Dublin University are the early pacesetters in Leinster Conference 1 following an action-packed opening day of the IRFU’s newly-introduced Energia Community Series.
Tony Smeeth’s Trinity threw off the shackles of the Covid-19 restrictions as only they can, running in five tries to convincingly beat Old Belvedere 37-14 at Ollie Campbell Park.
Former Ireland Under-18 Sevens captain Ronan Quinn whizzed over for two first half scores, with the Leinster ‘A’-capped Rob Russell kicking the rest of the points for an 18-0 half-time lead.
Harry McNulty, the Ireland Sevens star, was sprung from the Belvedere bench and had a good impact on his debut. Ruadhan Byron’s first try for the students was cancelled out by a penalty try after experienced replacement Adam Howard helped ‘Belvo to turn the tables at scrum time.
The students secured their bonus point when Mark Nicholson and Aran Coleman combined to put impressive debutant lock Harry Sheridan over. The hosts responded with 10 minutes remaining, good hands releasing centre Jamie McAleese for the left corner.
But Smeeth’s charges made sure they had the final say in the 75th minute, Sheridan and Luis Faria flooding through up to the 22 before flanker Coleman’s inviting overhead pass sent replacement David Fitzgibbon over, wide on the right.
Meanwhile, Clontarf came away with a 27-19 bonus point victory from St. Mary’s College, aided by hooker Dylan Donnellan’s brace of first half tries. Mary’s were first on the board when centre Myles Carey crossed early on, following a sharp pass out wide by Dave Fanagan.
Donnellan touched down off a lineout maul and Tadhg Bird supplied the conversion for a 7-5 ‘Tarf lead. An unconverted effort followed near the half-hour mark as a long passage of play ended with Donnellan once again scoring, under a pile of bodies.
Carey’s dynamic ball-carrying had been the highlight of the opening half and he was the architect of Mary’s second try in the 39th minute. He capped off a memorable dash down the left wing with a terrific one-handed offload to send full-back Mark Fogarty over. Bird replied with a penalty for a 15-12 scoreline.
Into the second period, the arrival on the pitch of ex-Munster, Connacht and Ulster scrum half Angus Lloyd served to strengthen Clontarf’s hand. Michael Noone, another ex-professional, grabbed an excellent try – finishing off some sparkling build-up play – in the 50th minute with young out-half Bird again converting.
Seven minutes from time, Andy Wood’s men bagged the bonus when Lloyd expertly dangled a grubber kick through for Michael Courtney to score in the right corner. Mary’s, who are a division below their opponents, battled on and took further encouragement from their performance when replacement hooker Steven O’Brien crossed right at the death.
Old Wesley claimed the scalp of Division 1A side UCD, an early second-half penalty try putting them on their way to a confidence-boosting 18-14 home win. Tom Kiersey’s cheeky between-the-legs pass, coupled with brilliant one-handed offloads from Cronan Gleeson and Sam Pim, put James O’Donovan clear for try number two.
Naas also toppled top-flight opposition to mark Johne Murphy’s return as head coach, winning 19-12 at home to Terenure College. It was an important result for the Kildare men ahead of upcoming visits to fellow first round winners, Dublin University and Clontarf.
Former Lansdowne and Connacht out-half Craig Ronaldson, who has come on board as Naas’ backs coach, dotted down before half-time and elusive winger Fionn Higgins added two more tries in the 62nd and 75th minutes. The Cobras’ reinforced defence was also key to the result.
Greystones finished the stronger of the Division 2B clubs for a deserved 45-22 bonus point success at Blackrock College. Captain Killian Marmion ran in one of the game’s best tries, set free by some slick link-up play by Alan Dempsey and Cormac O’Donoghue off a scrum.
The only other match to go ahead in Leinster Conference 2 saw Wanderers outscore Enniscorthy by three tries to one for a 25-10 win. Eoin Sheriff’s Chaps continue at home next week, hosting Tullamore, before renewing rivalries with Greystones, the current leaders.
ENERGIA COMMUNITY SERIES – FIRST ROUND RESULTS:
LEINSTER CONFERENCE 1:
Naas 19 Terenure College 12, Forenaughts
Old Belvedere 14 Dublin University 37, Ollie Campbell Park
Old Wesley 18 UCD 14, Energia Park
St. Mary’s College 19 Clontarf 27, Templeville Road
Lansdowne – Bye
LEINSTER CONFERENCE 2:
Blackrock College 22 Greystones 45, Stradbrook
Wanderers 25 Enniscorthy 10, Merrion Road
Navan v Skerries, Balreask Old (match cancelled – two points to both teams)
Tullamore v MU Barnhall, Spollanstown (match cancelled – two points to both teams)