Shannon endured a baptism of fire on their return to Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Division 1A with a 39-3 defeat to Terenure College, last season’s runners-up.
Signalling their intent for the season ahead, Sean Skehan’s Terenure side ran in six unanswered tries at Thomond Park today with debutant winger Matthew Bowen claiming the last of them.
Former Ealing Trailfinders Academy out-half Mike Cooke kicked Shannon into an early lead, but Terenure, with flanker Conall Boomer in brilliant form, soon showed exactly why they were title challengers last year.
Following up on Colm de Buitléar’s try from a charge-down, ‘Nure punished a Kieran Ryan yellow card with two quick-fire scores from Jordan Coghlan and captain Harrison Brewer.
Lovely hands from the influential de Buitléar then released Craig Adams for the bonus point try. Caolan Dooley added his third conversion for a 26-3 half-time lead.
Shannon tightened up their defence on the resumption, with the Terenure maul – a big facet of their game – foiled by good work from Jade Kriel and Kelvin Brown.
However, Alan Bennie’s well-timed pass set up the inrushing Luke Clohessy to crash over in the 55th minute, before Dooley drained a penalty. Bowen had the final say, going over in the corner with openside Clohessy involved in the build-up.
Dylan Donnellan continued where he left off last season with a brace of tries in Clontarf’s hard-fought 24-19 bonus point victory at UCD.
Hooker Donnellan helped himself to 19 tries during ‘Tarf’s title-winning campaign, and his latest scores for the Bulls were crucial as they had to twice come from behind at the UCD Bowl.
A minute’s silence was observed before the start of this Dublin derby to mark the death of Brian Mullins, the long-serving UCD Director of Sport and Clontarf native and former player.
Tim Corkery missed an early penalty but UCD hit the front in the ninth minute. Captain Bobby Sheehan’s short ball to the front of a lineout sent the inrushing Mark Fleming over for a try near the left corner.
The Clontarf forwards dominated as the opening quarter developed, the hosts holding them at bay until the 15th minute when the dangerous Donnellan broke off a maul to score. Conor Kelly converted for a 7-5 lead.
The two-point gap remained in place up to half-time, UCD edging back in front briefly – Leinster Academy back rower Sean O’Brien powered over from a scrum – before Andy Wood’s men cancelled out that try in the 29th minute.
The visitors’ pack went the direct route again, after captain Matt D’Arcy had threatened on a slaloming run. Prop Ivan Soroka managed to cross from close range, getting on the scoresheet on the occasion of his 28th birthday. Kelly’s conversion made it 14-12.
‘Tarf lifted it up a gear on the restart, D’Arcy slicing through the middle from a first phase move and setting up his centre partner Michael Courtney for try number three.
The defending champions then had to absorb yellow cards for Cormac Daly, who was guilty of taking out scrum half Michael Moloney during a promising UCD attack, and young winger Hugh Cooney.
Cooney paid the price for successive team penalties, but the students were unable to convert the pressure into points. Instead, when ‘Tarf returned to the home 22, Donnellan gobbled up an overthrown lineout and swatted away two tackles to complete his brace.
The UCD backs hit back with a slick 69th-minute try, Chris Cosgrave regathering his own chip kick and feeding inside for David Ryan to finish off behind the posts. Corkery’s extras made it a five-point game.
It was only enough for a losing bonus point in the end, though, as Kevin Croke’s young guns could not get back into scoring range. Kelly sent a penalty wide and replacement Declan Adamson won a result-clinching turnover for ‘Tarf in the final play.
Cork Constitution came from nine points down to pip Young Munster 19-18, with captain Aidan Moynihan landing a 79th-minute match-winning penalty.
The Temple Hill faithful were fearing the worst when Conor Hayes crossed for his second try, moving the Cookies into a 15-6 lead early in the second half.
Ireland Under-20 flanker Ronan O’Sullivan had an impressive debut for Young Munster, who had led 8-3 at the break thanks to Hayes’ nicely finished 29th-minute effort in the right corner.
In Jonny Holland’s first league game as head coach, Cork Con rallied in what was a very physical encounter. A Moynihan penalty was followed by replacement James Murphy’s charge in under the posts for a 16-15 turnaround.
Evan Cusack raised Munsters’ hopes with a well-struck penalty to snatch back the lead, but Moynihan decided his bruising Munster derby to see his side prevail in nail-biting fashion.
Meanwhile, Dublin University surged straight to the top of the table courtesy of a barnstorming eight-try display at Dooradoyle.
Tony Smeeth’s youngsters, who included seven AIL debutants, ran out 50-14 winners over Garryowen with excellent out-half Aran Egan helping himself to a hat-trick of tries and 25 points in all.
Among the newcomers in the Trinity selection were Ireland Under-19 hooker Conall Henchy, Max Dunne and Paddy McCarthy. Dunne is the younger brother of former Leinster lock Jack, while McCarthy’s elder sibling, Joe, is currently on tour with Emerging Ireland.
Two penalties from Munster Academy out-half Tony Butler left Garryowen just 12-6 behind at the break. Egan finished off a counter attack from deep for Trinity’s opening try, before full-back Colm Hogan capitalised on the groundwork done by the forwards.
Butler kicked the Light Blues closer, only for the students to cut loose in their push for the bonus point. Diarmuid McCormack fed Ronan Quinn for their third try and then a well-executed lineout maul saw McCormack pocket the bonus.
The electric Egan added two more tries, sandwiching Hogan’s second of the day, and even after Bryan Fitzgerald’s consolation score, Trinity hit the half-century mark thanks to a late intercept try from winger James Dillon.
The shock result in the top flight came on the Aviva Stadium’s back pitch where Ballynahinch edged out Lansdowne in a nine-try thriller.
Out-half Greg Hutley’s 72nd-minute penalty handed ‘Hinch a famous 34-31 bonus point victory, having led 31-19 at one stage and come back from an early 12-3 deficit.
Ballynahinch had only months previously been battling to avoid relegation, and the omens were not good when Lansdowne’s Luke Thompson and Dan Murphy scored tries inside the opening 16 minutes, the first one from a maul.
New signing Mark Best lifted Ballynahinch with a seven-pointer, yet Lansdowne pushed into a 19-10 lead when scrum half Jack Matthews finished off a break by Peter Sullivan and the follow-up from captain Clive Ross. Charlie Tector converted.
The momentum was snatched back by Adam Craig’s charges, however, with Ireland Sevens international Fergus Jemphrey running in an intercept try on his AIL debut and centre George Pringle squeezing in ‘Hinch’s third for a 24-19 interval advantage.
Pringle rocked Lansdowne further with a converted try just after the restart, and the hosts had to show patience until nippy winger Sean Galvin was able to respond on the hour mark.
A prolonged bout of Lansdowne pressure resulted in number 8 Donough Lawlor’s 70th-minute score, with replacement Jack Connolly adding the levelling conversion for 31-all.
A rare home defeat was the final outcome for the headquarters club, though, as surefooted out-half Hutley landed the all-important penalty to complete his 14-point haul.