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Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Division 2A: Round 3 Review

Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Division 2A: Round 3 Review

The Parsonstown crowd witnessed a cracking contest between MU Barnhall and Division 2A leaders Queen's University ©Sabina Capozzoli/MU Barnhall RFC

Queen’s University got the better of MU Barnhall to stay at the summit of Division 2A. Elsewhere, Cashel, Blackrock College, Navan and Ballymena all picked up their second wins of the campaign.


Saturday, October 15 –

Nenagh Ormond 20 Cashel 36, New Ormond Park (played on Friday)
Blackrock College 31 Old Crescent 19, Stradbrook
MU Barnhall 18 Queen’s University 20, Parsonstown
Navan 29 Dolphin 12, Balreask Old
UL Bohemians 20 Ballymena 24, UL Arena

Queen’s University came through their toughest test of the season so far, as Ben Heath’s 74th-minute try got them over the finish line against a tenacious MU Barnhall side.

Biting back for a deserved losing bonus point, hosts Barnhall scored in the final play when out-half Adam Chester made a break and had flanker Abdul Olaosebikan up on his shoulder to run in under the posts.

It was 20-18 at the final whistle and the two-point gap was also in place at half-time. Queen’s led 8-6 thanks to scrum half James Wright squeezing over from a close-in ruck in the seventh minute.

Chester cancelled out a Ritchie McMaster penalty with two of his own in the 18th and 33rd minutes. Graham Curtis responded with his third try in as many games, reaching over out wide on the hour mark.

Conor Turley burst through the students’ defence to close the gap to 13-11 with 10 minutes remaining, yet Queen’s captain David Whitten led by example with two big carries to draw them back into scoring range.

Centre Heath picked from a ruck and sniped over successfully, with McMaster’s well-struck conversion from the right giving them a decisive cushion. A last-minute bonus point was Barnhall’s just reward.

Four second half tries catapulted Cashel to a 36-20 victory over local rivals Nenagh Ormond. It was a rip-roaring encounter full of exciting passages of play and the large crowd at New Ormond Park lapped it up.

Having won their first two games, Nenagh were determined to build on those performances and led 10-8 at half-time. They exerted plenty of early pressure and took Cashel through a high number of phases.

Just when it looked like Cashel would lift the siege, Michael Hickey, who stepped in for the injured Josh Pickering at scrum half, was charged down by Willie Coffey. The Nenagh captain scooped up the ball to score under the posts.

The Cashel scrum and lineout were reliable launchpads on the night, and possession was worked infield early in the second quarter for Ryan O’Sullivan to land his first penalty.

The visitors continued to make good ground, Hickey passing for flanker Richard Moran to absorb a tackle and twist his way over the line for an unconverted 28th-minute try.

James Finn’s neatly-directed 50:22 kick lifted Nenagh just before half-time, the forwards chipping away before winger Conor McMahon was called up to kick the points on offer, making it 10-8 at the break.

Cashel upped the ante on the restart, going to the corner from a series of penalties. Nenagh held them out until big prop Brendan Ryan crashed over from a lineout maul in the 46th minute.

Eleven minutes later, another well-executed drive delivered a try for Cashel flanker James Ryan. The conversion from the right was successfully negotiated by O’Sullivan for a 22-10 scoreline.

McMahon reduced the arrears to nine points with an immediate penalty, but Nenagh conceded again soon after. Tighthead Ryan completed his brace and bagged Cashel’s bonus point with a powerful carry off a ruck.

Hickey was becoming increasingly influential, making a weaving break before the bonus point score. Loosehead Cormac O’Donnell wrestled his way over in the 73rd minute, the maul once more doing the initial damage.

Coffey gained some late consolation for Nenagh with his second try, juggling a Nicky Irwin pass and sidestepping out of a tackle from Brian O’Connor before scrambling over just to the right of the posts.

Blackrock College relied on a first half flurry to beat Old Crescent 31-19 at Stradbrook. Former captain Brian Colclough set them on their way with a seventh-minute try, as a wind-backed ‘Rock got off to a fast start.

A nice loop move put Mark Edwards over midway through the first half, and full-back Colclough added an excellent third try in the 22nd minute, stretching the lead out to 21 points.

Dave McCarthy made the initial incision, Peter Quirke then finding Matthew Dwan with a floated skip pass. The winger drew in two defenders and flicked a terrific two-handed overhead pass behind him for the supporting Colclough to collect and score from.

Wearing their red alternate jerseys, Blackrock secured their bonus point in the 28th minute. Niall Hardiman pinched scrappy ball from an Old Crescent scrum, and out-half Quirke dummied twice to worm his way in behind the posts.

Quirke converted and tagged on a penalty to complete his 16-point haul. Indeed, Blackrock were held scoreless for the remainder as Old Crescent, aided by some timely replacements, mounted a second half fight-back.

The very strong wind was to their advantage and Tevita Tali Toia struck for Crescent’s first try in the 48th minute, rewarding the improvements made to their lineout.

Replacement Joe Rickard added two more by the 65-minute mark, as the visitors’ forwards continued to make inroads. However, ‘Rock tightened up their defence during the closing stages to keep the gap at 12 points.

Australian flanker Leon Akopian turned in a player-of-the-match performance as Navan returned to winning ways, leading from start to finish against Dolphin at Balreask Old.

The Meath men triumphed 29-12, the bonus point lifting them up to third in the table. Centre Evan Dixon dotted down from his own grubber kick in the 12th minute as the hosts quickly set about their task.

Ben Stephens, who had a fine game at scrum half, converted, adding to his earlier penalty, and Navan led 17-0 by the end of the opening quarter.

Stephens then added a try to his tally, running onto a classy offload from his half-back partner Simone Ragusi who had sprung clean through from a ruck, sidestepping and wriggling away from defenders.

Dolphin enjoyed a purple patch early in the second half, converting their pressure into points when captain Ryan Foley nipped over from a ruck. Tomas Quinlan converted.

Although Stephens missed a penalty, when Dolphin kicked downfield, they were caught for numbers on the near side and Ray Moloney’s charges needed no second invitation.

Navan countered brilliantly, Leandro Ramirez being released into space and he launched Sean McEntagart away from halfway, the full-back racing through and then cutting inside Quinlan’s attempted tackle to go over to the left of the posts.

Akopian started a late breakout that ended with Riaan van der Vyvyer diving over in the right corner to seal the bonus. Dolphin finished up in double figures, replacement Luke Moloney crossing from a long skip pass by Quinlan.

Flanker Adam Lamont touched down twice, the first one after just three minutes, to guide Ballymena to a hard-fought 24-20 win away to UL Bohemians.

The visitors’ pack quickly warmed to UL’s 4G pitch, Oisin Jordan on the latch to support Lamont as he opened the scoring. Andrew Ferguson doubled the lead to 10-0 from a well-worked 14th-minute maul.

UL gave Ballymena a taste of their own medicine when a lineout drive set up a Stephen Hayes try, only for Lamont to respond in similar fashion with 32 minutes on the clock.

Nonetheless, Bohs were fired up on the occasion of flanker Ian Condell’s 150th All-Ireland League appearance. Ballymena came under further pressure and lost forwards James Howe and Josh Mark to successive yellow cards.

UL full-back Darragh O’Gorman finished neatly to the right of the posts to reduce the arrears to 17-10. Early in the second half, Bohs generated quick ruck ball and Ireland Under-19 international Ihechi Oji crossed in the left corner.

Charlie O’Doherty drew over the levelling conversion, and despite O’Gorman narrowly missing out on another try, an O’Doherty penalty edged Ian Keatley’s side in front for the first time at 20-17.

Crucially, barely two minutes later, Ballymena’s experienced centre Callum Patterson got involved in a maul and he powered over the line, as it spun around, for the bonus point try.

Andy Hughes’ men had to absorb a lot of late pressure, despite UL losing prop Hayes to the bin for scrum offences. The hosts had two gilt-edged maul chances, but Ballymena held firm and Rhys Irvine won a decisive turnover penalty.

– Photos by Sabina Capozzoli (MU Barnhall RFC) and Arosha D (Navan RFC)