Galway Corinthians clawed their way past Rainey Old Boys in pulsating contest out west, while Division 2B newcomers Enniscorthy went down 26-15 at home to Leinster rivals Greystones.
ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE MEN’S DIVISION 2B – ROUND 1:
Saturday, October 1 –
Belfast Harlequins 26 Sligo 9, Deramore Park
Dungannon 33 Galwegians 7, Stevenson Park
Enniscorthy 15 Greystones 26, Alcast Park
Galway Corinthians 34 Rainey Old Boys 33, Corinthian Park
Malahide 17 Wanderers 14, Estuary Road
Connacht Academy centre John Devine dotted down the try that proved decisive for Galway Corinthians in an absorbing encounter with Rainey Old Boys at Corinthian Park.
In what was Michael Harding’s first Energia All-Ireland League game at the helm, Corinthians hit their straps early on thanks to converted scores from captain Cian Huxford and Tom Forde, who has returned from Canada.
The Galway side finished the first half 22-14 to the good, New Zealander Logan Allen adding a key penalty as Rainey hit back with seven-pointers from Connor Smyth and lively Kiwi full-back Moli Faiva, who ran in a tremendous solo try.
Despite Rainey’s big pack turning the screw at times, Corinthians were able to rack up five tries in the end, the most important one finished off well by Ballinasloe native Devine, who only completed his Leaving Cert in the summer.
Rainey had the final say, Scott McLean converting a late second try from strong-carrying number 8 Smyth, but Harding’s charges had done enough to take the spoils by the narrowest of margins – 34-33.
Belfast Harlequins, who are next up for Rainey, got the better of Sligo on a 26-9 scoreline. Ulster Under-19 captain Zac Solomon produced a player-of-the-match performance on his All-Ireland League debut at hooker.
Another player fresh out of schools rugby, prop Cameron Doak, opened Harlequins’ try account for the season from a pick and go. His converted score cancelled out two early penalties from Sligo’s Euan Brown.
Out-half Brown landed his third penalty of this Deramore Park clash, either side of two misses, to given Paddy Pearson’s men a 9-7 lead at the break. However, Harlequins were the stronger outfit during the closing 40 minutes.
Their scrum took on Sligo’s, the pressure leading to a penalty try and a yellow card. Lock Matt McKelvey then barged over from close range to make it 21-9 just past the hour mark.
‘Quins’ superior scrum was a key factor in guiding them to victory, while injuries impacted Sligo. It should have earned ‘Quins another penalty try late on, but the bonus point was already guaranteed at that stage thanks to Paul Kerr’s intercept try from halfway.
Giving his reaction after the game, which has put Harlequins second in the table, second row Sean Shuttleworth said: “It was a good performance from the boys in the opening round of the AIL.
“Our set piece worked well, with our attacking starting to flow well and our defence keeping Sligo from scoring any tries. There’s plenty of areas to tidy up before we take on Rainey next weekend.”
Ferdia Kenny’s try in the final play gave Greystones a 26-15 win over Division 2C champions Enniscorthy. It was an encouraging performance from ‘Scorthy, though, as they rallied after trailing by 12 points at half-time.
Declan O’Brien’s men, who only had seven of last April’s promotion-clinching side starting, built some early momentum at Alcast Park but the game remained scoreless until midway through the first half.
Defences were very much on top until Greystones out-half Killian Marmion stole a march on ‘Scorthy with a quickly-taken penalty. He broke into the opposition 22 and his well-timed pass released the supporting Andrew Lynch for the corner.
Barely five minutes later, another pacy attack from ‘Stones ended with the fleet-footed Kenny touching down from a kick through. Marmion converted to split the teams by a dozen points.
The third quarter saw Enniscorthy have some big moments, aided by the impact of key centre Nick Doyle off the bench and their workhorse pack led by captain Timmy Morrissey from number 8.
Out-half Ben Kidd knocked over a penalty from a tricky angle before Morrissey crashed over for an unconverted 53rd-minute try, as ‘Scorthy closed the gap to just four points.
The home crowd were sensing an upset as the Wexford outfit continued to build phases, but they were rocked back on their heels in the 67th minute. Out-half Marmion used an interception to put player coach Danny Kenny over for ‘Stones’ third try.
Replacement Michael Farrell replied for ‘Scorthy, whose forwards dug deep at scrum time and had a cracking conversion from Kidd from tight to the touchline, to bring it back to a four-point game (19-15).
Crucially, a knock-on handed possession back to Greystones. It set up a close-in scrum and they got the ball to deadly finisher Fredia Kenny who squeezed over in the corner for the decisive bonus point score.
Taking over the kicking duties from the yellow-carded Marmion, replacement Matt O’Brien converted with aplomb from out wide as ‘Stones began life after Kevin Lewis with a hard-fought triumph.
A Darragh Kennedy try had Galwegians just five points behind at the break, but an Andrew McGregor-inspired Dungannon scored at crucial stages of the second half to run out convincing 33-7 winners at Stevenson Park.
Full-back Ben McCaughey became the fastest try-scoring Dungannon debutant with a third-minute touchdown, adding four conversions across the 80 minutes for a 13-point personal tally.
Out-half McGregor grabbed a brace of tries, including a 70-metre run-in in the 47th minute after Galwegians had spilled possession. Prop James Gamble, who was dismissed for a second yellow card late on, also crossed the whitewash as did ‘Gannon captain James McMahon.
Nerveless number 10 Dave O’Halloran was Malahide’s hero as his last-minute penalty from 45 metres steered them to a memorable 17-14 victory over Wanderers at Estuary Road.
O’Halloran was hugely influential for Ray Monaghan’s charges, scoring 12 points and it was his charge-down that led to the other try, scored by new centre Harry Benner.
Highly-fancied Wanderers, who are Leinster Senior League Division 2 champions, led 14-7 at half-time but had exerted enough pressure on the home defence to be further in front with Malahide suffering an early yellow card.
Scrum half Conor McQuaid skipped in for the opening try following a series of rucks in Malahide territory. Jonny Glynn converted before O’Halloran hit back by converting his own score from a well-executed team move.
An opportunist second seven-pointer saw Wanderers profit from a botched Malahide defensive clearance with captain Geoff Mullan touching down. Out-half Glynn’s conversion restored the seven-point gap.
Malahide’s rush defence was a huge factor in the outcome, with a second yellow card even failing to derail them. Following Benner’s effort in the corner which was brilliantly converted by O’Halloran, hey managed to contain the Wanderers back-line.
The hosts’ reward for some thumping tackles came with barely 90 seconds left. Wanderers were penalised for holding on and O’Halloran coolly split the posts with the last kick of a nip-and-tuck Dublin derby.