There were opening bonus point victories for MU Barnhall, Old Crescent and Cashel on Saturday, with the newly-promoted Blue Bulls setting out their stall as the early pacesetters in Energia All-Ireland League Division 2A.
ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE DIVISION 2A: Saturday, October 5
Buccaneers 6 Queen’s University 24, Dubarry Park
Dolphin 9 Cashel 25, Irish Independent Park
MU Barnhall 36 Ballymena 7, Parsonstown
Nenagh Ormond 22 Rainey Old Boys 17, New Ormond Park
UL Bohemians 8 Old Crescent 32, University of Limerick 4G pitch (played on Friday)
Second rows Brendan McSorley and Dan Murphy scored a try apiece in MU Barnhall’s impressive 36-7 dismissal of Ballymena at a wet Parsonstown. The hosts gave league debuts to two Maynooth University first year students – starting prop Darragh Bellanova and centre Matias Giannetti.
The Braidmen pulled a try back to trail 12-7 at half-time, with McSorley and scrum half William Reilly crossing for Barnhall. The reigning Division 2B champions then pushed clear thanks to further tries from Murphy, Matthew Alborough, who combined with Conor Lacey and Eoghain Quinn to run in a terrific score, Darren Hudson and Adam Chester.
The league was launched on Friday night on the University of Limerick’s 4G pitch where Old Crescent dished out a big 32-8 beating to UL Bohemians. Matt Brown’s men were clinical with their possession, establishing an early 10-0 lead with captain Ronan McKenna converting Kevin Doyle’s try and adding a penalty.
Despite Alan Kiely kicking Bohs’ first points in the 23rd minute, the hosts’ lineout malfunctioned just after the restart and alert Crescent hooker Niall Hardiman swooped to score his first try of the night. He hoovered up his second just eight minutes later, grounding a neat McKenna kick in behind the defence for a 22-3 scoreline.
A nice 8-9 move off a close-in scrum saw Kiely play in winger Rory White for a Bohs try in the left corner, yet Crescent made sure of the win during the final quarter. Full-back Val McDermott flew onto his own chip kick to score to the right of the posts and McKenna completed his own 12-point haul with a 71st-minute penalty.
Meanwhile, a resilient Dolphin team faltered past the hour mark at Irish Independent Park as Cashel went up the gears and finished as 25-9 bonus point winners. The visitors led 8-6 at half-time, winger Richard Kingston crossing for the only try and Aiden McDonald turning a 28th-minute scrum penalty into three points.
A third successful penalty from Daryl Foley edged Dolphin back in front, a lead they held onto until the closing 18 minutes. An Ed Leamy run ignited the Cashel attack, and from a scrum, the ball was shifted across the back-line to full-back Luke Duffy who notched a vital try.
The Tipperary men were now on a roll, punting a penalty to the corner just four minutes later and following a number of phases, centre Conor Cashman got over the whitewash. As Dolphin attempted to break out of their 22 late on, Cashel centre Alan McMahon intercepted a pass to claim the bonus point score.
Queen’s University complete the top-four having come away from a rain-sodden Dubarry Park as 24-6 winners over Buccaneers. The sides met in Athlone during last April’s play-offs, the students winning 30-24 as the Pirates were relegated to the third tier of the league.
Only six players from that Buccaneers squad lined out for this rematch in drizzly conditions, which made for an evenly-balanced opening quarter. Michael Hanley and Richie McMaster swapped penalties, while the hosts were left frustrated with their failure to add to their tally from a number of penalties to the corner.
Queen’s went in at the break leading 10-3, their captain David Whitten charging through a gap and sending supporting scrum half Conor McKee over for a converted 29th-minute try at the posts. Number 8 Whitten made it a 14-point game within minutes of the restart, piling over from a powerful five-metre scrum.
With the rain now pelting down, Buccs were thwarted from another penalty kicked towards the corner, although a subsequent spell of pressure set up a 55th-minute penalty goal for Hanley. But the door on any potential comeback was slammed shut by a penalty try for the Belfast outfit, with 15 minutes remaining.
Buccs, who did well to deny Queen’s a late bonus point, face Ulster opposition again next Saturday with a trip north to Rainey Old Boys. The Magherafelt side are eager to bounce back from a 22-17 loss to Nenagh Ormond who launched a stirring fight-back in their league opener.
Nenagh looked in early trouble at 14-0 down in Lisatunny, but goal-kicking winger Conor O’Brien stepped forward as their match winner. He kicked 17 points in all, including the conversion of hooker John Healy’s 44th-minute try and a trio of unanswered penalties after 53, 62 and 74 minutes.