12 Dec, 14:42
Prop Cian Healy is expected to miss the start of the 2014 RBS 6 Nations after undergoing surgery on his injured ankle on Wednesday.
CLONTARF 13 SHANNON 21, Castle Avenue
Scorers: Clontarf: Try: Martin Dufficy; Con: Martin Dufficy; Pens: Daragh O'Shea 2
Shannon: Tries: Stephen Kelly, Felix Jones; Con: Tadhg Bennett; Pens: Tadhg Bennett 2; Drop: Tadhg Bennett
A repeat of last season's top flight final, this tempting fixture saw two out of sorts teams both desperate for a crucial win on the last weekend of league action before the Christmas break.
'Tarf, without the services of director of rugby Bernard Jackman, have been enjoying some improved form with recent wins over Garryowen and Blackrock, and they were certainly looking for revenge after dramatically losing to Shannon after extra-time in last May's decider.
On the other hand, Shannon, who were just pipped by Cork Constitution in a tense 9-8 defeat last week, must have been looking at this as a must-win game to get their season back on track after a rocky start.
There were tense moments for Colm Tucker's Shannon side to overcome in the final few minutes. After maintaining a comfortable lead for most of the match, they allowed 'Tarf replacement Martin Dufficy in for a try in the 77th minute which reduced their lead to just five points.
However, the home side were unable to push on for a match-winning score and when Dufficy kicked possession straight into Bennett's hands in the dying moments, the out-half instinctively slotted a well-struck drop-goal to kill the game off and deny the north Dubliners a losing bonus point.
The tone of the match was set straight away as Shannon notched up two early tries. Impressive full-back Felix Jones scored the first try and setting up the second, passing for winger Stephen Kelly to run in his fifth try of the campaign.
A free-flowing encounter ensued with both defences put to the test but the quality of the Shannon back-line, which included fit-again captain Mossie Lawlor and Munster's Ian Dowling at centre, really shone out.
But the Limerick side's discipline proved a factor. Arguably, they could have chalked up a significant lead but they conceded several penalties and 'Tarf had reduced the lead to just six points - 12-6 - going into the second half.
The lead could have been reduced even further but 'Tarf full-back Daragh O'Shea was off target with two penalty attempts.
Although Bennett missed two penalties and one conversion, his kicking proved to be a significant factor in the second period as he landed a superb 45-metre penalty from near the touchline to stretch the visitors' advantage.
With 10 minutes left, 'Tarf gained some decent momentum and a comeback win was looking quite likely after Dufficy's try, but Shannon got through some great defensive work off the back of the restart kick to close the game out.
CLONTARF: Daragh O'Shea; Phil Howard, Henry Bryce, Killian Lett, Michael Keating; Peter O'Brien, Sean Treacy; Ciaran Kavanagh, Aaron Dundon, Niall Treston (capt), Ronan Bolger, Ben Reilly, Eoin Cremin, Peter Synnott, Martin Garvey.
Replacements used: Martin Dufficy for O'Brien (32 mins), Paddy Mallon for Synnott (half-time), Ben Barclay for Kavanagh (54), Jason Harris-Wright for Dundon (56). Not used: Sean Carey.
SHANNON: Felix Jones; Richie Mullane, Mossie Lawlor (capt), Ian Dowling, Stephen Kelly; Tadhg Bennett, Rob Guerin; Killian O'Neill, Mike Essex, Garry McNamara, Padraic O'Brien, Fergal Walsh, Paddy Butler, Eoghan Grace, David Quinlan.
Replacements used: Fiach O'Loughlin for Guerin (60 mins), Jason Cronin for O'Brien (55-65, temp sub). Not used: Tom Bourke, Paul Loughnane, David O'Donovan.
Referee: Michael Black (IRFU)