Conor Hayes ran in his eighth try of the Energia All-Ireland League season as Young Munster won their derby clash with Garryowen, triumphing 20-16 in front of their home support at Tom Clifford Park.
ENERGIA MEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, December 4
YOUNG MUNSTER 20 GARRYOWEN 16, Tom Clifford Park
Scorers: Young Munster: Tries: Dan Walsh, Conor Hayes; Cons: Evan Cusack 2; Pens: Evan Cusack 2
Garryowen: Tries: Jamie Shanahan, Dylan Murphy; Pens: Jamie Heuston 2
HT: Young Munster 7 Garryowen 6
The Cookies led 17-6 heading into the closing stages, but two quick-fire tries from Jamie Shanahan and Dylan Murphy had the Light Blues back in the contest.
However, Evan Cusack’s second penalty of the night ensured that Munsters held on for a deserved win – their first in three rounds.
Gearoid Prendergast’s side dominated the game for large periods, especially at scrum time, but it was Garryowen who opened the scoring with a 13th-minute penalty from Jamie Heuston.
A powerful shove for an initial scrum penalty was a real statement of intent from Young Munster, but Garryowen managed to disrupt their first maul attempt and then force a turnover close to their own posts.
When the visitors got into Munsters territory, Jack Delaney burst onto a long lineout throw, yet the Cookies were carrying more threat. AIL debutant Cian Casey was the link man in a slick move that had Hayes hunting down an early try.
After a Colm Quilligan break from halfway, Heuston punished a Young Munster offside with the opening points, yet the response was swift from the fired-up home side.
Evan Maher’s box-kick after the restart was ran back by Conor O’Shaughnessy. Hooker Dan Walsh came on a perfect line, shrugging off a tackle and showing superb speed to run in from 30 metres out, with Cusack converting.
It was nip and tuck for the next few minutes, Sean Rennison poaching the ball after an Alan Kennedy carry before another promising Cookies maul was spoiled by a knock-on near the right corner.
The scoreboard was not troubled again until the 31st minute when Heuston landed his second penalty, the product of a strong kick chase from Shanahan and Bryan Fitzgerald.
A number of scrum penalties came their way but Munsters were unable to take advantage from a late bout of set-piece pressure, as they took a 7-6 lead into the break.
Early in the second half, Young Munster made it a four-point game when Cusack punished a late hit on him by lock Roy Whelan, who was also sin-binned.
The Cookies were a little hurried to take advantage of Whelan’s absence, with their half-backs fumbling from a quick tap, but their forwards soon had success with their pick and drives.
14-man Garryowen had to dig deep to stop Cookies captain Kennedy, John Foley and Harry Fleming in quick succession, just a few metres out.
Nonetheless, when the ball was moved out wide following an excellent skip pass by Cusack, Hayes carried well and piled over in the left corner, using the two men outside him as a decoy.
Cusack nailed the difficult conversion from the left, putting 11 points between the sides with less than half an hour remaining.
Garryowen fought hard to get back into contention, centre Fitzgerald breaking through midfield and linking with Maher whose attempted offload unfortunately went to ground.
Nonetheless, Hayes had a clearance kick charged down by eager Garryowen replacement Daniel Feasey, and it was the spark for the visitors’ opening try as they forced a subsequent penalty.
They used the lineout possession to go wide to the opposite right wing where Delaney connected with full-back Shanahan who fended off Casey to score and reduce the arrears to 17-11.
Garryowen maintained the momentum, Heuston’s incisive run and offload seeing the supporting Tommy O’Hora go close. They pressed on and hooker Murphy provided the necessary grunt, burrowing over from close range.
After Heuston’s conversion went narrowly wide, the Cookies crucially got the edge at the next scrum. The penalty was marched forward for back-chat, and Cusack duly right-footed it through the posts.
His kick restored the four-point margin and it was enough to seal the bragging rights for Young Munster, as Garryowen suffered a couple of costly knock-ons in their efforts to strike back.
YOUNG MUNSTER: Cian Casey; Conor Hayes, Jack Harrington, Harry Fleming, Conor O’Shaughnessy; Evan Cusack, Jack Lyons; David Begley, Dan Walsh, Conor Bartley, Tom Goggin, Sean Rigney, Alan Kennedy (capt), Fintan Coleman, John Foley.
Replacements: Aaron Hennessy, Paul Allen, Aidan Quinlivan, Liam Neilan, Donnacha O’Callaghan, Luke Fitzgerald.
GARRYOWEN: Jamie Shanahan; Colm Quilligan, Bryan Fitzgerald, Jack Delaney, Tommy O’Hora; Jamie Heuston, Evan Maher; Niall Horan, Dylan Murphy, Darragh McCarthy, Roy Whelan, Kevin Seymour (capt), Alan Fitzgerald, Tim Ferguson, Sean Rennison.
Replacements: Larry Kelly, Michael Veale, Jonny Keane, Ed Barry, Alex Wood, Daniel Feasey.