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Energia All-Ireland Junior Cup: First Round Review

Energia All-Ireland Junior Cup: First Round Review

Ballyclare number 8 Jack Gamble was one of their try scorers during their first round victory over Ashbourne ©INPHO/Ben Brady

All four provinces were treated to the magic of the Energia All-Ireland Junior Cup’s opening round, and for five of the away clubs it was a Halloween weekend to remember.

The strength of Kukri Ulster Rugby Championship Division 1 was seen as all four northern clubs progressed to the quarter-finals, including reigning champions Clogher Valley and Ballyclare, last season’s beaten finalists.

Ballyclare overcame the wet conditions to run out impressive 37-0 winners over Ashbourne, with the tries shared out between Scott Martin, James Creighton, Mark Jackson, Matthew Fitzgerald, Jack Gamble and Zac Scarlett.

Nine months on from their title win, Clogher Valley began their Junior Cup defence with a 33-8 success at home to Creggs. Cooke won 22-18 at Old Chapel to spoil Bandon’s 140th anniversary celebrations.

A much-changed Bective Rangers had a competition debut to forget, going down 52-5 to eight-try Enniskillen. Stephen Welsh’s Skins produced a barnstorming display in Donnybrook, scoring their first try from a lineout maul inside two minutes.

Hooker Niall Keenan made it a quick-fire brace, charging over again after a strong carry from fellow front rower Matthew Graham. Bective came more into it but just could not muster a score.

Instead, Eddie Keys’ clever dummy saw him sweep through into the hosts 22 and feed a pass back inside for nippy winger Sam Balfour to score behind the posts. A neat line of passes put replacement Harry Ingram over just before half-time.

Trailing 24-0 at the break, Bective conceded again inside two minutes of the restart. Enniskillen lifted the tempo and flood forward, flanker Jack Rutledge hurtling onto a pass to crash over from close range.

Balfour intercepted a floated pass from Seb Berti senior for a 60-metre run-in, before Keys initiated a four-man move down the left wing, Jordan Hylton drawing in two defenders and offloading back inside for lock Neil Rutledge to go over untouched.

A yellow card for replacement Daniel Byrne added to Bective’s woes, Enniskillen number 8 Michael Rooney muscling over in his absence, with replacement Gary Thornton on the latch.

Keys added his sixth conversion to extend the lead to 52-0, but Bective salvaged some pride with a 69th-minute Berti senior score – off a lobbed pass from Titapu Pairama Lewington – following the sin-binning of Skins’ Neil Rutledge.

There will be a strong Munster representation in the last-eight, led by reigning provincial champions Newcastle West who edged out Connemara 15-11 thanks to tries from Sean Murphy and Alan O’Riordan.

A Ryan Hogg-inspired Thomond came from 18-5 down to beat Westport 31-28 in a thrilling finish at Carrowholly.

Two closing tries from Fraser Wright, who switched to the wing in a late change, saw Monkstown prevail 31-10 against fast-starting Castlebar. They are the only Leinster club left standing.

Dave Mahon’s Monkstown side had first half converted scores from Stephen McVeigh, off the back of a scrum, and Danny Riordan. Wright went on to seal the deal, with out-half Charlie McMickan kicking the other 11 points.

A first half hat-trick from Darren Lowry put Kilfeacle & District on track to win 29-21 at Seapoint. James Ryan Salmon also dotted down in the 34th minute, while Luke Heuston supplied the other nine points from the tee.

Seapoint, who had a first half wind advantage, struggled and Kilfeacle’s big pack got on top. Two yellow cards hampered the home side, and it was a case of too little, too late after James Brindley, tighthead Conor Eivers and James Newman had put together tries.


Saturday, October 29 –

Westport 28 Thomond 31, Carrowholly
Bandon 18 Cooke 22, Old Chapel
Ballyclare 37 Ashbourne 0, the Cloughan
Castlebar 10 Monkstown 31, Cloondeash
Clogher Valley 33 Creggs 8, the Cran
Newcastle West 15 Connemara 11, Cullinagh
Seapoint 21 Kilfeacle & District 29, Kilbogget Park
Bective Rangers 5 Enniskillen 52, Energia Park