Energia All-Ireland League newcomers Enniscorthy and Clonmel both enjoyed unbeaten starts in Division 2C, while Bruff were the only team to win away from home during a rain-hit opening round.
ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE DIVISION 2C: Saturday, October 5
Bangor 25 Sunday’s Well 13, Upritchard Park
City of Derry 18 Bruff 19, Craig Thompson Stadium, Judge’s Road
Clonmel 13 Omagh 13, Ardgaoithe
Enniscorthy 22 Midleton 3, Alcast Park
Tullamore 13 Skerries 13, Spollanstown
It was a day to remember for all associated with Enniscorthy RFC as they shot straight to the top of the table thanks to a 22-3 victory over Midleton. Stuart Lee’s early penalty proved to be the visitors’ only score at a wet and windy Alcast Park.
Flanker Alan Jacob and centre Ivan Poole crossed for tries, both converted by Ben Kidd, as ‘Scorthy took a 14-3 half-time lead. Midleton were kicking themselves as they failed to take advantage of a Joe Carley yellow card, with Lee uncharacteristically missing a penalty opportunity.
Roared on by the Ross Road faithful, the Wexford men tightened their grip on proceedings with out-half Kidd landing a penalty. Early in the final quarter, a terrific break by replacement Nick Doyle paved the way for winger David O’Dwyer’s clinching try.
Keeping Midleton to just three points – a side that scored 418 points during the 2018/19 regular season – was quite a statement of intent from Enniscorthy whose first away league trip is to Bruff next Saturday. The Limerick outfit also made a winning start, edging out City of Derry 19-18 in a nail-biting conclusion to their clash.
Replacement Kevin McManus coolly converted Neilus Keogh’s last-minute try, from ten metres to the left of the posts, as Bruff prevailed in dramatic fashion. It was a hugely frustrating finish for Derry given they had fought back from 12-3 down with tries from backs Simon Logue and David Graham.
Wind-backed Derry had an early penalty from Neil Burns, but Bruff newcomer James Te Pairi’s pacy break led to home captain David Ferguson seeing yellow. From the resulting 22nd-minute lineout maul, French scrum half Florent Riguet’s clever switch put winger Liam Treacy over in the corner.
Riguet missed the conversion but added the extras to replacement Sean Hartigan’s try as he cut back in following a prolonged bout of pressure. Derry fought back to end the first half just a point behind, though, as Burns kicked a second penalty and a slick interchange – off a scrum – between Logue and Callum O’Hagan released the former for the corner.
The hosts made it 15 points without reply when a quickly-taken lineout allowed winger Graham blast his way over from 60 metres out. Bruff lost number 8 Tommy Dwyer to the sin-bin but crucially they held Derry at 18-12, with out-half Burns narrowly missing a penalty attempt.
McManus also pulled a penalty wide for Bruff at the other end, yet he was bang on target right at the death after experienced second row Keogh had forced his way over following a lineout maul. ‘The Wild Colonial Boy’ rung out afterwards in the victors’ dressing room.
Meanwhile, young out-half Oscar Yandall was the star of the show as he kicked 20 points in Bangor’s 25-13 defeat of recently-relegated Sunday’s Well. A forward pass prevented the ‘Well from leading at half-time at Upritchard Park, with the tightly-contested first half producing a yellow card apiece for high tackles.
In Tom Rock’s first league match in charge, the Seasiders led 6-3 after playing into a stiff wind. The three-point gap stayed in place with Yandall and Sunday’s Well full-back Brian Derham kicking their third and second successful penalties respectively.
The heavier ‘Well pack managed to wear down the Bangor defence during the third quarter, surging for the line from a close-in penalty before centre Ryan Buckley crossed for the breakthrough try, converted by Derham. Bangor’s task grew even more difficult with Logan Norman in the bin for a high tackle.
The Corkmen also suffered a second sin-binning, with the resulting three-pointer from man-of-the-match Yandall steadying his side at 13-12 down. His fifth penalty goal moved them back in front entering the final quarter, and suddenly the momentum was back behind Bangor.
David Bradford’s opportunist break ended in a tap-tackle just short of the line, but the home side quickly recycled and moved the ball to the right where Nathan Graham was able to touch down. Yandall nailed the touchline conversion to make it a nine-point cushion.
A collapsed scrum offered Yandall, the former Campbell College ace, the chance to complete his fine first-day haul and he took it with aplomb. Fittingly, 93-year-old Bangor legend Joe Upritchard, after whom the Bloomfield Road South ground is named after, joined in the post-match celebrations after the game.
With Martin Altamirano and Luke Hogan both touching down, Clonmel erased 7-0 and 13-8 deficits to earn a share of the spoils with Omagh on a historic day at Ardgaoithe. The big home crowd held their collective breath when Omagh’s Scott Elliott attempted a last-gasp drop goal but it went a whisker wide of the posts.
Leinster rivals Tullamore and Skerries also played out a 13-all draw at Spollanstown, a 72nd-minute penalty try from successive five-metre scrums bringing the hosts level. Skerries had led by 10 points following an opportunist 48th-minute try from Ruairi Woods after his half-back partner Paul O’Loghlen, who slotted over eight points, had a kick charged down.