Cork Constitution kept pace with their Munster rivals, Shannon and Garryowen, at the top of AIB League Division One by bossing Lansdowne into a 33-23 defeat on Saturday.
AIB LEAGUE: DIVISION ONE: Saturday, December 3
Lansdowne 23 Cork Constitution 33, Lansdowne Road
Scorers: Lansdowne: Tries: Corey Burt, David Lavin; Cons: Burt 2; Pens: Burt 3
Cork Con: Tries: Daragh Lyons, Richard Lane, Cronan Healy, Diarmuid O'Riordan, Shane O'Connor; Cons: Lyons 4
Five tries, a bonus point and a fifth win of the campaign - was Cork Con's trip to headquarters as simple as that? Largely, despite the best efforts of Lansdowne's New Zealand-born fly-half Corey Burt, who accounted for 18 of his side's points.
The game was barely six minutes old when a rapier-like thrust from Con wing Cronan Healy paved the way for an opening try for fly-half Daragh Lyons, who failed to the left with the conversion. Burt replied with two penalties for the home side.
He added another on 26 minutes but the 30-metre effort was sandwiched by a brace of Con tries. Healy was again the provider when offloading for his fellow winger Richard Lane to touch down on 22 minutes. Lyons converted and added the extras to replacement centre Diarmuid O'Riordan's stunning try just before the break.
O'Riordan, on for the injured Conor Quaid, weaved his way over, beating the Lansdowne defence on a powerful 50-metre run.
Lansdowne, who were forced to haul player-coach Brian O'Meara off the field in the first quarter due to a knee injury, were 19-9 down at half-time, and it got worst for the Dubliners, four minutes into the second half.
Man-of-the-match Healy bagged Con's bonus point try - his third of the league run - and before the hour mark, lock Shane O'Connor went under the posts for the visitors' fifth of the afternoon.
Lyons converted both to take his personal haul up to 13 points and effectively seal the points for Con at 33-9. Credibly, Lansdowne, inspired by Liam Toland, their starting second player-coach, cut the deficit to ten in the final quarter thanks to converted tries from Burt and flanker David Lavin but Con were just too far in front.
St Mary's College 20 Belfast Harlequins 18, Templeville Road
Scorers: Mary's: Tries: Jonathan Sexton, John Kilbride; Cons: Sexton 2; Pens: Sexton 2
Harlequins: Pens: Michael Glancy 6
Mary's third straight win of the league campaign was their tightest yet, but helped by Leinster and Ireland Under-21 fly-half Jonathan Sexton, the Dubliners just about deserved the spoils on Saturday.
Sexton's 15-point haul was instrumental in Mary's victory, which sees them up to ninth in the table. For long periods, Harlequins' grizzled pack, with player-coach Andy Ward filling the number 8 shirt, controlled possession but a listless afternoon for the 2004/05 beaten finalists' back division saw them overhauled in the closing stages.
The visitors' pack gained five penalty opportunities for Sexton's opposite number Michael Glancy in the opening half - the 'Quins number 10 took three of them to see his side in at the break with a 9-3 half-time lead.
From Sexton's four penalty attempts, he slotted just one on 31 minutes.
A dour battle was ensuing in the second half with three further penalties from the boot of Glancy pushing 'Quins 18-6 in front - Sexton notching one in reply just before the hour.
But the whole complexion of the game changed on 72 minutes when Leinster winger James Norton cut the 'Quins defence to pieces with a surging run from 40 metres out and Sexton was on hand to sell a dummy and dive over for a score, which he converted.
With the bit between their teeth, Mary's hit the front with just a minute of normal time remaining. Captain John McWeeney, the former Ireland winger, bulldozed through forcing 'Quins back and from a close-in scrum, the home pack pushed their opponents over the try line for scrum-half John Kilbride to ground the ball.
Sexton stepped up to almost effortlessly slot the conversion from far out on the touchline for a two-point buffer. Buoyed by their sudden lead, Mary's looked for a third try to kill off a tired 'Quins outfit but they just failed to ground the ball when over the Ulster side's line again in injury-time.