Second row Robin Copeland scored two tries in the final ten minutes to put the seal on a 25-3 victory for Division 1A leaders St. Mary’s College over their Dublin rivals Blackrock College.
AIB LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, December 5
ST. MARY’S COLLEGE 25 BLACKROCK COLLEGE 3, Templeville Road
Scorers: St. Mary’s College: Tries: Robin Copeland 2, Damian Hall; Cons: Gavin Dunne 2; Pens: Gavin Dunne 2
Blackrock College: Pen: James Power
This top of the table derby was a fitting way to get right back into the thick of AIB League competition after a two week break.
Arguably the biggest match for both teams so far this year, the mouth-watering fixture attracted throngs of home and away fans who packed Templeville Road.
After three successive defeats in the league, Blackrock came into the match with a tough task on their hands especially with the unavailability of many key players who were called up for Magners league action with Leinster.
St. Mary’s had the upper hand in the opening exchanges, recycling the ball well and not giving much away.
Stephen Grissing almost broke the deadlock for the home side after six minutes when he glided through a huge gap in the ‘Rock defence but was unable to beat the last man.
However, it was not long until the Saints got points on the board. With his second attempt on goal, full-back Gavin Dunne slotted a penalty in the 11th minute to get the hosts off the mark.
With most of the possession in the first half, St. Mary’s must have felt slighty frustrated as they managed to retain the ball well but facing a competent ‘Rock defence, they could not create any clearcut scoring opportunities.
Dunne had another chance to increase the lead with a tricky penalty from the 40-metre mark, but his effort sailed just wide once again.
The home side engineered a promising attack just before half-time. This time Dunne snuck through the gap and after a number of phases, Australian out-half Shaun McCarthy was eventually stopped short of the line.
Dunne was back on target at the start of the second half with a coolly-slotted penalty to give his side a 6-0 lead.
As conditions worsened, it turned into a dogged affair which somewhat favoured ‘Rock who used their battling qualities up front to good effect.
The visitors had a chance to reduce the arrears on the 60th minute but uncharacteristically, James Power’s effort from close range went left of the target.
Coming into the final quarter with just three points separating the sides and ‘Rock growing in confidence, it was certainly anyone’s game.
Eventually, it was St. Mary’s replacement Philip Brophy who set up the platform for the crucial try in the 67th minute.
Breaking through the ‘Rock defensive line at speed, Brophy used his power to carry the ball right up to the try-line and ultimately flanker Damian Hall picked and drove over to score the opening try.
The try seemed to inspire confidence in St. Mary’s whose leading try scorer Robin Copeland compounded ‘Rock’s woes, finishing out the game with two tries to move his impressive tally to seven tries in six league games.
ST. MARY’S COLLEGE: Gavin Dunne; Ronan Doherty, Stephen Grissing, Robert Hudson, Darragh Fanning; Shaun McCarthy, Cormac Quinn; Colm McMahon, Gavin Hickie, Robert Sweeney, Gareth Logan, Robin Copeland, Damian Hall, Paul Nash, Hugh Hogan (capt).
Replacements used: Stephen Bradshaw for Logan (49 mins), Kevin Carroll for Sweeney (52), Philip Brophy for Hudson (56), David Kilbride for Hickie (71). Not used: Stuart O’Flanagan.
BLACKROCK COLLEGE: Alan Henry; David Rowan, Stanley McDowell, Rob Keogh, Shane Monahan; James Power, David Moore; Jonathan Barretto, James Mannion, Arthur Lyons, Des Dillon (capt), Paul Huntly, Alex Dunlop, Diarmuid Laffan, Mick Carroll.
Replacements used: Owen Cullen for Huntly (44 mins), Sean Byrne for Lyons (52), Cian Culleton for Mannion (73), Brian Kingston for Keogh (75). Not used: Mark Scott-Lennon.
Referee: Alan Lewis (IRFU)