Young Munster opened their win account in Ulster Bank League Division 1A at the fifth attempt, standing firm for a 34-29 bonus point triumph despite a late rally from hosts Ballynahinch.
Young Munster produced a tremendous performance just days after their Australian head coach Anthony Mathison resigned due to personal reasons. Director of rugby John Staunton, the man Mathison replaced in the summer, has now taken temporary charge of the side, and the players delivered the goods for him at Ballymacarn Park.
Tries from captain Ger Slattery, Sean Duggan and Dan Goggin had the Limerick men 22-3 ahead at half-time. Playing into the breeze on the restart, they kept up their high scoring rate with further touchdowns from Alan Kennedy – his third of the campaign – and Diarmaid McCarthy.
Trailing 34-3, Ballynahinch took advantage of a yellow card for Young Munster full-back Craig O’Hanlon to launch a spirited fightback which included scores from Robin Harte, Craig Trenier, Zack McCall and a penalty try. However, the Cookies managed to hold on by a five-point margin in the end.
The trusty left boot of Tomas Quinlan ended Clontarf’s four-match unbeaten run in the top flight as Cork Constitution claimed a hard-fought 15-14 victory at Castle Avenue.
The Ireland Under-20 out-half landed five successful penalties – three of them in the second half – with ‘Tarf enduring an error-strewn and scoreless opening half.
The north Dubliners, who ended the first four rounds at the top of the table, improved after the break with Munster recruit Matt D’Arcy and number 8 Michael Noone crossing for tries. However, Quinlan continued to punish the hosts’ indiscipline as he took his season’s tally to 61 points and guided Con to their maiden league win.
Galwegians were unable to hit the heights of their outstanding recent defeat of Lansdowne as hosts Garryowen ran out deserved 18-9 winners at Dooradoyle.
The Light Blues, who have moved up to third in the table, hit the front thanks to two penalties from scrum half Neil Cronin and a well-orchestrated lineout maul saw second row Shane Buckley grab the game’s first try.
Two Aidan Moynihan penalties closed the gap to 11-6, but the Galwegians out-half had to go off with Ciaran Gaffney, who had a try ruled out for a forward pass, moving to half-back. Ed O’Keeffe did really well to prevent Alex Wootton from scoring out wide, before Garryowen skipper Josh Hrstich capitalised on a quick tap penalty to touch down on the hour mark.
Former Ireland Under-20 international Gaffney slotted a 71st minute penalty, however he pulled an injury-time kick wide as off-colour ‘Wegians missed out on a losing bonus point.
Meanwhile, defending champions Lansdowne fell to their second successive defeat as Old Belvedere recorded a well-merited 19-0 win at Anglesea Road.
Leinster and Ireland back rower Jack Conan was in attendance and cheered his former ‘Belvo team-mates to their fourth win in five games, which moves them to the summit of Division 1A.
The ever-alert Shane McDonald gathered his own chip in the right corner for the opening try in the 13th minute, and fellow winger Rory O’Loughlin touched down on the half hour mark as ‘Belvo turned around with a 13-0 advantage.
Lansdowne centres Tom Farrell and Tom Daly tried their best to get the headquarters club back into contention in the second half, but Belvedere kept the scoreboard ticking over with a Daniel Riordan drop goal and Steve Crosbie’s second successful penalty.
O’Loughlin missed out on a second touchdown following a fine break by hooker Ed Rossiter, and it was ‘Belvo’s defensive solidity that saw out the result. Even though flanker Kieran O’Gorman was in the sin-bin, they still managed to force the ever-dangerous Mark Roche into touch during one of Lansdowne’s most promising attacks.
Jake Swaine landed a late kick to guide Terenure College past Garryowen last time out and he repeated the trick on Friday night as his 81st-minute conversion saw ‘Nure overhaul UCD on a 20-18 scoreline at Belfield.
It was cruel finish for the students who were leading 18-6 with little over ten minutes remaining. Tries from winger Tom Fletcher and influential lock Gavin Thornbury had them in an enviable position, but the visitors came storming back – just as they did in last November’s meeting at the same venue.
Captain James O’Neill got over on the end of a close-in maul for a galvanising ‘Nure score which Swaine converted. The latter’s wing colleague James O’Donoghue then glided down the left and got over by the posts for the levelling try. Swaine held his nerve to add the extras in decisive fashion.