St. Mary’s College edged that bit closer to securing a play-off spot as they got the better of Cork Constitution with a 24-20 bonus point victory in Saturday’s top of the table clash in AIB League Division 1A.
AIB LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, March 27
ST. MARY’S COLLEGE 24 CORK CONSTITUTION 20, Templeville Road
Scorers: St. Mary’s College: Tries: Hugh Hogan, Mark Sexton, Rob Sweeney, Darragh Fanning; Cons: Gavin Dunne 2
Cork Constitution: Tries: Frank Cogan, Penalty try; Cons: Scott Deasy 2; Pens: Scott Deasy 2
In a thoroughly entertaining encounter at Templeville Road, St. Mary’s played an exciting brand of quick, running rugby to edge out the table toppers, despite a hearty comeback effort from the visitors towards the end.
The home side made the early running with centre Mark Sexton making a nice break in the second minute, setting the platform for a period of pressure on the Cork Con try-line.
However, this ended quickly when hooker Richie Sweeney knocking on inches from the line.
St. Mary’s, who beat Blackrock College 26-9 last time out, were aiming to maintain their good form and their positive early play paid off in the ninth minute with a nicely finished try.
Winger Darragh Fanning picked up a loose ball and made significant ground, breaking through the line and offloading to Sexton at the right moment.
The onrushing centre then popped the ball back inside to number 8 and captain Hugh Hogan who had a five-metre run to the whitewash.
The visitors quickly regained their composure and showed their skill with a slick back-line move involving centre Tom Gleeson, winger Richie Lane and skipper Evan Ryan, but the attack came to a halt when flanker Peter O’Mahony was penalised for not releasing.
St. Mary’s impressively notched their second try after 24 minutes through centre Sexton who came onto a pass with a nice line which allowed him to score under the posts.
Full-back Scott Deasy, who recently impressed for Munster, made his mark on the game to reduce the home lead to 14-3 through a nice penalty kick.
Despite trailing 14-3, Cork Con were still showing plenty of adventure through the back-line, but never finding a gap in the solid St. Mary’s defence.
Clearly, the Leesiders twice opted to kick to the touch rather than going for the kickable penalty option, but on both occasions they failed to convert territory into points.
Deasy brought the scores to 14-6 on the stroke of half-time with a penalty kick to give his side some confidence going into the second half.
However, on the resumption, Cork Con’s defence buckled once again when big prop Rob Sweeney made a nice pick-and-go and used his strength to make it over the line.
In the third quarter, St. Mary’s showed they were worth their lead as they maintained the lion’s share of possession and territory.
Deservedly, the home side secured the bonus point after 56 minutes when the fleet-footed Fanning, who threatened regularly throughout the game, took advantage of an overlap to finish in the corner.
Number 8 Frank Cogan inspired some life in Cork Con when he quickly collected the ball from a ruck and powered through a tackle to score under the posts.
Unsurprisingly, Cork Con followed up on the score with some good pressure play and replacement scrum half Alex Ryan had a significant impact on the game.
In controversial circumstances, the visitors were awarded a penalty try in the 66th minute. St. Mary’s scrum half Conor McPhillips was the guilty party, impeding Ryan in an off-the-ball incident.
This set the scene for an exciting and tense finish but the Dublin side, spurred on by skipper Hogan, maintained a strong defence to keep their line intact.
The win puts St. Mary’s top of the table, one point ahead of Cork Con, although the Munster side have a game in hand.