Garryowen remain just a point behind Division 1B leaders Galwegians, but they had a major scare before squeezing past Belfast Harlequins 17-16 at Dooradoyle this afternoon.
A penalty try, awarded in the final minute, which Jamie Gavin converted, gave Garryowen a victory they scarcely deserved. The score came as they launched a final bid and with a player already in the sin-bin, Belfast Harlequins had been warned not to offend. When they did just that in the next phase, the try was awarded and Gavin popped over the decisive conversion.
On a day not suited to place-kicking, out-half Gavin, who is normally very reliable off the tee, was off target on five occasions. The visitors swept into an 11-0 lead thanks to a try from winger Mark Glover and two penalties from the boot of Ulster scrum half Michael Heaney.
Prop Ben Rowley’s try gave Garryowen a timely boost in the 33rd minute and Munster talent Shane Buckley followed up with another unconverted effort to reduce the arrears to a single point. Winger David McMaster’s sixth touchdown of the campaign looked to have secured a surprise win for ‘Quins until the late drama unfolded.
Ballymena got back to winning ways at their Eaton Park base, bagging a bonus point in the process as they overwhelmed UL Bohemians 33-12.
In tough conditions, with a strong wind blowing down the pitch, Bohs took the lead when a chip ahead was gathered by left winger Tim Rafferty. However, the Braidmen replied with two tries before half-time as John Andrew and Dave Shanahan both crossed the whitewash and Ritchie McMaster added both conversions.
With the wind at their backs on the resumption, Andy Graham’s men took a firm grip on proceedings as tries from Paddy James and Ulster prop Andrew Warwick, in addition to a penalty try, saw them coast clear on the scoreboard.
UL, who have now lost four matches on the bounce, managed to get into double figures in the closing stages, as a spell of pressure led to their Munster-capped hooker Kevin O’Byrne reaching over the line.
Meanwhile, the Dublin University juggernaut rolled on at Gibson Park where the students made it ten games unbeaten thanks to a stylish 41-19 triumph over a stunned Malone outfit.
Full-back Conor Kearns had a fine game, kicking accurately off the tee, and it was his 60-metre burst that set up the opening try for number 8 Tom Ryan. Malone got back on level terms via a penalty try and a Nathan Brown effort in response to Trinity’s second touchdown from Sebastian Fromm.
American winger Tim Maupin, who provided the assist for Fromm’s score, dotted down himself before the break to edge the visitors into a 19-14 lead and there was only one team in it after that. Further tries from back rowers Ryan and Brian du Toit, coupled with a penalty try, ensured a five-point return for Tony Smeeth’s youngsters.
Trinity are now within three points of the summit and their promotion bid has huge momentum behind it, ahead of February’s key clashes with Garryowen (home) and Shannon (away).
Shannon themselves gained a positive result at home to struggling Corinthians, with a David O’Donovan penalty splitting the sides at 15-12 in Coonagh. The sides shared out four tries with Lee Nicholas and Dave Evans on the mark for Shannon and Dwayne Corcoran and Marc Kelly crossing for the Galway men.
On Friday night, centre Gary O’Brien struck for the decisive try while Connacht’s Shane Layden was in the sin-bin as table toppers Galwegians beat Buccaneers 12-6 in a tightly-contested provincial derby at Crowley Park.
Two penalties from Alan Gaughan gave Buccs a 6-0 interval lead as ‘Wegians struggled to convert their dominance up front into points, and fell foul of referee Gary Conway’s whistle.
However, a couple of yellow cards helped the Galway men score at crucial stages. Buccaneers winger David Butler was binned for taking Connacht scrum half Caolin Blade out in the air. The latter then provided an inviting pop pass for centre Rory Parata to run in the game’s first try.
Aidan Moynihan added a tremendous conversion and with Layden following Butler off the pitch for a deliberate knock-on, ‘Wegians wrapped up the match points with a close range effort from replacement O’Brien.