2021 ended with an Ulster 1-2 at the top of Energia All-Ireland League Division 2A. Queen’s University and Ballymena are leading the race to finish in the top four.
ENERGIA MEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE – DIVISION 2A:
ROUND 10: Saturday, January 15
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
UL BOHEMIANS (7th) v OLD CRESCENT (8th), UL Arena, tonight, 7.30pm
The Limerick rivals meet under the floodlights on UL’s 4G pitch, with Tommy O’Donnell’s Bohemians gunning for a quick-fire double after running out 28-17 bonus points winners over Old Crescent before Christmas.
Two first half tries from South African hooker Connor Botha and one from Teddy Rowsome set Bohs on their way, although Old Crescent almost battled back for a losing bonus point.
Crescent have won at MU Barnhall and Nenagh Ormond in previous rounds, but if O’Donnell’s side can recapture their December form, they will be well placed to regain the Hayes-Walsh Cup – played for in honour of club stalwarts, Tom Hayes and Fergus Walsh.
BUCCANEERS (4th) v QUEEN’S UNIVERSITY (1st), Dubarry Park
Since losing to Cashel in early November, Queen’s University have recorded four straight bonus point wins. They beat Buccaneers 32-15 in the last round, with number 8 Gary Dillon starring and winger Jonny Hunter touching down twice.
However, if Buccs can cut down on the errors, they could have a good shot at gaining revenge in Athlone tomorrow. They remain well positioned in fourth, six points ahead of Dolphin.
Having Tabo Maree and Stephen Mannion available would be a big boost for the Pirates, although it will take a lot to stop the Queen’s attack. They warmed up last week with a 39-10 defeat of Ballymena in the Ulster Senior Cup.
CASHEL (3rd) v MU BARNHALL (6th), Spafield
The Christmas break came at a good time for MU Barnhall who have regrouped after five losses in the last six rounds. They still have the top four in their sights, with an eight-point gap to make up.
In contrast, Darragh Lyons’ Cashel side were gaining serious momentum before the turn of the year, overturning the current top two to kickstart a five-match winning run.
They came from 21-10 down on the hour mark to edge out Barnhall 29-21 in round 9. Their lineout maul was a big factor, providing the platform for all four of their tries with flanker Aidan O’Connor impressing in the air.
NENAGH ORMOND (10th) v DOLPHIN (5th), New Ormond Park
Nenagh Ormond’s battle against relegation continues with the visit of a Dolphin team that put 42 points on them last time out. Top of their New Year’s resolutions is sorting out a leaky defence.
Luckless Nenagh have fallen away at crucial stages in their games. Injuries have severely hampered them, while last time out they were held up three times over the Dolphin line and conceded an intercept try.
Dolphin were in ruthless form in the second half with tries from Murray Linn (2), Tim Marron and Craig O’Connell. Notably, all four of the Cork club’s league victories so far have been on all-weather surfaces.
RAINEY OLD BOYS (9th) v BALLYMENA (2nd), Hatrick Park
Rainey Old Boys agonisingly missed out on a much-needed win before Christmas, as Ulster rivals Ballymena erased a seven-point half-time deficit to win 14-10 at Eaton Park.
A Connor Smyth brace raised Rainey’s hopes, but they will have to curb the influence of the strong-running Rodger McBurney and Tim Small in this rematch. Small scored all of the Braidmen’s points with a try and three penalties.
Rainey director of rugby Brian Smyth commented: “We’ve had a testing first half of the season due to injuries and unavailability of several key players, but after the Christmas break we’ll be firing on all cylinders as all these players return.”