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Energia All-Ireland League Division 1A: Round 13 Review

Energia All-Ireland League Division 1A: Round 13 Review

Winger Jack Harrington reaches out to score Young Munster's opening try against Lansdowne at Tom Clifford Park ©Liam Coughlan

There were wins for the leading three clubs in Division 1A, Garryowen recording the most impressive one as they put 32 points on Clontarf. Young Munster and Dublin University also moved up the table, with the students winning their basement battle with Ballynahinch.


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CORK CONSTITUTION 16 UCC 12, Temple Hill (played on Friday)
Scorers: Cork Constitution: Try: Brian Hayes; Con: Gerry Hurley; Pens: Gerry Hurley 2, Aidan Moynihan
UCC: Tries: Ryan Murphy, Penalty try; Con: Pen try con
HT: Cork Constitution 13 UCC 5

Cork Constitution took their unbeaten Energia All-Ireland League run to 13 matches after overcoming UCC 16-12 in a keenly-contested local derby on Friday night.

At a rain-swept Temple Hill, the students were pushing hard for a match-winning try when Cork Con’s replacement hooker John Sutton forced a turnover to end the contest. The defending champions are eight points clear at the summit heading into the final five rounds.

Speaking to Irish Rugby TV afterwards, Con captain Niall Kenneally said: “That was a really tough game. Sometimes we were better off without the ball. UCC won the toss and elected to play into the breeze so we knew we had to put some points on the board in the first half.”

Experienced half-back Gerry Hurley duly obliged with two penalties inside the opening quarter after some over-eagerness from UCC in their red zone defence and John Hodnett, a Munster debutant last week, getting caught on the wrong side of the ruck.

The opening try arrived for Con in the 18th minute, a close range effort from Brian Hayes after David Hyland’s strong carry from a scrum. It was the lynchpin lock’s eighth touchdown of the league season, and he is neck-and-neck with Ballynahinch’s Aaron Cairns at the top of the scoring charts.

UCC were playing with ambition and their reward came before the break when Murray Linn scooped up a loose ball to Louis Kahn and Richard Thompson flicked an overhead pass to the onrushing Ryan Murphy who applied the finishing touches.

It was the UCC skipper’s fourth try of the campaign, with Murphy one of eight players on the pitch who were involved in the Ireland Club XV’s recent Dalriada Cup success against Scotland. James Taylor’s difficult conversion attempt pinged back off the post, leaving it 13-5 at half-time.

The gusty conditions favoured Constitution in the lineout, but on the ground UCC’s scrum was dominating. A penalty try after 68 minutes was just reward. Crucially for the table toppers, they worked a penalty opportunity for replacement Aidan Moynihan who claimed the three points on offer into the wind.

It was an important strike for Moynihan personally too, as he returned to action after a 16-week injury lay-off. His composure on the tee typified Cork Con’s ability to apply pressure in the first half and soak it up in the second.

A determined late defensive stand kept out UCC, who have dropped back into the bottom two after their tenth straight defeat. For Sligo native Kenneally, it is all about maintaining Con’s already-established high standards as they close in on a home semi-final.

“We won the league last year but the hunger we’ve shown to come back this year and not cruise through – to really go after every game – I can’t commend the lads enough,” admitted the strong-running centre.

“It’ll come down to the play-offs. You only have to play badly once to miss your chance. Over the course of 18 games with 10 quality teams, you’re going to lose a game here and there. You just have to make sure your standards are high enough that the probabilities are stacked in your favour.”

CORK CONSTITUTION: Jonathan Wren; JJ O’Neill, Alex McHenry, Niall Kenneally (capt), Billy Crowley; Gerry Hurley, Duncan Williams; Brendan Quinlan, Max Abbott, Rory Burke, Brian Hayes, Sean Duffy, Joe McSwiney, Ross O’Neill, David Hyland.

Replacements: John Sutton, Gavin Duffy, James Murphy, Aidan Moynihan, Jack Costigan.

UCC: Murray Linn; Michael Clune, Louis Bruce, Harry O’Riordan, Matthew Bowen; James Taylor, Louis Kahn; Shane O’Hanlon, Tadgh McCarthy, Bryan O’Connor, Cian Barry, Richard Thompson, Rory Suttor, John Hodnett, Ryan Murphy (capt).

Replacements: Fergus Hennessy, James French, Aiden Brien, Eoin Monahan, Mark McLoughlin.

Scorers: Ballynahinch: Tries: Aaron Cairns, Conall Boomer, Bradley Luney, Marcus Rea; Cons: Sean O’Hagan 3
Dublin University: Tries: Bart Vermeulen, Paddy Opperman, James Hickey, Robert Russell 2, Ben Nel; Cons: Micheal O’Kennedy 5
HT: Ballynahinch 7 Dublin University 35

Robert Russell, an Ireland Under-20 Grand Slam winner last year, touched down twice in Dublin University’s vital 40-26 win over Division 1A basement rivals Ballynahinch this afternoon.

The five points gleaned at Ballymacarn Park has lifted Trinity out of the bottom two, with the students laying the foundations for this much-needed result during a wind-backed first half.

Captain James Hickey led by example with the first of the visitors’ six tries, using quick ball off a scrum to slice through and evade the chasing Ross Adair on the way to the try-line. Micheal O’Kennedy clipped over the first of his five successful conversions on the day.

It was seven points apiece after Ballynahinch winger Aaron Cairns, the division’s joint-top try scorer, ran in his eighth of the campaign, following up on a Chris Gibson break, but Trinity were sharper in attack and gradually pulled clear on the scoreboard.

Prop Bart Vermeulen crashed over for try number two and they ended the opening quarter 21-7 to the good, young speed merchant Paddy Opperman showing a clean pair of heels to the cover to romp clear from inside his own 22.

Fellow winger Russell profited from Colm Hogan’s clever defensive read to bag the bonus point score, and he picked off a loose ‘Hinch pass to complete his brace before the interval. Now trailing 35-7, bottom side ‘Hinch were given a lift by an early second half try from Ulster’s Marcus Rea.

Hooker Ben Nel registered the visitors’ sixth and final try, an insurance score in the end despite a strong fight-back in the closing stages by Brian McLaughlin’s men. They notched a bonus point of their own thanks to closing scores from hard-working forwards Bradley Luney and Conall Boomer.

It was a third successive defeat for Ballynahinch, who had pipped Trinity 35-34 at College Park back in November. They are still only a point behind UCC in the relegation battle, while Trinity, courtesy of their first win in three matches, are now three points better off than their Cork counterparts.

BALLYNAHINCH: Paddy Wright; Aaron Cairns, Callum McLaughlin, Robin Harte, Ross Adair; Sean O’Hagan, Chris Gibson; Ben Cullen, Zack McCall, Jonny Blair, James Simpson, John Donnan (capt), Jack Regan, Bradley Luney, Marcus Rea.

Replacements: Conor Piper, Nacho Cladera Crespo, Conall Boomer, Connor Rankin, Ryan Wilson.

DUBLIN UNIVERSITY: Colm Hogan; Robert Russell, Luis Faria, James Hickey (capt), Paddy Opperman; Micheal O’Kennedy, Louis O’Reilly; Bart Vermeulen, Ben Nel, Dylan Doyle, Arthur Greene, Reuben Pim, Alan Francis, Johnny McKeown, Anthony Ryan.

Replacements: Mark Nicholson, Darren Magee, Neilus Mulvihill, James Fennelly, Jack Connolly.

CLONTARF 13 GARRYOWEN 32, Castle Avenue
Scorers: Clontarf: Tries: Hugh O’Sullivan, Matt D’Arcy; Pen: Sean Kearns
Garryowen: Tries: Andy Keating 2, Colm Quilligan, Cian Hurley; Cons: Ben Healy 3; Pens: Ben Healy 2
HT: Clontarf 8 Garryowen 12

Garryowen completed a fine season’s double over fellow play-off hopefuls Clontarf with a well-merited 32-12 bonus point victory at Castle Avenue.

While Munster Academy duo Ben Healy (20) and Jack Stafford (22) pulled the strings at half-back, Garryowen also benefited from another strong showing by their big pack. Ireland Club international Andy ‘Panda’ Keating helped himself to two of the visitors’ four tries.

The Light Blues’ decision to play into the wind in the first half paid off, although they trailed early on to a Sean Kearns penalty. In response, eager winger Colm Quilligan was released for the game’s opening try in the right corner.

Clontarf, who have struggled with some inconsistent recent form, snapped back with a clever sniping try from Leinster scrum half Hugh O’Sullivan. The tricky conditions played their part in Kearns’ missed conversion and ‘Tarf were held scoreless for the remainder of the first half.

Garryowen took a 12-8 lead right on the stroke of half-time, tighthead Keating showing his power as he picked from a ruck and took two defenders with him over the whitewash. Before that, ‘Tarf had failed to profit from a series of scrum and maul penalties at the other end.

Conan Doyle’s side built further momentum on the resumption, as they wore down the home defence for flanker Cian Hurley to cross from close range. Tipperary youngster Healy converted and added a penalty to suddenly leave the north Dubliners with a 14-point deficit.

‘Tarf’s talismanic centre Matt D’Arcy clawed back five points by breaking the line and reaching over in the corner for his sixth try of the season. However, that good work was undone when the Garryowen forwards began to punch holes in the home defence and Keating, having been off for a breather, proved unstoppable again from a few metres out.

Munster prospect Healy closed out the scoring with a well-struck conversion and a terrific penalty from halfway, taking his tally to 12 points. Garryowen are looking stronger by the week in second place, while Clontarf’s eighth loss has seen them drop out of the top half of the table.

CLONTARF: Jack Power; Sean Kearns, Michael Brown, Matt D’Arcy, Michael Courtney; Conor Kelly, Hugh O’Sullivan; Ivan Soroka, Dylan Donnellan, JP Phelan, Tom Byrne, Ben Reilly, Tom Ryan, Tony Ryan, Michael Noone (capt).

Replacements: Tadgh McElroy, Cormac Daly, Sam Garvey, Angus Lloyd, Gearoid Lyons.

GARRYOWEN: Jamie Heuston; Colm Quilligan, Bryan Fitzgerald, Dave McCarthy, Hugh O’Brien-Cunningham; Ben Healy, Jack Stafford; Corrie Barrett, Pat O’Toole, Andy Keating, Tim Ferguson, Kevin Seymour (capt), Cian Hurley, Johnny Keane, Bailey Faloon.

Replacements: Diarmuid Barron, Mark Donnelly, Paddy Kelly, Evan Maher, Jack Delaney.

YOUNG MUNSTER 21 LANSDOWNE 20, Tom Clifford Park
Scorers: Young Munster: Tries: Jack Harrington, Alan Kennedy; Con: Evan Cusack; Pens: Evan Cusack 3
Lansdowne: Tries: Mark Flanagan, Craig Ronaldson; Cons: Craig Ronaldson 2; Pens: Craig Ronaldson 2
HT: Young Munster 11 Lansdowne 17

Captain Alan Kennedy claimed a 61st-minute match-winning try as Young Munster pipped Lansdowne 21-20 in a cracking Division 1A contest at Tom Clifford Park.

Second row Kennedy scored for the second week running, with Evan Cusack adding the all-important conversion and then watching his opposite number Craig Ronaldson fail with a final penalty attempt into the teeth of a strong wind.

The game ended in controversial circumstances as following Ronaldson’s miss in injury-time, Munsters kicked the ball towards touch. The touch judge signalled for a Lansdowne lineout despite the visitors protesting that Mark Flanagan had kept the ball in play. The Cookies stole the lineout, crucially, and were able to see out a nerve-jangling result.

Incredibly, it was the fifth league fixture in a row that Lansdowne have been involved in a one-point game, having won the previous four themselves by the minimum margin. Wearing their changed red jerseys, they fell behind to an early Cusack penalty, but a charge-down by Dan Sheehan culminated in a converted try for lock Flanagan.

17 minutes in, Munsters grabbed their opening try when winger Jack Harrington rounded off a splendid move involving Harry Fleming and the fast-breaking Evan O’Gorman. After missing the difficult touchline conversion, Cusack was back on target with a 29th-minute penalty for an 11-7 advantage.

However, former Connacht back Ronaldson soon showed his undoubted class, displaying the form that saw him emerge as a 19-point match winner against Clontarf last week. He landed a penalty with Munsters hooker Mark O’Mara in the sin-bin, and then used a quick tap to dart over for a sucker-punch try and a 17-11 turnaround.

The scores dried up during a defence-dominated second period, out-halves Cusack and Ronaldson swapping well-struck penalties in the windy conditions. Kennedy seized his opportunity on the hour mark, peeling off a close-in lineout and showing impressive pace and power to thunder over to the right of the posts.

Cusack coolly added the extras and Gearoid Prendergast’s men, who were 7-0 winners at Lansdowne in November, survived that dramatic finale. Ronaldson’s thumping penalty from outside the hosts’ 10-metre line dropped short of the posts. Lansdowne still hold onto fourth spot in the standings, but Munsters are now just a point behind them.

YOUNG MUNSTER: Alan Tynan; Jack Harrington, Harry Fleming, Evan O’Gorman, Jason Kiely; Evan Cusack, Jack Lyons; David Begley, Mark O’Mara, Keynon Knox, Alan Kennedy (capt), Sean Rigney, Fintan Coleman, John Foley, Jordan Stewart.

Replacements: Fergal Lawler, Paul Allen, Tom Goggin, Charlie O’Doherty, Luke Fitzgerald.

LANSDOWNE: Tim Foley; Cillian Redmond, Harry Brennan, Conall Doherty, Peter Sullivan; Craig Ronaldson, James Kenny; Martin Mulhall, Dan Sheehan, Adam Boland, Mark Flanagan, Cian O’Dwyer, Jack Dwan (capt), Mark Boyle, Jack O’Sullivan.

Replacements: Jamie Kavanagh, Conan Dunne, Matthew Healy, Tim Murphy, Tom Roche.

TERENURE COLLEGE 16 UCD 21, Lakelands Park (played on Friday)
Scorers: Terenure College: Tries: Eoin Joyce, Sam Coghlan Murray; Pens: Conor Pender 2
UCD: Tries: Bobby Sheehan, Nick Peters, Adam Byrne; Cons: James Tarrant 3
HT: Terenure College 5 UCD 14

Third-placed UCD remain in contention for a home semi-final berth after edging out hosts Terenure College 21-16 in their Friday Night Lights clash.

Kevin Croke’s charges came away from Lakelands Park with a hard-earned four points, their three-try haul topped off by a 70-metre intercept effort from Leinster and Ireland-capped winger Adam Byrne.

Provincial duo Byrne and Barry Daly got game-time on either wing for the students, who were first to have the advantage of a strong wind. Terenure defended gamely while facing into the elements and were not too downbeat to be 14-5 behind at the break.

Converted scores from Bobby Sheehan, off a well-executed lineout maul, and scrum half Nick Peters had UCD nine points clear. Number 8 Eoin Joyce barged over for Terenure’s only score of an opening half that produced limited scoring opportunities and plenty of turnovers.

Thirteen minutes after the break, 25-year-old Kildare man Byrne picked off a Terenure pass and charged downfield to widen the margin to 16 points. It looked a long way back for the home side, especially with their confidence sapped by six defeats in the last seven rounds.

Credit to ‘Nure captain Paddy Thornton, he rallied his troops and they gradually got back on track with a strong spell of carrying and recycling. Replacement Conor Pender made sure they pocketed some points thanks to a precise penalty goal, with their bench making a timely impact.

Former UCD winger Sam Coghlan Murray showed quick reactions to run in an unconverted try, but Terenure’s comeback bid ran out of steam. Ultimately, they had to settle for a losing bonus point courtesy of a second Pender penalty, which keeps them eight points behind fourth-placed Lansdowne.

TERENURE COLLEGE: Sam Dardis; Matthew Byrne, Stephen O’Neill, Caolan Dooley, Sam Coghlan Murray; James Thornton, Mark O’Neill; Campbell Classen, Robbie Smyth, Liam Hyland, Peter Claffey, Michael Melia, Niall Lalor, Paddy Thornton (capt), Eoin Joyce.

Replacements: Adam Clarkin, Sam McCoy, Mike Murphy, George Morgan, Conor Pender.

UCD: David Ryan; Adam Byrne, Gavin Mullin, Adam Marks, Barry Daly; James Tarrant, Nick Peters; Emmet Burns, Bobby Sheehan, Sam Griffin, Johnny Fairley, Jonny Guy (capt), Dan O’Donovan, Alex Penny, Stephen McVeigh.

Replacements: Richie Bergin, Rory Mulvihill, Bobby Leahy, Harry Donnelly, David Moran.