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

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

Malahide's try-scoring flanker David Feenan leads an attack against Skerries at Estuary Road ©John Crothers Sports Photography

Eight teams have tasted victory across the first two rounds of Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Division 2B. Instonians and Sligo are going stride for stride at the top of the table.


Saturday, October 14 –

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Malahide 33 Skerries 3, Estuary Road (played on Friday)
Sligo 45 Dungannon 20, Hamilton Park
Dolphin 21 Belfast Harlequins 19, Musgrave Park
Instonians 26 Galway Corinthians 21, Shaw’s Bridge
Wanderers 58 Rainey Old Boys 24, Merrion Road

Skerries are the only club without a point in the division after losing 33-3 to north county Dublin rivals Malahide. Having lost by three points up in Belfast, Malahide made sure they quickly got back to winning ways with a dominant first half performance at Estuary Road.

The hosts hit the front inside three minutes, their backs carving Skerries open on the left wing where neat offloads from centres Dave O’Halloran and Matthew Faulkner set the back-three in motion, and Eddie Weaver’s inside pass put Justin Leonard over from 15 metres out.

A scrum penalty allowed Skerries out-half Ronan Mulcahy to reduce the arrears to 7-3, but the Malahide pack replied just a few minutes later with a well-executed maul try, finished off by hooker Lee Byrne and converted by tall centre O’Halloran.

More pressure exerted by the home pack led to openside David Feenan reaching over from a 16th-minute ruck. O’Halloran tagged on the extras again, leaving Skerries with an 18-point deficit to overcome.

The young Goats side produced some better maul defence next time around, and Shane Hannon hared back to deny the hosts their bonus point try after O’Halloran had intercepted a pass and launched a kick chase from just inside the Skerries half.

Nonetheless, Malahide tapped a close-in penalty and after the forwards were stopped, Byrne and O’Halloran got the ball wide for former captain Dan Hayes to score in the right corner, making it 26-3 for half-time.

Skerries had their moment, skipper Kevin McGrath leading by example with a couple of threatening midfield runs, but Malahide out-half Leonard kept them pinned back during the third quarter with some nicely-angled kicks.

Skerries misfired at a 57th-minute lineout, the ball going out the back and into the arms of Malahide’s nippy scrum half Conrad Daly whose sidestepping run from 30 metres out delivered the night’s final try, converted by O’Halloran.

Meanwhile, in Strandhill on Saturday, Sligo lowered the colours of first round leaders Dungannon with a six-try 45-20 win. There was not much in it during the opening 40 minutes, but the hosts pulled away during the closing stages.

Sligo’s Poland international prop Kuba Wojtkowicz was in unstoppable form, registering a hat-trick of tries. Conor Creaven, who captained Sligo Grammar School to the Connacht Schools Senior Cup title in March, also marked his All-Ireland League debut with a try.

Paddy Pearson’s men led 17-10 at half-time in windy conditions, recovering from conceding tries to Alex Kennedy and Ryan Abernethy as their Scottish out-half Euan Brown converted efforts from Finn Bamber and Wojtkowicz.

Wojtkowicz found his way to the try-line again to cancel out an Andrew McGregor score, but Dungannon, who included four AIL debutants of their own, had their noses in front – 22-20 – after replacement Arek Mikolajczyk has pocketed their bonus point.

However, the recent Connacht Senior League winners found another gear to run out convincing winners in the end, making it four victories in-a-row against ‘Gannon since April 2022.

Powerful loosehead Wojtkowicz piled over to move them back in front, Creaven claimed the penultimate try with his first touch at this level, and fellow replacement Ben Hynes also got in on the act right at the death.

Dolphin’s director of coaching, Steve Ford, and senior coach Eamonn Mills oversaw their first league success as the Corkmen dug deep to defeat Belfast Harlequins 21-19 at Musgrave Park.

Facing Ulster opposition for the second week running, Dolphin took a 10-7 lead into half-time with a neat 8-9 move off a scrum seeing Daryl Foley offload back inside for captain John Fitzgerald to crash in under the posts.

Harlequins went on to outscore their hosts on try count, with front rowers Curtis Bones and Joel Dundas getting on the end of mauls, and winger Henry Boyle crossing out wide with a hand-off as 14-man Dolphin came under intense late pressure.

Dolphin centre Matthew Barry was sin-binned for infringing right on his own try-line, but, by that stage, tighthead Jack Fox had crossed from a lineout drive at the other end.

Ever-influential scrum half Foley had also split the posts with two more penalties, giving Dolphin just enough breathing space with a nine-point lead before Boyle’s closing score.

In arguably the match of the weekend, Instonians erased a 13-point half-time deficit to edge out Galway Corinthians 26-21 and make it 20 bonus point wins on the trot across the league’s bottom two tiers.

Connacht Academy out-half Sean Naughton was in talismanic form for wind-backed Corinthians, kicking two penalties and showing his pace to finish off a well-worked first-phase move from a scrum on the hosts’ 10-metre line.

With captain David Whitten to the fore, Instonians improved nearing the interval and they started the second half with two forwards-inspired tries, scored by former Ulster prop Schalk van der Merwe and Mark Mairs. The second of Ritchie McMaster’s conversions was from the touchline.

Profiting from a Corinthians yellow card and a succession of attacking phases sparked by another brilliant Whitten break, centre Bevan Prinsloo muscled in under the posts to give Inst a 21-13 lead.

The visitors rallied and brough it back to a three-point game, with ever-alert scrum half Matthew Devine, armed with a penalty advantage, sending a long skip pass out for James Nicholson to score.

As a heavy rain shower came down, Inst’s strong scrum earned them a penalty in front of the posts, but showing their ambition, they turned down the three points and went for the jugular. Returning hooker Neil Saulters delivered the goods from the lineout drive, claiming his first try of the season.

Corinthians made sure they took home a bonus point of their own, though, with Naughton nailing a late penalty after his forwards had gone through the phases with great determination and control given the wet conditions.

Wanderers have climbed up into the top four after running in seven tries against an under-strength Rainey Old Boys team. Rainey’s only consolation from the 58-24 loss in Dublin was their superior scrummaging performance, which earned them a penalty try.

Daniel O’Neill, Tommy O’Hagan and out-half Moli Faiva also touched down as the Magherafelt club battled their way to a try-scoring bonus point, ahead of the visit of table toppers Inst in round three.

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