Ulster Bank league round-up: Lansdowne begin title defence with win

Last year’s champions beat Young Munster in a repeat of 2014/15 semi-final

Centre pair Tom Farrell and Tom Daly starred behind a dominant scrum as Lansdowne began their Ulster Bank League Division 1A title defence with a 29-6 bonus point victory over Young Munster.

A drop goal and penalty from outhalf Paul Downes gave Young Munster a 6-3 interval lead on the Aviva Stadium’s back pitch in what was a repeat of last year’s semi-final. Lansdowne needed an extra-time try to win that contest, but on Saturday they cantered clear of the Limerick men with four second half touchdowns.

The fleet-footed Tom Farrell finished a brilliant breakaway try from his own 22, number eight Ross Deacon scored a pushover effort, and the hosts’ scrum earned them a penalty try before Tom Daly, the Ireland Sevens captain, touched down from an intercept.

New back-line recruits Cormac Brennan and Ed O’Keeffe both touched down as Galwegians enjoyed a winning return to the top flight at the expense of Cork Constitution (12-11).

Brennan stormed through midfield for a third-minute converted try at Crowley Park. Galwegians indiscipline allowed Cork Con outhalf Tomas Quinlan to make it a one-point game by half-time.

A quick turnover from a lineout and slick hands then put winger O’Keeffe over in the corner in the 58th minute. After Galwegians lost replacement hooker Juan Anaya to the sin-bin, Constitution responded with a late unconverted effort from winger Kerry Desmond but the home side deservedly held on.

Garryowen joined fellow promoted side Galwegians in getting off to a positive start in Division 1A, with right winger James Frawley booting them past Ballynahinch on a 14-10 scoreline.

This was a typically error-strewn early season affair at Dooradoyle, and Garryowen player-coach Conan Doyle handed league debuts to three Under-20 players - Ed Barry, Jay Kavanagh and Elliott Fitzgerald.

Chris Quinn and Frawley kicked a penalty apiece during a defence-dominated first half, and the Light Blues gained crucial momentum thanks to Frawley penalties after 46 and 47 minutes and a Shane Buckley try with 12 minutes left. Jordan Grattan’s late try earned a bonus point for ‘Hinch.

Meanwhile, in Division 1B, Brett Wilkinson won the battle of the former props-turned-head coaches in Ulster Bank League Division 1B as his Buccaneers side beat Marcus Horan’s Shannon 21-11 at Dubarry Park. A classy second half try from winger Rory O’Connor did the trick as he broke out wide, chipped over the cover and won the race for the touchdown.

Leinster's Darragh Fanning was in sizzling form for St. Mary's College as he scored three of their seven tries in a 46-10 thrashing of a disappointing Dolphin side.

Goal-kicking winger Barry McLaughlin notched a try and kicked 13 points as last year’s Division 2A champions Old Wesley announced themselves in the second tier with a terrific 33-5 bonus point triumph over UL Bohemians at Annacotty.

Determined defence late on saw Ballymena take the Ulster derby spoils as they edged out Belfast Harlequins 27-23 at Eaton Park. Impressive young lock David Whann ran in a tremendous 58th-minute solo try which proved to be the match-winning score, as ‘Quins were unable to respond in a frenetic final quarter.