Garryowen put themselves right back into contention for the third place play-off spot in AIB League Division 1A with a nail-biting 15-14 victory at Castle Avenue on Saturday, despite a spirited comeback from hosts Clontarf.
AIB LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, March 6
CLONTARF 14 GARRYOWEN 15, Castle Avenue
Scorers: Clontarf: Tries: Daragh O’Shea, Martin Garvey; Con: Martin Dufficy 2
Garryowen: Tries: Ronan O’Mahony, Conan Doyle; Con: Conor Murray; Pen: Conor Murray
Conditions were almost perfect at the north Dublin ground which set the scene for an enthralling contest.
Scoring two tries, Garryowen amassed a 15-0 lead after 42 minutes and looked to be cruising to their fifth win in six league games.
But the home side, who are now in deep relegation trouble, revived themselves with a gutsy fight back that came agonisingly short.
Holding on to take a one-point verdict, the Light Blues did well in the final ten minutes to keep play in their opponents’ half.
Garryowen got off to the perfect start with a try from full-back Ronan O’Mahony after three minutes.
Scrum half Conor Murray started the move off the back of a ruck and the ball went through the back-line until winger Alan Gaughan kicked ahead for O’Mahony to chase and score in the corner.
Garryowen continued to challenge a slack ‘Tarf defence, regularly breaking the gain-line, but they could only add a Murray penalty to their lead before half-time.
The visitors were rewarded with another soft try at the start of the second half when Clontarf out-half Martin Dufficy lost the ball in contact.
Garryowen captain Conan Doyle scooped it up to run half the length of the pitch unchallenged and score under the posts.
But Clontarf responded straight away, bringing play right into the Garryowen 22, and they managed to score a superb try when flanker Niall Carson popped the ball inside to centre Daragh O’Shea who broke through and finished well.
After this ‘Tarf were a reinvigorated team. They produced some excellent running rugby, giving the game an extra spark and turning it into a fierce battle.
It was not until the 68th minute that ‘Tarf closed the gap up to a single point.
Bernard Jackman’s side used their possession and territory to good effect and when scrum half Hugo Nolan offloaded to number 8 Martin Garvey, he went low into a tackle and sneaked over the line for a second try.
Yet, Garryowen regrouped and composed themselves and althought out-half Willie Staunton missed a kickable drop goal shot, Paul Cunningham’s charges held on to keep their bid for the play-offs on track.
They are now fifth in the table, just four points behind third-placed Shannon and with a game in hand.
CLONTARF: Phil Howard; Sean Carey, Daragh O’Shea, Killian Lett, Michael Keating; Martin Dufficy, Hugo Nolan; Ciaran Kavanagh, Aaron Dundon, Niall Treston, Simon Crawford (capt), Ben Reilly, Niall Carson, Peter Synnott, Martin Garvey.
Repacements used: Jason Harris-Wright for Dundon (40-66 mins), Paddy Mallon for Carson (70). Not used: Ben Woods, Ronan Bolger, Adrian Clarke.
GARRYOWEN: Ronan O’Mahony; Alan Gaughan, Kevin Hartigan, Conan Doyle (capt), Ian Hanley; Willie Staunton, Conor Murray; Declan Lavery, Mike Sherry, Rory Brosnan, Frank McKenna, Ed Mackey, Paul Neville, Anthony Kavanagh, Dave Sherry.
Replacements used: Mark Melbourne for David Sherry (50 mins). Not used: Dave Rowley, Jason Harney, Gerry Hurley, Lorcan Bourke.
Referee: Simon McDowell (IRFU)