Division 1A table toppers Clontarf overcame a tricky challenge posed by UCC, pulling clear in the second half at the Mardyke to win out 36-17.
ENERGIA MEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, November 27
UCC 17 CLONTARF 36, the Mardyke
Scorers: UCC: Tries: Penalty try, John Willis; Cons: Pen try con, Rob Hedderman; Pen: Rob Hedderman
Clontarf: Tries: Cormac Daly, Cian O’Donoghue 2, Cathal O’Flynn, Tadhg Bird; Cons: Conor Kearns 4; Pen: Conor Kearns
HT: UCC 10 Clontarf 17
Clontarf’s pack power was again a vital ingredient and UCC were left to rue their failure to profit from ‘Tarf lock Cormac Daly’s sin-binning on the hour mark.
The visitors’ well-organised defence got them out of some difficult positions, and they were able to kick on with tries from Cathal O’Flynn and Cian O’Donoghue settling the issue.
Even though replacement John Willis replied with UCC’s second try of the game, ‘Tarf made sure to have the final say with an excellent 77th-minute effort from Tadhg Bird, one of their own bench men.
Andy Wood’s charges were quickest to settle, Daly driving over from a ruck in the third minute after the north Dubliners’ lineout maul had done the initial damage.
Conor Kearns, who had struck a fine touchfinder in the build-up, added the conversion from the left. UCC showed well in response, building pressure off successive penalties and lineouts.
However, Cian Whooley overcooked his attempted chip kick towards the try-line. A lovely tip-on pass from Daly then kept a Clontarf move going, back at the halfway line.
Angus Lloyd kicked cleverly for touch and a crooked UCC throw allowed ‘Tarf to bash away in the 22, until Ivan Soroka knocked on and Louis Bruce led a breakout for the Cork students.
An important turnover from George Coomber broke up a threatening ‘Tarf attack, but the same penalty-lineout formula paved the way for the visitors’ second try, midway through the first half.
The forwards drive was well defended by UCC, yet defenders were gradually sucked in and Lloyd went back to the short side were Michael Courtney’s deft pass sent O’Donoghue scurrying over from 15 metres out.
Kearns converted again from the left, making it 14-0, and a forward pass foiled a Courtney-led break down the left wing as Wood’s men sought to put further distance between the two teams.
Nice hands released winger Bruce from the UCC 22 and he looked destined for a try until Courtney’s superb tackle managed to dislodge the ball and earn ‘Tarf a relieving scrum.
As Neil Lucey’s youngsters built another attack off a lineout, centre Darragh French had a try ruled out for a forward pass before captain Rob Hedderman got them off the mark with a central penalty.
UCC continued to make inroads, Mark Bissessar earning a penalty at the breakdown. The home pack, which included Munster Academy hooker Scott Buckley, duly forced a penalty try following a collapsed maul.
A Jack Kelleher lineout steal lifted UCC’s spirits further, only for Max Kearney’s turnover penalty to tee up three more points from Kearns’ boot. Hedderman missed a late opportunity at the other end.
Trailing 17-10 at the turnaround but with the wind now behind them, UCC won an early bout of kick tennis with French finding open space for a 50:22.
Further pressure through mauls followed, but Daly won a penalty close to the ‘Tarf line to keep UCC out. A well-struck 50:22 kick from Daniel Squires ensured the hosts remained on the front foot.
Number 8 Jack O’Sullivan also weighed in with a turnover penalty, but despite Daly seeing yellow for infringing at a maul, UCC crucially failed to put points on the board.
Paul Deeny led a big breakout from ‘Tarf, carrying again a few phases later. A penalty took ‘Tarf back to the UCC 22 and hooker O’Flynn broke off a maul to touch down, with Soroka driving in behind him.
Kearns’ missed conversion left it 22-10 and with a quarter of an hour remaining, a free-flowing back-line move saw the freshly-introduced Bird glide into space and release O’Donoghue to bag the bonus point.
The extras were added in crisp fashion by Kearns, before UCC’s persistence eventually paid off. A sustained bout of pressure ended with Willis burrowing over for Hedderman to convert.
‘Tarf saved the best for last, their maul marching into the 22 before Michael Brown slickly avoided a tackle and offloaded out the back door for Daniel Hawkshaw to send Bird diving over in the right corner.
There was still time for UCC to seek out a consolation score right at the death. They had the field position but a couple of turnovers let them down, one of them at a maul as Daly wrestled the ball back.
UCC: Rob Hedderman (capt); Louis Bruce, Darragh French, Daniel Squires, George Coomber; Cian Whooley, Louis Kahn; Alessandro Heaney, Scott Buckley, Corey Hanlon, Sam O’Sullivan, Mark Bissessar, Aidan Brien, Jack Kelleher, Jack O’Sullivan.
Replacements: Daniel O’Connor, Tom Ormond, John Willis, Patrick McBarron, Luke Kerr, Timothy Duggan.
CLONTARF: Jack Power; Michael Brown, Michael Courtney, Daniel Hawkshaw, Cian O’Donoghue; Conor Kearns, Angus Lloyd; Ivan Soroka, Cathal O’Flynn, Ben Griffin, Cormac Daly (capt), Ed Kelly, Paul Deeny, Vincent Gavin, Max Kearney.
Replacements: Barry Gray, Darragh Bolger, John Carroll, Zach Ryan, Tadhg Bird, James Horgan.