Reigning champions Leinster will meet Ulster in a repeat of last year’s Irish Colleges Interprovincial Championship final, after both sides secured comfortable wins in Wednesday’s semi-finals at NUI Maynooth.
Title holders Leinster scored five tries as they once again booked their place in the Treasury Holdings-sponsored Interprovincial final with a comfortable 28-8 semi-final win over a weakened Connacht side at NUI Maynooth.
Looking for their fourth Championship crown in succession, Leinster were in irresistible form once they recovered from conceding an early try and if place-kicker James Power had enjoyed more favourable conditions, the winning margin could have been even greater.
Connacht, made up entirely of students from Athlone IT, made a dream start when Buccaneers clubman Sean Stapleton broke down the blindside after receiving a pass from club-mate James O’Connell and made light of the 40-metre sprint to the line to score in the corner with just three minutes on the clock.
Donal Corbett missed the tough conversion from the touchline.
That opening merely served to wake the Leinster team from their slumber and they spent the majority of the remainder of the game on the offensive.
Power reduced the deficit with his one successful kick of the afternoon when he slotted over a 40-metre penalty, three minutes later.
Leinster were always very quick to put the Connacht players under pressure when they received the ball but the men from the west were at the centre of their own undoing in the 14th minute.
When out-half Corbett got the ball into hands, he attempted to clear the ball downfield but collided with his own man when doing so.
His kick was sliced up into the air and when Leinster gathered the ball, they quickly moved the ball to the left with the excellent Philip De Barra and the equally impressive skipper Alex Dunlop both getting their hands on the ball before Ray Crotty touched down.
Although Power missed the kick, he would soon get another shot at goal when a powerful run by winger Ian Denham led to a 26th minute try for the supporting Aidan Mulligan.
Corbett kicked a brilliantly-stuck penalty from just inside the Leinster half after 31 minutes to put Connacht within touching distance of their opponents but that was to be their final score of the game.
A minute before half-time, the hard yards gained by John Dever yielded Leinster’s third try of the day when they quickly recycled the ball from the ruck and they had men over when the ball was worked to the left wing, leaving Dunlop to go over the line with ease.
Connacht impressively tried to make an impact in the second half but any hopes they had of getting back into the game were killed off in the 47th minute when Leinster replacement Hugo Nolan’s brilliant blind pass behind his back left Ross Williamson with a simple run to the line from outside the 22-metre line.
Denham showed fine defensive instincts in the 62nd minute when he covered well to clear Stapleton’s clever chip and charge and a minute later he showed what he could do at the other end of the field when he put the cherry on top of the Leinster cake with a sensational sprint down the line, that started inside his own half, to score Leinster’s final try of the day.
All in all, a very impressive showing from Leinster with ominous signs for the final as they look for that fourth title in-a-row, but credit must go to Connacht who never stopped battling despite the odds being stacked against them.
LEINSTER COLLEGES: Ross Williamson (IT Carlow); Ray Crotty (St. Mary’s), Colm O’Shea (DCU), James Power (DIT), Ian Denham (DCU); Philip De Barra (IT Carlow), Sean Treacy (DCU); Ben Harrison (NUI Maynooth), Grant Wattleworth (IT Carlow), Sean Preston (DIT), Michael Kearney (IT Carlow), Ronan Lennon (IT Carlow), Cathal Deans (IT Tallaght), John Dever (Garda College), Alex Dunlop (IT Tallaght) (capt).
Replacements used: Aidan Mulligan (IT Carlow) for Deans (3 mins), Hugo Nolan (DCU) for Treacy, Andrew Buckeridge (IT Tallaght) for Preston (both 45), Cian Enright (DIT) for Mulligan (48), Dan O’Byrne (IT Carlow) for Wattleworth (61), Ben Woods (DCU) for O’Shea, Jonathan Harris Wright (Sallynoggin FE) for Denham (both 64).
CONNACHT COLLEGES: Eoin Joyce (AIT); Joe Bonner (AIT), Paddy Madden (AIT), Sean Stapleton (AIT), James O’Connell (AIT); Donal Corbett (AIT), Karl Turley (AIT); David Curtis (AIT), Gavin Kelly (AIT), Ciaran Jennings (AIT), Benny McManus (AIT), Paul Galvin (AIT), Martin Coyne (AIT), Rory Walshe (AIT), Padraig Burke (AIT).
Replacements used: Shane O’Neill (AIT) for McManus (54 mins) Kent McIntyre (AIT) for Bonner (64), Rory Byrne (AIT) for Galvin, Colm Kenny (AIT) for Coyne (both 74)
Referee: John Carvill (IRFU)
Ulster set up a rematch with Leinster in the Treasury Holdings Interpro decider after a surprisingly one-sided game in the second semi-final of the day at NUI Maynooth. They broke clear to record a 26-3 victory over Munster.
The crucial period came in the five minutes after half-time when Ulster scored two converted tries. In reality, it was the Ulster side who were always in control of this game, with place-kicker Mark O’Connor, from AIB Junior Cup finalists City of Derry, in sensational form.
While the Leinster and Connacht place-kickers appeared to struggle with the swirling wind in the first game at the superb Maynooth University venues, O’Connor managed to nail four penalties and convert two tries – very impressive to say the least.
Ulster had the better of the first half with the Munster pack, showing poor discipline, giving up five penalties within range, three of which O’Connor converted.
He already had six points on the board when Shane Mullaly kicked Munster’s only score of the game after 15 minutes with a well-struck penalty.
O’Connor missed his first kick of the game in the 20th minute when the wind failed to carry his kick through the posts from 30 metres, but three minutes later from almost the exactly the same position, slightly to the left of the posts, he found his range.
Munster were reduced to 14 men for the final ten minutes of the opening half when John Clogan was shown a yellow card for an indiscretion in the ruck, but Ulster could not make anything of the numerical advantage.
Jamie Thompson was introduced in the centre for Ulster at half-time where he made an immediate impact when he cut through the Munster defence to score the opening try of the game just 20 seconds of the restart. O’Connor followed with an easy conversion.
Munster had three half-time changes themselves and they seemed in total disarray when Ulster scrum half Andrew Winder found a gap in their defence, after an excellent break by Chris Brigl had opened them up. Once again O’Connor’s kicking was flawless.
As you would expect from any Munster team, they dug deep and tried to haul themselves back into the game, but they found the Ulster defence in a resolute mood.
Winger Graham Mackessy might have had the opportunity for a try after 40 minutes had he managed to gather Mullaly’s kick into his hands, but his failure to do so when a try seemed a certainty rather summed up their day.
Ulster replacement Scott Browne was forced to spend ten minutes on the sideline when he was shown a yellow card after 62 minutes, but Munster still could not find a way through and fittingly it was left to O’Connor to have the final say of the game with a 76th minute penalty.
The win sets up a mouth-watering final against Leinster with Ulster no doubt gunning for revenge after a 44-22 defeat in last year’s final.
ULSTER COLLEGES: Michael Lawton (Belfast Met); David Orr (UUC), Chris Brigl (UUJ), Mike McKeever (UUJ), Josh Devitt (UUJ); Mark O’Connor (UUJ), Andrew Winder (UUC); Paul Greenaway (UUJ), Steven Morton (UUJ), Andrew Ferguson (UUJ), Jamie Cornett (UUJ), Micahel Dunleavy (UUC), Ross Hackney (UUC), Rowan Halsall (UUJ), Peter Stewart (UUJ).
Replacements used: Scott Browne (UUJ) for Cornett (39 mins), Jamie Thopson (Belfast Met) for Orr (half-time), John James Baird (UUJ) for McKeever, Graham Taylor (UUJ) for Ferguson (both 68), Jonny Corscadden (UUJ) for Devitt, Michael Davidson (UUJ) for Halsall (both 75).
MUNSTER COLLEGES: David Hurley (CSN); Stephen Harvey (IT Carlow), Martin O’Neill (IT Tralee), John Clogan (Waterford IT), Graham Mackessy (CSN); Shane Mullaly (Limerick IT), Eoin Gardner (Garda College); Fergal Considine (CSN), Simon Malone (Garda College), Patrick Galvin (Waterford IT), Kevin Bracken (University of Limerick), Francis Broderick (University of Limerick), Killian Murphy (Garda College), Tadhg Nihill (Waterford IT), Noel Kinnane (University of Limerick).
Replacements used: Harry De Stacpoole (University of Limerick) for Clogan, Tom Keogh (Cork IT) for Nihill, Cathal O’Reilly (IT Tralee) for Considine (all half-time), TJ Relihan (Garda College) for Galvin (57 mins), Sean Upton (University of Limerick) for Gardner (70).
Referee: David Keane (IRFU)