A 69th-minute try from hooker Frankie Roche helped champions Shannon to a prized 16-11 victory over their Munster rivals Cork Constitution at Thomond Park on Saturday.
AIB LEAGUE: DIVISION ONE: Saturday, January 14
SHANNON 16 CORK CONSTITUTION 11, Thomond Park
Scorers: Shannon: Try: Frankie Roche; Con: Dave Delaney; Pens: Delaney 2; Drop: Mossie Lawlor
Con: Try: Tom Gleeson; Pens: Darragh Lyons 2
Roche, one of four members - Mossie Lawlor, Stephen Keogh and Trevor Hogan being the others - of the extended Munster squad who landed back on Irish soil in the early hours of Saturday morning after Friday night's Heineken Cup victory in Castres, had a vital say in the proceedings.
In a repeat of last season's Division One final, Roche barged over from a lineout maul to push Shannon 16-3 in front and set up their eighth straight league win - one which sees them remain a single point clear of Garryowen at the top of the table.
The Thomond Park hosts led 9-0 at half-time thanks to two penalties from Dave Delaney and a drop goal from Lawlor, who started at full-back.
Con lock Shane O'Connor (37 minutes) and Shannon lock Donnacha Ryan (42) were both yellow carded either side of the interval, but neither sin-binning had a big effect on the game.
Con did manage to get off the mark - fly-half Darragh Lyons booted a penalty after missing one just after the restart. However, Roche's try and Delaney's conversion, coming just after Con had a couple of set scrums metres from the hosts' line, pushed Shannon too far ahead.
Third-placed Con bravely came back in the final stages - young centre Tom Gleeson notched an injury-time try and while Lyons missed the conversion - he drop-kicked it wide - he did manage to add a penalty in the final seconds to earn the visitors a losing bonus point.
ST MARY'S COLLEGE 19 DUBLIN UNIVERSITY 23, Templeville Road
Scorers: St Mary's: Tries: Philip Brophy, James Norton, Jonathan Sexton; Cons: Sexton 2
Dublin Uni: Tries: Matt Crockett, Martin Garvey; Cons: Johnny Watt 2; Pens: Watt 3
Dublin University finally have a league win to celebrate this season - the students did enough to warrant the four points away to St Mary's College.
First half tries from hooker and captain Matt Crockett and lock Martin Garvey, who were both scoring for the second time in as many games, catapulted Trinity into a 17-7 half-time lead.
Centre Philip Brophy notched the Mary's try.
Trinity wilted after the break as Mary's fly-half Jonathan Sexton and James Norton, with the last scoring act, both managed tries but two penalties from man-of-the-match Johnny Watt, who kicked 13 points in all, pushed the visitors too far in front. Sin-binnings for Norton (42 minutes) and scrum half John Kilbride (62) hit Mary's chances in the second half.
COUNTY CARLOW 9 BALLYMENA 32, Oak Park
Scorers: Carlow: Pens: Greg Jacob 3
Ballymena: Tries: Michael McComish 2, Andrew Spence, Scott Young; Cons: Paddy Wallace 3; Pens: Wallace 2
Ireland Sevens international Michael McComish scored twice as Ballymena condemned Carlow to bottom spot in Division One.
The midlanders are the only side yet to win a game in the top flight after tries from centre Andrew Spence, back row McComish (2) and right winger Scott Young saw Ballymena pull off a bonus point win.
Two penalties from Carlow centre Greg Jacob kept the home side in touch at 12-6 down at the interval.
Spence managed to score just before the break and efforts from McComish and Young saw Ballymena romp clear. The midlanders' only reply was another Jacob penalty.
GARRYOWEN 15 BUCCANEERS 9, Dooradoyle
Scorers: Garryowen: Tries: Conor Kilroy, Adam O'Loughlin; Con: Kilroy; Pen: Kilroy
Buccaneers: Pens: Tom Cregan 3
Garryowen kept the heat on leaders Shannon as first half tries from Conor Kilroy and Adam O'Loughlin helped them beat Buccaneers at Dooradoyle.
Buccaneers, down in tenth place, look out of contention for April's play-offs after this result.
A neat try and conversion from fly half Kilroy got Garryowen going. Kilroy added a penalty before winger O'Loughlin notched his fourth try of the campaign before the interval.
Two first half penalties from Tom Cregan kept Buccs in touch, and a third from the former Shannon favourite put the visitors in bonus point territory, but Garryowen were always in command.