Only two Energia Community Series games went ahead in Ulster on Saturday. Both were tight contests with Chris Parker’s City of Armagh striking right at the death to defeat Conference 1 rivals Ballynahinch 22-21.
Ballynahinch and Armagh served up another enthralling battle at Ballymacarn Park where the wet conditions dictated play for the first half-an-hour. Cormac Fox, who tallied up 28 points against Rainey Old Boys, had his 12th-minute penalty cancelled out by a Greg Hutley effort.
‘Hinch had the better possession and territory as the game progressed, and a second Hutley place-kick edged them ahead. But, five minutes before half-time, Armagh centre Evin Crummie broke the defensive line from halfway and fed number 8 Neil Faloon for a fine finish, with Fox converting to make it 10-6.
The home side began the second half in determined fashion and the ever-dependable Aaron Cairns crossed in the corner just five minutes in. Out-half Hutley was successful with the touchline conversion, which went in off a post.
Armagh snapped back to take a 55th-minute lead, putting together some enterprising phases. Matthew Hooks cut in off his wing to unlock the defence and debutant scrum half Charlie Worth was up in support to take the final pass and move the visitors ahead at 15-13.
The game took another twist when Ballynahinch appeared to be heading for victory. A 73rd-minute scrum penalty was turned into three more points by Hutley and, five minutes later, a bout of attacking pressure teed up winger Ben McMullan to score in the corner.
Now 21-15 in arrears, Armagh had to react quickly as they sought a repeat of their late heroics from last March’s Ulster Senior Cup final. They pulled it off in dramatic fashion with flanker Barry Finn’s injury-time try coming on the back of two ‘Hinch yellow cards. Fox fired over the all-important conversion.
In Ulster Conference 2, former Ulster squad member Mark Best banged over a late clinching penalty in Bangor’s 17-12 triumph over Omagh. The Belfast-born out-half had converted earlier tries from Michael Weir and David Bradford.
It was Bangor’s hard-working forwards who did a lot of the damage, number 8 Weir storming over from the back of a 15th-minute scrum. A series of pick-and-drives laid the platform for Bradford, another of the hosts’ physical enforcers, to tag on try number two.
Omagh, who showed their eagerness to put the ball through the hands, were only 14-7 down at the break, though, as they showed a good deal of resilience in Glenn Kyle’s first game at the helm. They sandwiched in a converted try from winger Scott Barr via a bright, fast-paced counter attack.
Luck was not on the Accies’ side as despite centre Dean Kane crossing in the corner from a brilliant chip-and-chase on the hour mark, Kyle Beattie’s difficult touchline conversion attempt came back off the post.
Although Ali Lockhart saw yellow for a bad tackle near the try-line, 14-man Bangor kept their composure and better play from both backs and forwards set up a penalty in front of the posts with five minutes remaining. Best sent it over before a final turnover, right at the death, allowed the Seasiders to celebrate.
Meanwhile, following the correct application relating to Covid-19 guidelines, four second round fixtures in Ulster were cancelled – Banbridge v Rainey Old Boys, Queen’s University v Malone, Ballymena v Belfast Harlequins and Dungannon v City of Derry. The scores are recorded as 0-0 and both teams awarded two points.
ENERGIA COMMUNITY SERIES – SECOND ROUND RESULTS:
ULSTER CONFERENCE 1:
Ballynahinch 21 City of Armagh 22, Ballymacarn Park
Banbridge v Rainey Old Boys, Rifle Park (Match cancelled – 0-0. Both teams are awarded two points)
Queen’s University v Malone, Dub Lane (Match cancelled – 0-0. Both teams are awarded two points)
ULSTER CONFERENCE 2:
Ballymena v Belfast Harlequins, Eaton Park (Match cancelled – 0-0. Both teams are awarded two points)
Bangor 17 Omagh Academicals 12, Upritchard Park
Dungannon v City of Derry, Stevenson Park (Match cancelled – 0-0. Both teams are awarded two points)