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Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Division 2A: Round 4 Review

Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Division 2A: Round 4 Review

Banbridge's Rob Lyttle tries to get past Navan captain Sean McEntagart during Saturday's Division 2A encounter at Balreask Old ©Banbridge RFC

The Tipperary one-two remains in place at the top of Energia All-Ireland League Division 2A, following Nenagh Ormond’s bonus point success at Old Crescent, and a hard-fought victory for Cashel at home to Ballymena.


Saturday, November 4 –

Cashel 19 Ballymena 13, Spafield
MU Barnhall 54 Malone 25, Parsonstown
Navan 14 Banbridge 22, Balreask Old
Old Crescent 6 Nenagh Ormond 29, Takumi Park
UL Bohemians 11 Greystones 9, Annacotty

Full-back Ben Twomey kicked 14 points as Cashel won a closely-fought encounter with Ballymena at Spafield. The visitors played into a strong wind in the first half and only trailed 9-6 at the turnaround.

Callum Patterson landed two penalties for the Braidmen, but Brendan Crosse barged over, early in the second period, to put the Tipperary side on course for a 19-13 triumph.

In wet conditions, the opening 40 minutes saw a real arm wrestle develop with both packs strong on their set-pieces and evenly matched. Twomey and Patterson kicked two penalties each before the former’s 29th-minute effort saw Cashel nip back ahead.

Crucially, the hosts gave themselves some breathing space in the third quarter. Out-half Jack Evenden cleverly kicked through into the Ballymena 22 to set up a lineout, and a power-packed maul led to lock Crosse scoring in the left corner.

Twomey delighted the home support with a terrific conversion, and he added a penalty midway through the half to rewarded the good work of his pack. Yellow cards for James Howe and Patterson dented Ballymena’s challenge.

Andy Hughes’ men did mount a late rally, capitalising on a Cashel sin-binning to earn their fourth bonus point in as many games. They disrupted a Cashel scrum two minutes from the end and lock Connor Smyth swooped for a converted try.

Nenagh Ormond are still the only unbeaten team left in the division, having won their Munster derby clash with Old Crescent. Goal-kicking winger Conor McMahon finished with a handsome 19-point haul in a 29-6 win at Takumi Park.

For the second round running, Nenagh avoided leaking a try and conceded just six points. That is all the more impressive when you factor in that their prop Mikey Doran was sent off in the 28th minute after his boot made contact with Crescent’s John Toland at a maul.

Out-half Ronan McKenna followed up with his second penalty to cut the gap to 13-6, but Nenagh, who had stormed through with a textbook maul to see Colm Skehan twist his way over for the opening try, proved too strong on the day.

In tough underfoot conditions, the visitors’ workmanlike pack helped them to build a decisive lead. McMahon fired home two more penalties for a 19-6 scoreline at the break, punishing Evan Creavan’s yellow card for a high tackle and rewarding the table toppers’ scrum.

McMahon pulled an early second half penalty wide, but was back on target in the 55th minute to profit from a Crescent offside. The Limerick outfit’s lineout misfired as they failed to take advantage of a couple of promising positions in the Nenagh 22.

Derek Corcoran’s charges sealed the deal with a well-worked 76th-minute try, the maul again providing the platform and young flanker Joe Coffey, a phase later, was able to reach out for the try-line.

There were a couple of tight finishes at Balreask Old and Annacotty, as Banbridge moved back into the top half of the table and UL Bohemians edged out Greystones thanks to second half penalties from Harry Byrne and Alan Kiely.

Greystones, who lost at home to Cashel last time out, suffered a frustrating 11-9 defeat at Annacotty where they failed to convert late pressure into a match-winning score.

They were held up over the line from a forwards drive, and former captain Killian Marmion missed two penalty attempts in a swirling wind during the final minutes.

UL Bohs, who have now won their last three games, scored the only try in the tenth minute. They backed their pack from 12 metres out, and hooker Matt Henry, playing with a penalty advantage, broke off a maul to crash over the whitewash from close range.

Although Marmion thumped over a trio of first half penalties for a 9-5 interval lead, a try remained out of ‘Stones’ reach. Byrne made it a one-point game in the 56th minute, and replacement Kiely won the turnover penalty which he sent through the posts to decide the match.

Banbridge bounced back from a brace of defeats to beat hosts Navan 22-14, setting the tone with a dozen unanswered first half points. Ulster Academy hooker Zac Solomon scored the clinching try in the 70th minute.

Navan did bookend the closing 40 minutes with converted efforts from Evan Dixon and captain Sean McEntagart, but Bann were good value for their victory, the early foundations laid by captain Peter Cromie’s try following a Jack Harte break.

Prop Michael Cromie used a series of pick-and-goes to double the visitors’ try tally. Adam Doherty then tagged on a penalty and the conversion of replacement Solomon’s score to condemn Navan to their first home loss since last March.

Free-scoring MU Barnhall are back up into the top four after running out 54-25 winners over Malone at Parsonstown. The home supporters were treated to eight tries from Barnhall who had scored 46 points against Bann last time out.

They worked Sean Sexton over in the right corner in the seventh minute, and had five tries and 33 points on the board by half-time. They earned a penalty try for a collapsed maul, and captain Cathal Duff was driven over from a subsequent lineout drive.

Scrum half Rob Holt raced off the rear of a five-metre scrum to bag the bonus point try, and his half-back partner Adam Chester’s inviting pass released centre Sean Higgins for the try of the game. He sliced in between two defenders near halfway and evaded two more on a superb sidestepping run.

Hooker Duff doubled his tally from a well-timed Conor Duggan offload. Holt’s dinked kick over the top was collected by winger Conor Lacey for a smartly-finished seventh try. Chester added his fourth conversion.

Replacement Davinn Quinn brought the Blue Bulls through the half-century mark right on the hour. He was set free by some slick handling from centres James Gorham and Higgins, raiding in under the posts from 30 metres out.

Skipper Dave Cave piled over from a tap penalty to open Malone’s account, and the Cregagh Red Sox deserve huge credit for mustering a five-try fight-back. It gave them their first point of the campaign, with prop Ben Halliday helping himself to a brace of tries.