St. Mary’s College continued their match back to Division 1A rugby with a convincing 24-3 bonus point win away to Shannon in sunny conditions.
The Ulster Bank League Division 1B leaders made it 12 victories on the trot, with their sixth-placed hosts well-beaten on Thomond Park’s back pitch.
Quick-fire tries from young backs Terry Kennedy and David Fanagan launched St. Mary’s into a 14-3 half-time lead. Tadhg Bennett contributed Shannon’s points off the kicking tee.
A clever switch move saw winger Kennedy glide over in the 14th minute for 7-3, and scrum half Fanagan followed him soon after, sniping around the corner from a close-in maul that had collapsed.
Tempers flared early on the resumption as Mary’s centre Marcus O’Driscoll saw yellow against his former club, and his opposite number Robbie Deegan was sin-binned three minutes later for a high tackle.
But the table-topping Dubliners stayed on course with prop Brian McGovern getting over from a 55th minute rolling maul, and the bonus point was supplied by replacement Conor Toolan with four minutes remaining.
Meanwhile, Belfast Harlequins’ tremendous 29-24 comeback victory over Old Wesley was in vain as they were relegated from Division 1B yesterday.
UL Bohemians’ defeat of Dolphin put 13 points between themselves and bottom side ‘Quins, who are now confirmed for the drop with two rounds remaining.
Having turned over a scrum, Wesley went through the phases before second row Josh Hinde exploited some space at the side of a ruck to score in the 14th minute, with Barry McLaughlin converting.
Hinde completed his brace on the half hour, making it 14-7 after Harlequins had hit back through replacement flanker Ben Alexander who followed up on excellent approach play by Mark Kettyle and Mark Best.
Kettyle showed his commitment to the cause, lining out for ‘Quins after his wife gave birth earlier in the day. And it was his kick through that played in his centre partner Best for the hosts’ second try.
But an unconverted effort right on the stroke of half-time had the Dubliners leading 19-12, Iain McGann providing turnover ball and Billy Ngawini stretching the home defence to set up winger Paul Harte for the score in the corner.
Second row McGann was held up early in the second half before the ball was worked wide for winger McLaughlin to notch the bonus point try.
However, Wesley did not bank on Harlequins scoring 17 points without reply. Adam Larkin’s men raised their game in brilliant fashion, Kettyle providing the scoring pass for openside Ollie Loughead’s try which Best converted with aplomb.
‘Quins’ bonus point try arrived when Loughead charged down Adam Kennedy’s clearance kick to complete his brace. Best supplied the extras again and then tagged on a terrific long range penalty in the 70th minute.
There was still a lot for the Ulstermen to do, especially as they ended the game with 13 men, but they hung on for only their second win of the 16-match campaign to date.
Buccaneers closed to within a point of fourth-placed Old Wesley as they got the better of Blackrock College (20-10) at Stradbrook.
Buccs collected their second win in as many rounds to keep the pressure on Wesley in their pursuit for a top four promotion play-off place.
Lively full-back Callum Boland scored a try in each half, with the Pirates tallying up 13 points without reply during the opening 40 minutes.
Connacht’s Conor McKeon had a key contribution with the boot again, landing both conversions and slotting a penalty and drop goal for good measure.
Blackrock, who are still in a scrap to avoid the relegation play-off spot, mustered 10 points via their half-backs David Scott-Lennon (try) and Jack O’Carroll (conversion and penalty).
Down in Cork, UL Bohemians gained their third victory in four matches as they pipped hosts Dolphin 18-16 in a memorable Munster derby.
Having endured a late loss to Old Wesley last week, Dolphin suffered the same fate as Bohs centre Rory White broke through for a brilliant match-winning try.
The hosts, who trailed 13-6 at the turnaround, had bounced back with Barry Keeshan’s third successful penalty and a converted try from captain Chris Rowe – his seventh of the season.
But UL showed their mettle in the closing stages, with White slicing through to add to flanker James Ryan’s first half touchdown which Robbie Bourke converted. Out-half Rick McKenna also kicked two penalties.
UL remain ninth in the standings, but only three points now separate them from Blackrock and Dolphin immediately above them. They have relegated Harlequins next up at home on Saturday, April 2.
At the other end of the table, Dublin University saw off promotion rivals Ballymena in typical swashbuckling style with a six-try 34-19 triumph at College Park.
The result leaves third-placed Ballymena out of the running for automatic promotion with two rounds remaining. That means Trinity (64 points) and St. Mary’s (68) are in a straight shoot-out for top spot, with the pair meeting at Templeville Road on Friday, April 1.
The students had three tries on the board against by half-time against the Braidmen, lock Jack Burke setting them on their way with an early effort from a rolling maul.
Number 8 Tom Ryan added the second off a five-metre scrum, and then German centre Seb Fromm carried strongly to weave his way in under the posts.
Ballymena hit back just before the interval, making it 17-7 after good hands led to full-back Rodger McBurney crossing out wide and Ritchie McMaster supplied a high quality conversion.
However, Trinity had the bonus point in the bag when in-form winger Tim Maupin made the initial incision, and poor tackling allowed out-half Jack McDermott clean through for try number four.
Maupin and replacement Michael Courtney both dotted down to add a further gloss to the scoreline, while Ballymena scrum half David Shanahan’s two touchdowns – the first from a scrum turnover – counted for little in the end.