A second half hat-trick from Mick McGrath saw Clontarf come from behind to beat Ballynahinch 38-17 and maintain their winning start to the Ulster Bank League Division 1A campaign.
Adding to his brace from the opening night against UCD, Mick McGrath turned this game on its head as Ballynahinch’s 10-0 interval lead was erased by the Leinster winger’s trio of scores, with the middle one set up by a Matt D’Arcy interception.
McGrath’s brother Rob and ‘Hinch prop Craig Trenier swapped further tries before Michael Brown’s late effort – converted by Joey Carbery – completed the table toppers’ third victory on the trot. Leinster recruit Mick Kearney made a welcome return from injury in the Clontarf second row.
Meanwhile, Ireland Sevens star Alex Wootton weighed in with the match-winning try for Garryowen in a tense 23-19 Munster derby victory over Cork Constitution at Dooradoyle.
There was drama at the start and finish as the third-placed Light Blues maintained their unbeaten form since returning to the top flight. Young full-back Wootton’s try, seven minutes into injury-time, saw them prevail and also pick up a bonus point.
Wootton’s Munster Academy colleague Steve McMahon, who lined out on the right wing, bagged a brace of tries inside an electric first quarter of the hour from Garryowen. Another Academy talent Tomas Quinlan had Constitution just 15-13 down at the break. The young out-half converted flanker James Murphy’s try and finished with 14 points, including four penalties, but Wootton landed the decisive blow for the hosts.
After losing to leaders Clontarf last time out, Old Belvedere got back to winning ways with a 24-12 defeat of a resilient Galwegians side at Anglesea Road.
An Ed O’Keeffe touchdown had ‘Wegians just 11-7 behind at half-time and turning with the wind behind them, Matt Brown’s men went on to dominate the third quarter. However, they could not convert pressure into points and ultimately paid the price.
O’Keeffe’s third league try had them back in front at 12-11, but ‘Belvo were clinical in the final quarter with their Leinster-capped centre Steve Crosbie scoring a penalty and a converted try. Yellow cards for ‘Wegians locks Aly Muldowney and Marty Cummins proved costly, and a closing penalty from Shane McDonald wrapped up the home win.
Fourth-placed UCD remain just three points off top spot following a superb nine-try 56-22 dismissal of Young Munster at a sun-splashed Belfield Bowl.
Ireland Under-20 international Billy Dardis (pictured above) helped himself to a hat-trick and Brian Cawley, Mark McGroarty, Adam Byrne, James Tracy, Jeremy Loughman and Jamie Glynn also touched down for the Noel McNamara-coached students.
Connacht centre David McSharry, returning from injury, made his presence felt in midfield for the hosts. Young Munster’s three tries came from their powerful pack, with former South Africa Under-20 scrum half Abrie Griesel making his first league appearance for the Cookies as a second half replacement.
Meanwhile, on Friday night, Lansdowne made it two wins in three league outings as they accounted for Terenure College on a 24-10 scoreline. Two quick-fire tries from lock Brian Moylett after 65 and 67 minutes steered the defending Division 1A champions to victory on the Aviva Stadium’s back pitch.
In this meeting of the top two finishers in the table from last season, Lansdowne built a 9-0 half-time lead thanks to three penalties from captain Scott Deasy.
Although Terenure skipper James O’Neill claimed the game’s first try, Lansdowne’s powerful pack – aided by the presence of Leinster’s Peter Dooley and Tadhg Beirne – laid the platform for Moylett’s timely brace. One of the tries was converted, before ‘Nure replacement Niall Lalor notched a second unconverted effort for the visitors.