Division 2C newcomers Clogher Valley are sitting on maximum points, alongside Galwegians, following the first two rounds of the Energia All-Ireland League season.
ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE MEN’S DIVISION 2C – ROUND 2:
Saturday, October 14 –
Bruff 24 Enniscorthy 21, Kilballyowen Park
Bangor 17 Clonmel 23, Upritchard Park
Clogher Valley 34 Tullamore 15, the Cran
Galwegians 41 Midleton 22, Crowley Park
Omagh Academicals 34 Ballina 7, Thomas Mellon Playing Fields
The Cran faithful showed their appreciation for another high-scoring performance from Clogher Valley as they dispatched Tullamore, who were third place finishers last season, on a 34-15 scoreline.
It was a much stiffer test than the final outcome suggests, although the hosts did make hay early on with David Maxwell landing a penalty and converting Michael Treanor’s fifth-minute try following a series of pick-and-goes.
An incisive carry from Kalvin Mahon lead to Craig Strong splitting the posts with a penalty for Tullamore, who profited from a wayward Clogher Valley lineout to draw level at 10-all by the 12th minute.
As the rain began to come down, Conor McGuinness swooped on the loose ball, setting up a ruck close to the line. There was no stopping Tullamore number 8 Leon Fox who broke a couple of tackles and grounded the ball despite David Stinson’s best efforts to hold him up.
The Offaly men took a five-point lead just past the half hour mark, with their pack threatening from a maul and a spell of carrying. Centre Cathal Farrell was fed out wide and he had the pace to break between defenders and crash over the whitewash.
Stephen Bothwell’s side had a timely response just before half-time. Jamie Allen, their joint-player-of-the-match, stormed through midfield and got his hands free to send the supporting Robbie Mills over for a 38th minute try, which Maxwell converted.
Leading 17-15 at the interval, Clogher Valley continued to hold onto that narrow advantage until striking for a key 65th-minute try. Backing their scrum from a penalty, they got a big shove on and number 8 Callum Smyton picked up at the base to touch down.
The Tulliers defended stoutly but leaked a late bonus point score to Valley captain Paul Armstrong, and just they sought to snatch a bonus point of their own, a long pass was intercepted by Taine Haire for the winners’ fifth try, which Maxwell converted.
Shane Mallon, a member of the Connacht Academy squad, helped himself to a hat-trick of tries as Galwegians ran out 41-22 bonus point winners over Midleton at Crowley Park.
Brendan Guilfoyle’s ‘Wegians, who led 31-0 at one stage, have made a promising start in their bid to bounce back from last season’s relegation, but they will have been disappointed to concede four tries in the end to Midleton, including a brace from winger Rian Hogan.
South Africa out-half Ethan Anderson’s late penalty steered Bruff to a hard-fought 24-21 home victory over Enniscorthy. The Wexford men burst out of the blocks to string together three converted tries inside the opening quarter.
The Kilballyowen Park crowd were silenced when Ireland Under-18 Sevens international Connor Fahy combined with Nick Doyle to notch Enniscorthy’s opening try, and he then turned provided with a slick offload to send flanker Conor Byrne over. Ben Kidd converted both scores.
‘Scorthy suffered a double setback on the stroke of half-time, conceding a penalty try and having Doyle sent off at the same time. He saw red for his challenge on Mark Fitzpatrick who had gathered a cross-field kick from Andrew O’Byrne.
Kidd missed a penalty for 14-man ‘Scorthy, and Fahy also threatened from an interception, but wind-backed Bruff made use off the extra man with 10 minutes remaining. Centre Jack O’Grady evaded a tackle to score and Anderson tagged on the levelling conversion.
Five minutes later, Anderson stepped up to split the posts with the decisive penalty from Bruff’s 10-metre line. The Limerick outfit absorbed some late pressure from ‘Scorthy to make it two wins on the bounce.
Clonmel rebounded from last week’s 32-26 loss to Bruff, with out-half Josef O’Connor kicking 13 points in their successful visit to Bangor. Upritchard Park has happy memories for Clonmel as they secured their first ever All-Ireland League win there four years ago.
Bangor’s handling let them down as they failed to turn two early breaks into tries, including a fine run from former Ulster and Ireland winger Craig Gilroy. Playing into the wind, Clonmel succeeded in pressurising the hosts’ scrum, and one of the set-piece penalties led to the opening try.
A well-executed lineout drive ended with young Fijian prop Jason Monua dotting down for O’Connor to convert. That proved to be the first half’s only score, with Bangor unable to get off the mark until Gareth Millar’s early second half penalty.
However, Clonmel were clinical from limited chances up to the hour mark. O’Connor raised the flags with two more penalties, sandwiching centre Jack Walsh’s try which saw him burst straight through from a ruck.
Now 20-7 in arrears, Bangor managed to lift their game and heap the pressure back on the Tipperary men. Two powerful Matt Bougoure try finishes in the space of four minutes – both converted by Rhys Larmour – gave the Seasiders a shot at a comeback victory.
Clonmel’s used the elements to very good effect at this stage, pinning Bangor back with some well-placed tactical kicks. As they tried to play out from deep, the hosts leaked a central penalty which O’Connor fired over to ultimately settle the issue.
Meanwhile, Ballina lost by the same margin to Omagh Academicals as they did against Clogher Valley last week. Luke Sweeney was the Moy men’s lone try scorer, while Jamie Sproule, Ben Henry, Taine Lagan, captain Ryan Mitchell, Mark Hopton Brown and debutant Connor Watherston-Spencer all crossed for Omagh.
A dominant defensive display, coupled with a strong scrum and lineout, laid down an important marker for Glenn Kyle’s Accies in their first home match. They were also much sharper in attack, and those improvements will be tested when they visit Tullamore this coming weekend.
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