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Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Division 1B: Round 1 Review

Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Division 1B: Round 1 Review

Second row Josh McKinley makes a break during City of Armagh's first round clash with Buccaneers ©Ken Redpath/City of Armagh RFC

Old Wesley, UCC, Highfield and Old Belvedere are setting the early pace in Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Division 1B after starting the season with bonus point wins.

Energia All-Ireland League Men’s & Women’s Divisions: Results Round-Up

City of Armagh overcame injuries and yellow cards to finish as 22-20 winners over Buccaneers, with Ulster duo Frank Bradshaw-Ryan and James McCormick getting amongst the tries.

A penalty try and a breakaway effort from Josh O’Connor saw Buccs fight back to make it a two-point game at the Palace Grounds, but there was no winning start for Eddie O’Sullivan on his return to the All-Ireland League as a head coach.

Ryan O’Neill got the Armagh attack going with a strong run from a free-kick, and Buccs flanker Oisin McCormack’s no-arms tackle was punished by three points from Shea O’Brien’s right boot.

Frankie Hopkins, one of the Pirates’ best performers on the day, sniped through up to the Armagh 22, but number 8 O’Neill won his second penalty at the breakdown in quick succession.

Dylan Nelson dropped a pass just as Armagh threatened a try out wide, while Nigel Simpson was also held up after the hosts had won a scrum against the head. Hopkins pinched back scrum possession to kick clear for Buccs.

However, the game’s opening try arrived just past the 20-minute mark. The fast-breaking Nelson superbly sliced open the visitors’ defence, O’Brien was then hauled down just short by O’Connor before Bradshaw-Ryan picked up from the ruck to score.

After O’Brien converted for a 10-0 lead, the Athlone men misfired at a lineout in the Armagh 22 but soon picked up their first points. O’Connor’s charging run took them past halfway and Michael Hanley slotted over a subsequent penalty.

Nelson was pulled back for a forward pass as he headed towards the try-line, and the midlanders responded with a second three-pointer. Hanley fired over the second of two penalty attempts to close the gap to 10-6 at the break.

Chris Parker’s men went up a gear on the restart, touching down through lively winger Nelson (47 minutes) and Ulster Academy hooker McCormick (52) to open up a significant 22-6 advantage.

After the forwards had bashed away off a lineout drive, Nelson charged onto a Trevor Girvan pass to score near the left corner. O’Brien added a fine conversion, Armagh soon advancing again thanks to a turnover won by prop Paul Mullen.

The home side executed their next maul to a tee, allowing McCormick, an Under-20 Grand Slam winner with Ireland earlier this year, to break off and finish neatly. O’Brien flashed the conversion wide.

Frustratingly for Armagh, the bonus point try remained out of reach during the final quarter. They had captain Tim McNiece sin-binned for no clear release after Buccs replacement Will Reilly had surged downfield from a quick tap.

O’Sullivan’s side continued to build pressure and with Kyle Faloon’s deliberate knock-on preventing a try for Saul O’Carroll, the Armagh replacement winger saw yellow and conceded a penalty try.

Ireland Sevens international Shane Jennings broke past halfway to keep the Pirates on the move against 13-man Armagh. It was his kick receipt that set the wheels in motion for Buccs’ second try.

With 13 minutes remaining, Jennings fed O’Connor who exposed a static defence on an excellent 65-metre break, outpacing O’Brien for the line. Hanley’s conversion had Buccs breathing down Armagh’s neck at 22-20.

Good work from Evin Crummie, the returning McNiece and the forwards had the hosts chipping away inside the Pirates’ 22, but a big final push for a fourth try ended in disappointment.

Two crucial breakdown wins, the first from McCormack, saw Buccs keep them out and hold onto their own bonus point despite losing former skipper Shane Layden to the bin for a deliberate knock-on.

Meanwhile, Old Wesley signalled their intent for the new campaign with an impressive 37-7 dismissal of Naas at Energia Park. Winger David Poff’s converted try inside the opening minute set them on their way.

No doubt eager for revenge after last April’s agonising play-off defeat, some slick Wesley handling straight from the kick-off was rewarded when Poff went over on the left, released by passes from the heavily influential Ian Cassidy and captain Iain McGann.

Coming under further pressure, Naas responded with a well-won turnover penalty from Will O’Brien. His back row colleague, Muiris Cleary, carried well during the Cobras’ best early attack.

Their player coach Craig Ronaldson missed a penalty attempt but it was his dummying break that had the visitors pressing for a levelling try. Oscar Cawley was up in support and Ryan Casey had to be hauled down just a few metres out.

Naas opted for a five-metre scrum from a 21st-minute penalty and big number 8 Casey fended off a couple of tackles to crash over. Ronaldson’s conversion tied it up at seven points apiece.

A fantastic individual try saw Wesley retake the lead nearing the half hour mark. Keith Kavanagh’s inviting inside pass sent Alex Molloy past two defenders and he stepped around Sam Cahill to go over by the posts.

Naas’ Donal Conroy showed his searing pace when running back a kick, yet Will Fay smothered out the break with a terrific tackle and turnover.

The Kildare men saw out the first half with 14 men, their winger Andrew Osborne binned for a deliberate knock-on, and a power-packed Wesley maul delivered a late try for Howard Noonan. Cassidy supplied his third conversion.

Leading 21-7 at half-time, Wesley missed out on early points when a long-range strike from Cassidy went wide. Jack Barry and Josh O’Hare had traded turnover penalties as the pace of the game remained high.

Naas had lineout issues to iron out, a ball going over the top to Wesley hooker Noonan. The third quarter appeared to be petering out until Morgan Lennon’s men struck for their bonus point score.

Loosehead Harry Noonan won a turnover penalty, which Poff took quickly to send Reuben Pim raiding down the left wing from 30 metres out. The number 8 expertly cut inside two defenders to power over in the corner.

Naas were inches away from responding in the 64th minute. A charge-down gave them precious field position, Casey attacked hard again off a scrum and replacement Cillian Dempsey was just held up to the right of the posts.

Cassidy was back on target with a penalty to make it 29-7. It was a closer battle than the scoreline suggests, and Wesley put the icing on the cake with eight more points during the final few minutes.

Cassidy, who finished with 12 points, split the posts after a maul infringement, and then Tommy O’Callaghan finished off a late breakaway effort involving Molloy and replacement Josh Miller who was able to kick the ball into the winger’s path.

Nearby at Ollie Campbell Park, new head coach Ben Manion enjoyed a winning debut with Old Belvedere who scored five tries in the first 52 minutes of their 32-28 bonus point victory over St. Mary’s College.

Second row Connor Owende, who became Belvedere’s latest AIL centurion on the day, got on the scoresheet, while Mary’s, on Sean Cronin’s coaching bow, rallied impressively during the last quarter to take home two bonus points.

Former Munster centre Cian Bohane touched down twice during Highfield’s 26-20 triumph over Banbridge. Ulster Academy out-half James Humphreys scored 10 points for Bann, including a 73rd-minute penalty to earn them a losing bonus.

UCC’s new director of rugby Michael Bradley watched his charges get off to an encouraging start in Belfast. They defeated Malone 36-12 with half-backs Aaron Quirke and Andrew O’Mahony both crossing the whitewash.

– Photos by Ken Redpath and Deryck Vincent


Saturday, October 1 –

Scorers: City of Armagh: Tries: Frank Bradshaw-Ryan, Dylan Nelson, James McCormick; Cons: Shea O’Brien 2; Pen: Shea O’Brien
Buccaneers: Tries: Josh O’Connor, Penalty try; Cons: Michael Hanley, Pen try con; Pens: Michael Hanley 2
HT: City of Armagh 10 Buccaneers 6

CITY OF ARMAGH: Shea O’Brien; Andrew Willis, Matthew Hooks, Tim McNiece (capt), Dylan Nelson; Evin Crummie, Trevor Girvan; Jonny Morton, James McCormick, Paul Mullen, Frank Bradshaw-Ryan, Josh McKinley, John Glasgow, Nigel Simpson, Ryan O’Neill.

Replacements: Jack Treanor, Eoin O’Hagan, James Crummie, Barry Finn, Kyle Faloon, Ross Taylor.

BUCCANEERS: Ruaidhri Fallon; Josh O’Connor, Shane Layden, Stephen Mannion, Saul O’Carroll; Michael Hanley, Frankie Hopkins; Matthew Burke, Darren Browne, Martin Staunton (capt), Ruairi Byrne, Fergus Galvin, Sean O’Connell, Oisin McCormack, Darragh Murray.

Replacements: Oisin Dolan, James Kelly, Fionn McDonnell, Will Reilly, Shane Jennings.

HIGHFIELD 26 BANBRIDGE 20, Woodleigh Park
Scorers: Highfield: Tries: Cian Bohane 2, Miah Cronin, Aidan Keane; Cons: James Taylor 3
Banbridge: Tries: Ryan Emerson, Rob Lyttle, James Humphreys; Con: James Humphreys; Pen: James Humphreys
HT: Highfield 19 Banbridge 12

HIGHFIELD: Mark McLoughlin; Ben Murphy, Cian Bohane, David O’Sullivan, Gavin O’Leary; James Taylor; Cillian Buckley, Travis Coomey, James French, John O’Callaghan, Aidan Keane, Mark Fitzgibbon, Eddie Earle, Miah Cronin.

Replacements: Robert Murphy, Ian McCarthy, Sean Garrett, Amhlaoibh Porter, Shane Buckley, Liam McCarthy.

BANBRIDGE: Adam Doherty; Ross Cartmill, Andrew Morrison, Josh Cromie, Rob Lyttle; James Humphreys, Neil Kilpatrick; Michael Cromie, Arthur Allen, Ryan Emerson, Matthew Laird, Martin Vorster, Alexander Weir, Peter Cromie (capt), Nico Vorster.

Replacements: John Wilson, Ross Haughey, Max Lyttle, Quentin Verhagen, Aaron Kennedy, Harry Bird.

MALONE 12 UCC 36, Gibson Park
Scorers: Malone: Tries: David McMaster, Sam Green; Con: Peter Caves
UCC: Tries: Sean Condon, Andrew O’Mahony, Aaron Quirke, Jack O’Sullivan, Rian O’Donoghue; Cons: Daniel Squires 4; Pen: Daniel Squires
HT: Malone 5 UCC 19

MALONE: Andy Bryans; Jack McMurty, Ben Gibson, Yasser Omar, David McMaster; Shane Kelly, Zach Shore; Ben Halliday, Dan Kerr, Ricky Greenwood, Neill Alcom, Cory Tipping, Patrick Fullarton-Healey, Dave Cave (capt), Stuart Dodington.

Replacements: Sam Green, Gary Crawford, Lawson Porter, Michael Crothers, Conor Spence, Peter Caves.

UCC: Louis Bruce (capt); Sean Condon, Killian Coghlan, Daniel Squires, Joe O’Leary; Aaron Quirke, Andrew O’Mahony; Corey Hanlon, Luke McAuliffe, Daniel McCarthy, Sam O’Sullivan, Aiden Brien, Peter Hyland, Jacob Sheahan, Jack O’Sullivan.

Replacements: Billy Kingston, Rory Duggan, Thomas Land, Patrick McBarron, Rian O’Donoghue, Cian Whooley.

OLD BELVEDERE 32 ST. MARY’S COLLEGE 28, Ollie Campbell Park
Scorers: Old Belvedere: Tries: Jayden Beckett, Connor Owende, Kale Thatcher, Jamie McAleese, Ariel Robles; Cons: David Wilkinson 2; Pen: David Wilkinson
St. Mary’s College: Tries: 2 Penalty tries, Liam Corcoran, Ronan Watters; Cons: 2 Pen try cons, Mick O’Gara 2
HT: Old Belvedere 15 St. Mary’s College 7

OLD BELVEDERE: David Wilkinson; Ariel Robles, Jayden Beckett, Jamie McAleese, David Lynch; Mick O’Kennedy, Conall Bird; Jamie Mulhern, Calum Dowling, James Bollard, Fionn McWey, Connor Owende, Paddy Dowling, Will McDonald, Kale Thatcher.

Replacements: Cian Cunningham, Michael Behan, Órán O’Brien, Darragh O’Callaghan, Briain Leonard, Joe White.

ST. MARY’S COLLEGE: Conor Hickey; Hugo Conway, Tim MacMahon, Mark Fogarty, Steven Kilgallen; Mick O’Gara, Andrew Walsh; Adam Mulvihill, Steven O’Brien, Tom O’Reilly, Peter Starrett, Daniel Leane, Ronan Watters, Ethan Baxter, Ronan Foley.

Replacements: Richie Halpin, Martin Murphy, Padraig Dundon, Liam Corcoran, Harry MacDonald, Adam McEvoy, Niall Hurley, Joe Nolan.

OLD WESLEY 37 NAAS 7, Energia Park
Scorers: Old Wesley: Tries: David Poff, Alex Molloy, Howard Noonan, Reuben Pim, Tommy O’Callaghan; Cons: Ian Cassidy 3; Pens: Ian Cassidy 2
Naas: Try: Ryan Casey; Con: Craig Ronaldson
HT: Old Wesley 21 Naas 7

OLD WESLEY: Alex Molloy; Tommy O’Callaghan, Eoin Deegan, James O’Donovan, David Poff; Ian Cassidy, Keith Kavanagh; Harry Noonan, Howard Noonan, Sam Kenny, Will Fay, Iain McGann (capt), Sam Pim, Josh O’Hare, Reuben Pim.

Replacements: Finn Tierney, Michael Kearney, Brian Short, Dom Maclean, Josh Miller, Ben Daly.

NAAS: Donal Conroy; Andrew Osbourne, Matt Stapleton, Craig Ronaldson, Sam Cahill; Bryan Croke, Oscar Cawley; Jack Barry, Conor Doyle, Adam Coyle, Paul Monahan, Patrick O’Flaherty, Muiris Cleary, Will O’Brien, Ryan Casey.

Replacements: Tadhg Dooley, Dylan Casey, Cillian Dempsey, Connor Halpenny, Mark McDermott, Henry Smith.