Defending champions Shannon overcame the early loss of injured captain Mossie Lawlor to post a deserved 21-15 victory over Blackrock College at Stradbrook, with Limerick Gaelic footballer Stephen Kelly scorching through for two first half tries.
AIB LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, November 14
BLACKROCK COLLEGE 15 SHANNON 21, Stradbrook
Scorers: Blackrock College: Pens: James Power 5
Shannon: Tries: Stephen Kelly 2; Con: Tadhg Bennett; Pen: Tadhg Bennett; Drops: Tadhg Bennett, Felix Jones
Up until the final minute, it looked as if Blackrock were going to get nothing out of this tie, however a moment of indiscipline from Shannon handed the hosts a late penalty which salvaged a losing bonus point for them.
Coming into the match with only one win from their opening four league games, Shannon must have been looking at this as a must-win game and a chance to reduce the points difference between the two teams in the league.
‘Rock’s first slip-up this season occurred only two weeks ago when they lost 9-3 to a rejuvenated Clontarf in a fierce Dublin derby and this was a chance to get back to winning ways on home territory.
Some exciting early exchanges saw Shannon in the ascendancy, however they were dealt a huge blow when captain and centre Mossie Lawlor had to be taken off with what looked to be a serious leg injury.
If anything though, this blow seemed to spur the visitors on and Shannon upped the tempo. Their counter attacking was excellent, the lineout was in good shape and the back-line were putting fierce pressure on the home side.
This improved play paid off in the 17th minute when speedy winger Stephen Kelly linked up well with replacement Fionn McLoughlin to break the deadlock with an easy touchdown.
Ten minutes later, ‘Rock were right back in the game after centre James Power coolly converted two tricky penalties from just inside the halfway line.
But the home side never really looked like scoring a try in the first half and their opponents, the defending champions, had most of the possession and territory.
Shannon continued to run hard at the ‘Rock defence and Kelly managed to score a superb second try when out-half Tadhg Bennett delivered a lovely chip through and Kelly dived on the ball as it crossed the try-line, making it 15-6 coming up to half-time.
Colm Tucker Jnr’s side continued in a similar fashion in the second half. Bennett kicked a clever drop goal in the first minute to increase Shannon’s lead to 12 points.
‘Rock rallied though and took a hold of the game in the third quarter. They piled the pressure on throughout but credit to a strong Shannon defence who managed to prevent any tries.
Munster recruit Felix Jones, who also struck a drop goal, was instrumental for Shannon as he was able to deal with several high balls and used his counter attacking ability to great effect.
Power kicked the last penalty of the game to give his side a deserved losing bonus point but it was Shannon’s day and they cán take a lot of positives from this gritty win.