There was drama at Merrion Road where Division 2B pacesetters Instonians stunned Wanderers with a late 10-point spurt, while Rainey Old Boys posted their first win, and Galway Corinthians and Sligo also won handsomely at home.
ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE MEN’S DIVISION 2B – ROUND 5:
Saturday, November 11 –
Dungannon 15 Skerries 15, Stevenson Park
Galway Corinthians 54 Belfast Harlequins 12, Corinthian Park
Rainey Old Boys 62 Dolphin 17, Hatrick Park
Sligo 31 Malahide 12, Hamilton Park
Wanderers 38 Instonians 39, Merrion Road
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Fresh from last week’s humdinger on the Aviva Stadium’s main pitch, Wanderers were involved in another early match of the season contender as they played out an epic 11-try thriller with table toppers Instonians.
An Ian Whitten try, six minutes into the second half, had Inst leading 29-17, but Wanderers wasted little time in responding. Their strong-carrying number 8 Popoai Finau offered a physical presence around the pitch as did Mick McGrath in midfield.
Winger Eoin O’Shaughnessy crashed over from a McGrath pass for Wanderers’ third try, converted by David Fitzgibbon. The Chaps were also able to ride out a tricky period while flanker Connor Fenlon was in the sin bin for a high tackle.
With their scrum under pressure, Finau managed to break from deep and link with Conor McQuaid. The resulting penalty brought Wanderers back into Inst territory, and former Ireland Sevens international McGrath was lethal off the resulting lineout.
Possession was moved infield and the ex-Clontarf and Leinster winger surged in between two defenders, charging into open space from the Inst 10-metre line. Matthew Keane came across to try and bring McGrath down, but he broke the tackle to dive in under the posts.
Fitzgibbon kicked Eoin Sheriff’s men ahead for the first time at 31-29, and he also added the extras, from out wide, to a tremendous score from Val McDermott with less than 10 minutes remaining.
Again it was a strike play off a set-piece that undid the Instonians defence. Scrum possession was neatly transferred across to the opposite wing where McDermott evaded Mark Keane’s tackle, tore through a gap and outpaced the cover on a 50-metre run-in.
Now 38-29 behind, Inst’s task suddenly grew even more difficult straight from the restart. Matthew Keane was yellow carded for taking out Connor O’Brien in the air, but Wanderers also ended the game down to 14 men.
A brilliant break from number 8 Gary Dillon, Inst’s player-of-the-match, saw his sidestep inside McDermott and bring play up close to the hosts’ try-line. Wanderers hooker Brian Vaughan was penalised for infringing and was shown his second yellow card.
With the timely addition of Ian Whitten to the subsequent maul, 18-year-old replacement hooker Jack Parkinson was driven for the Belfast side’s sixth try of the afternoon. Replacement Ritchie McMaster’s expertly-struck conversion closed the gap to 38-36.
A big counter ruck in midfield won back possession for Inst, and with key forwards David and Alan Whitten, Dillon and Schalk van der Merwe all gaining ground, they won a close-in penalty which McMaster turned into the match-winning three points.
After watching Inst see out the remaining two minutes with crucial possession of the ball, their backs coach Louis Ludik said: “It was very close. Wanderers brought a lot of physicality and they made it very difficult for us. Really hats off to them.
“They played incredibly well and I feel like they were quite unlucky in the end. Our boys showed a lot of character to get it over the line. Our discipline let us down quite a bit today, but like I said, we showed a lot of character.
“My heart couldn’t take it in the end there, but we finished really, really well. Delighted and relieved about the win. The boys are going to be sore tomorrow and the day after, but we’ll recover and be ready for next week.”
A second successive trip north ended in a draw for Skerries who fought back for a share of the spoils with Dungannon. They trailed by seven points in each half, but replacement Dara Lowndes’ try, converted by Ronan Mulcahy, produced a 15-all final scoreline.
15 metres out and inside the final few minutes, Lowndes threw a dummy to break inside two defenders. He was able to reach out and score under the posts despite Dungannon’s best efforts to keep him out.
It finished two tries apiece at Stevenson Park where Andrew McGregor crossed for ‘Gannon on the stroke of half-time, following up on Lewis McCrabbe’s charge-down. Skerries captain Kevin McGrath reduced the arrears to 10-8 with a smart sidestepping finish in the 54th minute.
Mikey Sherlock beat a defender and drew in another, passing for McGrath, who was playing on the left wing, to race over from the edge of Dungannon’s 22. ‘Gannon prop Sean O’Hagan hit back on the hour mark, driving over from a close-in ruck.
However, the Goats had the final say and remain within reach of mid-table despite slipping into the bottom two. Rainey Old Boys have moved above them into eighth place thanks to a runaway 62-17 victory over Dolphin at Hatrick Park.
The Corkmen mustered tries from Brian O’Mahony and Fionn Herlihy in foggy conditions, but Rainey’s attack was on a roll, racking up nine tries with braces each from Moli Faiva and Cormac Devlin, who both started in the back-three.
Since losing at Instonians, Galway Corinthians have strung together three comprehensive bonus point wins. Running out 54-12 winners at home, they showed no mercy to a Belfast Harlequins team that suffered three sin-binnings.
‘Quins were 40-0 behind before Kieran Tomlinson and Tom McAllister, who was in camp with the Ireland Under-19s recently, registered their tries. Corinthians led 21-0 at half-time with South African lock Ruan Janse van Rensburg in player-of-the-match form.
Their eight tries were shared out between Matthew Devine, captain Mark Boyle, Max Holmes, Grellan Murray (2), Sean Naughton and Finn McNulty, and there was also a penalty try during the second half.
Connacht Academy out-half Naughton finished with a 15-point haul. He displayed impressive pace to run in a try from his own half, set free by a wraparound move involving John Devine, and a neat exchange between himself and half-back partner Matthew Devine.
Meanwhile, Sligo are back up into the top four after beating Malahide 31-12 in Strandhill. Prop Tom Gormley piled over for two first half tries, and Brendan Cunningham’s late effort made it five tries to none. Centre Dave O’Halloran kicked four penalties for Malahide.