CLONTARF 24 ST. MARY'S COLLEGE 39, Castle Avenue
Scorers: Clontarf: Tries: Ben Reilly, Henry Bryce, Martin Garvey; Cons: Martin Dufficy 3; Drop: Daragh O'Shea
St. Mary's College: Tries: Damian Hall, Stephen Grissing, Mark Sexton, Philip Brophy, Gavin Dunne; Cons: Gavin Dunne 4; Pens: Gavin Dunne 2
St. Mary's, who beat Clontarf 24-7 on the first day of the season, demonstrated why they deserve the prize of a home semi-final after delivering a trademark fast and efficient performance.
Going into the match, Clontarf knew they were going to have to pull out something special to overcome St. Mary's. 'Tarf's only hope of avoiding relegation to Division 1B was a bonus point victory, but it was not to be.
Relegation may seem like like a harsh blow for Bernard Jackman's men who have battled fiercely against many of the big contenders all season, but with several narrow defeats, their final execution has been slightly lacking.
Once again, 'Tarf lost concentration at some crucial points in the game and St. Mary's duly took advantage by scoring three tries in ten second half minutes which ultimately determined 'Tarf's fate.
The first half was a slightly dull affair with most of the rugby being played in the middle third of the pitch.
However, just before half-time, St. Mary's burst into life. Out-half Shaun McCarthy, dictating the back-line moves, helped bring play into 'Tarf's 22.
With the home side's defence stretched, the ball came out to flanker Damian Hall who had enough space to muscle over the line at the corner.
St. Mary's continued in the same fashion at the start of the second half, playing confidently with ball in hand and it took just four minutes to add another try.
Scrum half Conor McPhillips made a clever break off the back of a lineout, and this set St. Mary's up in a nice position. Centre Stephen Grissing lost possession as he attacked on the right but managed to pick up the loose ball and touch down for the visitors' second try.
Five minutes later, the Saints were in the same position and this time it was the in-form Mark Sexton who easily broke through a tiring 'Tarf defence to touch down under the posts.
Clontarf seemed hungry to get back into the game but just when they put some good phases together, the alert McCarthy intercepted skilfully and popped the ball out to replacement Philip Brophy who darted for the line and beat two despairing tackles on the way.
By the fourth quarter, it was an open game with both sides playing freely which made for a lively finish.
The home side came back well after big lock Ben Reilly drove over the line from a close range ruck. The score came on the back of a long spell of possession in their opponents' 22.
This gave 'Tarf the inspiration for two more tries in the final ten minutes from replacement Henry Bryce and number 8 Martin Garvey.
But they never really came within distance of a comeback, especially with the competent Dunne scoring a converted try and a penalty to close out the game.
This was St. Mary's fourth win in-a-row and with home advantage against Old Belvedere in next Saturday's semi-final, they are in good position to go all the way.
CLONTARF: Ben Woods; Michael Keating, Daragh O'Shea, Killian Lett, Sean Carey; Martin Dufficy; Hugo Nolan; Ciaran Kavanagh, Aaron Dundon, Niall Treston, Ben Reilly, Simon Crawford (capt), Eoin Cremin, Niall Carson, Martin Garvey.
Replacements used: Phil Howard for Carey (52 mins), Jason Harris-Wright for Treston (57), Peter Synott for Cremin, Henry Bryce for Woods (both 60).
ST. MARY'S COLLEGE: Gavin Dunne; Stuart O'Flanagan, Stephen Grissing, Mark Sexton, Ronan Doherty; Shaun McCarthy, Conor McPhillips; Jack McGrath, Richie Sweeney, Robert Sweeney, Steve Bradshaw, Robin Copeland, Damian Hall, Paul Nash, Hugh Hogan (capt).
Replacements used: Gareth Logan for Copeland (45 mins), Philip Brophy for Sexton (54), Colm McMahon for Rob Sweeney, Cormac Quinn for McPhilips (both 56), David Kilbride for O'Flanagan (75).
Referee: Alan Rogan (IRFU)