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All-Ireland League Division 1A: Round 12 Review

All-Ireland League Division 1A: Round 12 Review

Munster scrum half Duncan Williams is pictured in action for Cork Constitution against Clontarf ©Colbert O'Sullivan

Saturday’s five games in Division 1A produced a total of 40 tries and nine try-scoring bonus points as the All-Ireland League returned from a short break in swashbuckling style.

ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, February 16

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Scorers: Cork Constitution: Tries: Niall Kenneally, JJ O’Neill, Liam O’Connell, Jason Higgins; Cons: Aidan Moynihan 4; Pens: Aidan Moynihan 2
Clontarf: Tries: Brian Deeny, Cian O’Donoghue, Peter Hoy, Sean O’Brien; Cons: David Joyce 2
HT: Cork Constitution 24 Clontarf 5

It was business as usual for Cork Constitution’s Ireland Club XV players as they helped the Division 1A leaders register a 34-24 bonus point win over play-off rivals Clontarf at Temple Hill on Saturday afternoon.

Cork Con had seven players involved in Ireland’s Dalriada Cup title-winning campaign against Scotland over the past fortnight, and six of them started against ‘Tarf, including impressive 23-year-old out-half Aidan Moynihan who kicked a handsome 14 points against the 2014 and 2016 league champions.

Stung by Dublin University in the last round, Clontarf were looking to bounce back and also avenge a late home defeat to Con from December. However, Brian Hickey’s men stole a march on them with two early tries, Ireland Club XV captain Niall Kenneally proving unstoppable on a charge to the line and winger JJ O’Neill weighing in with his seventh try of the season.

The Con forwards led the charge in the lead up to Kenneally’s fourth-minute opener, with tighthead Dylan Murphy going the direct route in the Clontarf 22 before Munster scrum half Duncan Williams’ diving pass from the ruck released the Con skipper who threw a dummy to nip through a gap and take the defending Sean O’Brien with him over the line.

Williams then did well to offload under pressure from Brian Deeny, with full-back Liam O’Connell showing good strength and impressive acceleration to break from the visitors’ 10-metre line and send a pass wide for O’Neill to finish off near the right corner. Clontarf felt that the final pass was a forward one but the score stood.

Moynihan converted both tries and added a penalty before Clontarf’s patient lineout maul was rewarded when a timely surge sent young lock Brian Deeny over near the left corner. Con had the upper-hand in open play with a nice move, initiated by replacement scrum half Jason Higgins on halfway, putting O’Connell over to give the table toppers a 24-5 lead to take into the break.

Credit to ‘Tarf head coach Andy Wood, he got the best possible start out of his players on the resumption. Increasing their ball-carrying threat, they crossed for back-to-back tries – both well finished by winger Cian O’Donoghue and scrum half Peter Hoy – to move back within a converted score of their hosts.

Matt D’Arcy, who broke the line via David Joyce’s inside pass, watched his deflected pass go to ground but current Ireland Under-20 international Deeny was on hand to pick it up and offload out of a tackle for O’Donoghue to go over in the left corner. Hoy followed him over the whitewash, but Moynihan responded off the tee with a penalty for a 27-17 scoreline heading into the final quarter.

Clontarf raised their hopes once more with a bonus point try from powerful centre O’Brien who profited from a terrific pass by replacement Mark O’Sullivan to evade two defenders and raid in behind the posts. Joyce’s conversion left just three points between the sides, but again Con had the answers.

Joe McSwiney’s break got them back into scoring range, centre Kenneally and Alex McHenry combined on the edge of the 22 before the latter sprung through and passed inside for the supporting Higgins to go over just to the left of the posts. Brian Hickey’s men now have a home semi-final well within their reach, leading third-placed ‘Tarf by a full 17 points with six rounds remaining.

CORK CONSTITUTION: Liam O’Connell; JJ O’Neill, Alex McHenry, Niall Kenneally (capt), Rob Jermyn; Aidan Moynihan, Duncan Williams; Gavin Duffy, Max Abbott, Dylan Murphy, Brian Hayes, Conor Kindregan, Joe McSwiney, Kevin Sheahan, Luke Cahill.

Replacements: Brendan Quinlan, Patrick Casey, Ross O’Neill, Jason Higgins, Jack Costigan.

CLONTARF: Jack Power; James McKeown, Sean O’Brien, Matt D’Arcy, Cian O’Donoghue; David Joyce, Peter Hoy; Ivan Soroka, Declan Adamson, Niall Carson, Brian Deeny, Ben Reilly, Tony Ryan, Adrian D’Arcy, Michael Noone (capt).

Replacements: Connor Johnson, James Hurley, Cormac Daly, Mark O’Sullivan, Conor Kelly.

Scorers: Dublin University: Tries: Ryan Baird, Colm Hogan, Niall O’Riordan, Giuseppe Coyne; Cons: Micheal O’Kennedy 3, James Fennelly; Pen: James Fennelly
UCC: Tries: John Poland, Cian Bohane, Shane O’Hanlon, Peter Sylvester; Cons: James Taylor 3; Pen: James Taylor
HT: Dublin University 21 UCC 17

UCC out-half James Taylor’s last-gasp penalty attempt fell agonisingly short as Dublin University emerged as 31-29 bonus point winners of a rip-roaring student derby in the All-Ireland League’s top flight.

It was four tries apiece in this mile-a-minute College Park contest, with Trinity out-half James Fennelly having a crucial impact off the bench. He converted their bonus point score from Ireland Under-20 squad member Giuseppe Coyne before landing a key penalty from UCC’s 10-metre line with eight minutes remaining.

Tony Smeeth’s youngsters, who overcame Clontarf in the last round, held on in a nail-biting finish to stay within reach of the top four. They trail Clontarf and Garryowen (36 points each) by four points, while the two hard-earned points they picked up the capital keeps UCC three points ahead of second-from-bottom Young Munster.

Trinity wore down the UCC defence for an opening 12th-minute try, scored by flanker Johnny McKeown who scrambled in under the posts. Number 10 Micheal O’Kennedy converted and also added the extras to a 16th minute score from lock Ryan Baird, another of their Ireland Under-20 representatives, who burrowed over from a close-in ruck for a 14-0 lead.

UCC’s attack clicked in the 22nd minute when centre Peter Sylvester was put through a gap on the right and he passed back inside for supporting scrum half John Poland to go over closer to the posts. Taylor converted and tagged on a penalty to reduce the arrears to four points, which is how it stood at the break as the sides swapped two more converted tries.

Trinity captain Colm Hogan picked his moment to step off his left and break in between two UCC forwards, shrugging off flanker Brian O’Mahony’s attempted tackle to run in a third converted try. The Corkmen answered back with a similar effort from Cian Bohane who brilliantly evaded two defenders and showed a clean pair of heels to his Ireland Students team-mate Hogan.

UCC turned the 21-17 deficit into a 22-21 lead courtesy of openside Cian Fitzgerald’s 53rd-minute touchdown. Promising loosehead Coyne rumbled over to provide Trinity’s reply on the hour mark. Fennelly converted and fired home that all-important penalty, and despite Sylvester slicing through for UCC’s bonus point try, converted by Taylor, it was Smeeth’s charges who were celebrating at the final whistle.

DUBLIN UNIVERSITY: Colm Hogan (capt); Cian Crotty, James Hickey, Philip Murphy, Ronan Quinn; Micheal O’Kennedy, Rowan Osborne; Giuseppe Coyne, Dan Sheehan, Aziz Naser, Arthur Greene, Ryan Baird, Johnny McKeown, Max Kearney, Niall O’Riordan.

Replacements: Joe Horan, Bart Vermeulen, Paddy Nulty, Conor Lowndes, James Fennelly.

UCC: Rob Hedderman; Michael Clune, Cian Bohane, Peter Sylvester, Matt Bowen; James Taylor, John Poland; Shane O’Hanlon, Paidi McCarthy, Bryan O’Connor, Cian Barry, Andrew Davies, Brian O’Mahony, Cian Fitzgerald, Daire Feeney (capt).

Replacements: Harry Jephson, Daragh Fitzgerald, Mark Bissessar, Lee McSherry, Adam O’Connor.

Scorers: Garryowen: Tries: Diarmuid Barron 2, Alex Wootton, Cian O’Shea; Cons: Ben Healy 3; Pens: Peadar Collins, Ben Healy
Terenure College: Tries: Harrison Brewer, Erik Witjen, Sam Dardis, Mark O’Neill; Cons: James Thornton 2, Sam Dardis, Mark O’Neill; Pen: James Thornton
HT: Garryowen 3 Terenure College 3

Bottom side Terenure College came desperately close to claiming back-to-back wins in a Division 1A clash which came to life in the second half and finished in a tense 32-31 bonus point victory for a semi-final-chasing Garryowen side.

The teams shared out eight tries in a free-scoring final 40 minutes at Dooradoyle where Munster winger Alex Wootton’s 78th-minute score, converted by Ireland Under-20 squad member Ben Healy, saw the Light Blues prevail in a very close finish. Terenure still took home two points to stay five behind Young Munster at the bottom of the table.

It was a cagey affair early on with James Thornton and Peadar Collins exchanging penalties inside the opening 20 minutes. Garryowen had the wind behind them but they could not break the try deadlock and an injury to Jamie Heuston, approaching half-time, saw Wootton switch to full-back.

Five minutes after the break, the try-scoring was started by Terenure winger Erik Witjen, who cleverly trailed a break from a ruck and was rewarded with a converted score under the posts. Wootton inspired Garryowen’s response with a tremendous run from just outside his own 22, beating two defenders initially, gliding in between two more and timing his pass perfectly for Diarmuid Barron to show a neat turn of pace and dive over in the right corner.

Trailing 10-8, the Limerick men brought on experienced hooker Mike Sherry for the final half-an-hour, and versatile young forward Barron then took his league haul to seven tries so far as Conan Doyle’s charges hit the front for the first time.

However, converted tries from Harrison Brewer and Mark O’Neill, who somehow slithered his way out of three tackles on a snappy run to the try-line, sandwiched a Healy penalty as the determined Terenure side seized a 24-18 lead with 15 minutes remaining.

The tit-for-tat exchanges continued with leaky defences giving way as Cian O’Shea, whom Wootton released to go through two missed tackles in the 70th minute, and Sam Dardis (72) swapped converted scores. The latter was the beneficiary of a well-executed overlap on the right which saw ‘Nure outstrip the home defence.

The fourth-placed Light Blues had more in reserve, though, as man-of-the-match Wootton surged onto a pass just inside the ‘Nure half and the tiring ‘Nure rearguard could not catch the Munster flyer. Teenager Healy knocked over the vital conversion, but Garryowen were left breathing a big sigh of relief in the end when a last-gasp attempt at the other end went narrowly wide.

GARRYOWEN: Jamie Heuston; Liam Coombes, Peadar Collins, Dave McCarthy, Alex Wootton; Jamie Gavin, Rob Guerin; Mike O’Donnell, Liam Cronin, Andy Keating, Kevin Seymour, Dean Moore (capt), Sean O’Connor, Diarmuid Barron, Tim Ferguson.

Replacements: Mike Sherry, Jack Mullany, Sean Rennison, Cian O’Shea, Ben Healy, Mikey Wilson.

TERENURE COLLEGE: Tim Schmidt; Sam Dardis, Adam La Grue, Stephen O’Neill, Erik Wijten; James Thornton, Jamie Glynn; Conor McCormack, Robbie Smyth, Jack Aungier, Michael Melia (capt), Stephen Caffrey, Harrison Brewer, Paddy Thornton, Eoin Joyce.

Replacements: Adam Clarkin, Tiarnan Creagh, Matthew Caffrey, Mark O’Neill, Robbie Carroll.

LANSDOWNE 43 SHANNON 15, Aviva Stadium back pitch
Scorers: Lansdowne: Tries: Daniel McEvoy, Joe O’Brien, Peter Sullivan, Tom Roche 2, Penalty try; Cons: Scott Deasy 4, Pen try con; Pen: Scott Deasy
Shannon: Tries: Jamie McGarry, Penalty try; Con: Pen try Con; Pen: Fionn McGibney
HT: Lansdowne 8 Shannon 8

Lansdowne completed a season’s double over Tom Hayes’ young Shannon side with a stellar five-try second half performance on the Aviva Stadium’s back pitch. Centre Tom Roche, younger brother of Ireland Sevens international Mark Roche, touched down twice in a runaway 43-15 bonus point triumph.

Shannon gave a very good account of themselves in the first half, which finished level at eight points apiece after Jamie McGarry and Daniel McEvoy had swapped tries. Full-back McGarry crossed in the fourth minute, profiting from a deft offload by back rower Kelvin Brown and initial breaks by McGarry himself and Pa Ryan in midfield. His unconverted try cancelled out a Scott Deasy penalty.

Ryan ran hard again in the lead up to Fionn McGibney’s 13th-minute penalty which gave the visitors an 8-3 lead. Lansdowne used their strong scrum and maul to launch themselves forward, but they had to be patient with Shannon defending well. With half an hour gone, they finally created space out wide on the right for winger McEvoy to reach over past McGarry and grab his seventh try of the campaign.

It took some dogged defending from Shannon to avoid a further concession before half-time, with a couple of penalties stuck into the corner. A costly knock-on early in the second period gave Lansdowne a five-metre scrum and number 8 Joe O’Brien duly broke through for the hosts’ second try, converted by Deasy. A Shannon pass which went to ground was then turned into a breakaway score by winger Peter Sullivan, who also took his league haul to seven.

It was all Lansdowne in the third quarter as Roche struck from close range for a 53rd-minute bonus point score, extending the lead to 29-8, and a midfield break saw him complete his brace with 14 minutes remaining. Shannon rallied with a penalty try from an advancing maul, but their slim hopes of taking something from the game were extinguished when Lansdowne’s own penalty try, in the 77th minute, sealed a 28-point winning margin.

LANSDOWNE: Eamonn Mills (capt); Daniel McEvoy, Harry Brennan, Tom Roche, Peter Sullivan; Scott Deasy, Tim Murphy; Martin Mulhall, James Rael, Ian Prendiville, Willie Earle, David O’Connor, Jack O’Sullivan, Aaron Conneely, Joe O’Brien.

Replacements: Adam Boland, Greg McGrath, Jack Dwan, James Kenny, Conor Murphy.

SHANNON: Jamie McGarry; Jack O’Donnell, Pa Ryan, Robbie Deegan, Eathon Moloney; Fionn McGibney, Aran Hehir; Conor Glynn, Jordan Prenderville, Tony Cusack, Ronan Coffey, Jade Kriel (capt), Luke Moylan, Kelvin Brown, Colm Heffernan.

Replacements: Ty Chan, Ciaran Parker, Charlie Carmody, Jack Stafford, Ikem Igwueru.

UCD 33 YOUNG MUNSTER 31, Belfield Bowl
Scorers: UCD: Tries: Andy Marks 2, Conall Doherty, Gavin Mullin; Cons: Conall Doherty 2; Pens: Conall Doherty 3
Young Munster: Tries: Conor Mitchell, Conor Bartley, Penalty try, Calvin Nash; Cons: Shane Airey 2, Jack Lyons, Pen try con; Pen: Jack Lyons
HT: UCD 21 Young Munster 21

Derry man Conall Doherty drove UCD to their first win in four All-Ireland League matches as they outscored Young Munster 33-31 in an exciting eight-try encounter at the Belfield Bowl.

Full-back Doherty scored a try and landed five kicks for a telling 18-point contribution, with fellow backs Andy Marks (two) and Gavin Mullin also crossing the Cookies’ whitewash. Munster winger Calvin Nash notched the visitors’ second half try but Doherty’s accuracy from the tee guided the students to a narrow and much-needed bonus point success.

Andy Skehan’s youngsters have climbed above Shannon into sixth place in the table, and they laid the groundwork by scoring two early tries to establish a 15-0 lead. However, Munsters, who had lost their last four league games, rebounded well and suddenly found their rhythm through a familiar route – their Alan Kennedy-led forwards.

Muscular carries and a strong set piece platform helped them to string together three tries in quick succession, as flanker Conor Mitchell and prop Conor Bartley both made it over the line and the overworked UCD defence gave way again in conceding a penalty try. Crucially, Doherty clawed back lost ground with two late penalties for the students, making it 21-all at the turnaround.

These clubs have a habit of playing out high-scoring affairs. UCD won 31-29 at Belfield last April and came from 15 points down to draw 34-all with Munsters at Tom Clifford Park in December. Saturday’s rematch saw Skehan’s charges edge it once again, some smart finishing from Marks and Mullin, allied to Doherty splitting the posts with regularity, giving them a vital victory before they take on the division’s top four sides in the coming weeks.

UCD: Conall Doherty; Andy Marks, Paul Kiernan, Dave Ryan, Tim Carroll; Matthew Gilsenan, Nick Peters; Michael Milne, Bobby Sheehan, Liam Hyland, Emmet MacMahon, Tom Treacy, Jonny Guy, Alex Penny (capt), Ronan Foley.

Replacements: Sean Molony, Evin Coyle, Brian Cawley, James Tarrant, Gavin Mullin.

YOUNG MUNSTER: Alan Tynan; Calvin Nash, Derek Corcoran, Luke Fitzgerald, Darragh O’Neill; Shane Airey, Jack Lyons; Conor Bartley, Ger Slattery, Keynan Knox, John Foley, Alan Kennedy (capt), Conor Mitchell, Dan Walsh, Diarmaid Dee.

Replacements: Shane Fenton, David Begley, Alan Ross, Conor Phillips, Stephen Kerins.