the mark when a break up the middle and kick ahead led to centre Tom Kelly grabbing an unconverted score. However, Omagh made sure they had the final say, building some more forward pressure through a series of phases at the end of which replacement Mervyn Edgar crashed over to seal a 34-5 win.

Omagh assistant coach Ashley Blair told Highland Radio afterwards: “What was really pleasing today was our defence, it was well organised, we pushed hard off the line. We know we can attack but today our defence as excellent. And any chances we had we finished most of them and that was the difference between the two sides.

“I think the league is actually harder this year than last year – the teams in it are very evenly matched. There’s no poor sides in it at all. I think we’ve improved from last year, we’ve set ourselves high standards and high targets. We want to push on – we know we’ve weaknesses which we’re trying to work hard on – and we’re trying to improve every week and I think we are.

“It is the proverbial one game at a time. That’s the way we approach every game. The next one’s Bangor, we’ll train for it, we’ll do our homework and plan for it. We’ll go up there confident but knowing that they’ve a big set piece and we’ll have to counteract that in some way, and try and take any opportunities that we get.”

With player-coaches Michael Ferguson and Lewis Stevenson in the engine room, Bangor’s big pack got off to a barnstorming start against league leaders Ballina. They made light of the wintry conditions as they swiftly forced the Moy men back towards their try-line and flanker Dave Caughey grounded the ball near the posts.

Crucially, the conversion was missed by Kiwi out-half Liam Preston and that came back to haunt the Ulster side. Ballina knuckled down in defence, keeping their discipline and maintain the five-point deficit. Their share of possession and territory improved in the second quarter and they nipped ahead just before the interval.

Mickey Murphy linked with Chris O’Neill off the back of a scrum and the Ballina full-back lobbed a well-weighted kick over the top, which talismanic captain Fergal Tully won the race to as his try saw the Heffernan Park crowd erupt. Kieran Lindsay converted and the home side suddenly bounced into the second half with serious momentum.

It was another kick through which teed up Ballina’s second converted try. Their movement across the pitch took the Bangor defence through a number of phases, the key moment arriving when winger Calum Quinn kicked ahead. He looked destined to score and although the ball bounced away from him, influential number 8 Neal Moylett managed to dive on it to score.

A tremendous touchline conversion from out-half Lindsay had the table toppers 14-5 clear. It was never going to be a comfortable ride to the final whistle, though, and Ballina could only blame themselves when their decision-making and handling of a slippery ball let them down, leaving scores behind them.

It was inevitable that Bangor would come back strongly in the closing stages. Again their forwards led the way, putting Ballina through a series of close-in scrums and their hard graft was rewarded with a penalty try in injury-time. Ferguson’s side had one last play to push for a winning score, and despite making good headway, Ballina’s workmanlike defence eked out a final knock-on to confirm their two-point win.

Malahide came through a big test from Bruff with flying colours as centre Adam Kennedy guided them to a 19-14 victory at Estuary Road. He kicked four penalties during a wind-assisted opening 40 minutes, establishing a 12-7 lead with Bruff out-half David O’Grady taking a great line to score their try.

Despite their five-point advantage, the hosts were certainly up against it as replacement prop Tom Collis was sent off midway through the first half. Bruff edged ahead thanks to an excellent sniping try from scrum half Daniel Jackson, but 14-man Malahide hit a purple patch during the final 15 minutes and man-of-the-match Kennedy decisively touched down to complete his 19-point haul, following a number of pick and goes.

Tullamore have strung together back-to-back wins for the first time this season, claiming a 27-20 verdict at Thomond to move up to seventh in the standings. It was a rain and wind-affected topsy-turvy contest, the Soda Cakes shooting out into a 17-6 lead with locks Aaron McCloskey (2) and Mike McMahon scoring the tries.

McCloskey crossed after just four minutes and added his second try by the half hour mark, following up on a strong carry by number 8 Jordan O’Donnell. Tullamore had a Karl Dunne penalty and a player in the sin-bin at that stage, but they had the better of the exchanges before the break.

Although McMahon got over in the corner for a try brilliantly converted by Evan Cusack in the windy conditions, the Tulliers took the momentum into the second period with second row Sean Rigney finding a gap to score at the end of a prolonged bout of pressure.

With the arrears reduced to 17-13, the Tullamore front row of Eamon Bracken, Cathal Feighery and Matthew Murphy then took centre stage with their scrummaging causing Thomond all sorts of problems. The Limerick side suffered two yellow cards in quick succession, the first for a high tackle and second for repeated scrum infringements.

That pressure on the Thomond scrum eventually yielded a penalty try for Tullamore which gave them a 55th minute lead. Their third try arrived five minutes from time, assistant coach Lemeki Vaipulu doing the damage with an impressive carry off a five-metre scrum. A late Cusack penalty did at least salvage a late losing bonus point for Thomond, which lifts them off the bottom of the table.

Meanwhile, busy winger Rian Hogan’s second-minute try set Midleton up for a 36-7 bonus point triumph at home to City of Derry. He added a second score for a 12-0 interval advantage and despite seeing yellow along with Denis Broderick, Hogan and his team-mates had too much firepower for Paul O’Kane’s charges.

Winger David Graham struck for Derry’s only try in the 54th minute during Broderick’s sin-binning, but the Red Devils finished with a flourish as scores from Rob Carey, Louis Farnham and Dutch centre Martijn Korterik, coupled with Stuart Lee’s 11 points from the tee, gave them a 29-point winning margin in the end.

– Photos from Corinne Beattie Photography & Malahide RFC

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