Clontarf seemed a long way away from a bonus point during a cagey opening hour, but a late flourish saw them defeat Ballynahinch 28-3 at a wind-beaten Ballymacarn Park.
Ballynahinch had first use of a very strong wind and led 3-0 at half-time thanks to a well-struck 38th-minute penalty from Greg Hutley.
Clontarf’s superior scrum forced a penalty try in the 59th minute, and the defending Energia All-Ireland League champions squeezed in three more tries during the closing quarter.
A previously unbeaten ‘Hinch leaked an opportunist score to Cormac Daly, Cian O’Donoghue picked off an intercept effort and a last-minute turnover saw Conor Kearns sprint over for the bonus point from halfway.
A Fionn Gilbert lineout steal robbed Ballynahinch of a brilliant early platform, the hosts having most of the initial territory with Zack McCall forcing a turnover penalty.
Turnovers thwarted both sides in the windy conditions, Ballynahinch edging the breakdown battle but Clontarf having the better of the scrum and the midfield exchanges.
‘Hinch captain Thomas Donnan pinched a lineout throw to the front, while ‘Tarf also emerged scoreless after a promising initial break by Tony Ryan.
Both defences were giving very little away, and it took a long-range Hutley kick to break the deadlock following good work at the breakdown from Mark Best.
Daly and Ryan combined to hold up ‘Hinch hooker Claytan Milligan for a turnover just before the interval. ‘Tarf got on the front foot on the restart, propelled forward by a clever break from halfway by Angus Lloyd.
Andy Wood’s men piled the pressure on at scrum time, five metres out from the ‘Hinch line. They kept the home side pinned back and too many team penalties landed ‘Hinch lock James Simpson in the sin bin.
The visitors’ pack marched forward at the next two scrums, securing the penalty try that gave them a hard-earned lead. Good carrying from Mick Kearney, Ivan Soroka and replacement Ben Griffin further chipped away at the ‘Hinch defence.
Flanker Daly then sprung clean through from a ruck in the hosts’ 22, Conor Kelly’s conversion making it 14-3 with nine minutes remaining.
The County Down outfit went close to responding, full-back Rory Butler and Best leading the charge, but once they were repelled, ‘Tarf showed how clinical they can be on the counter attack.
O’Donoghue rushed up to collect a Hutley pass and go in under the posts from 35 metres out, before Griffin gobbled up turnover ball, threw a dummy and released centre Kearns who had the legs to make it a maximum haul.
Young Munster turned things around in the second half to win 23-10 at UCD and make it back-to-back victories in the Energia All-Ireland League’s top flight.
Munster hooker Chris Moore crossed from a 44th-minute lineout maul, replying to an earlier penalty try which was sparked by a terrific Harry Donnelly break.
A late Chris Cosgrave penalty had the students leading 10-3 at half-time, although they had failed to fully profit from two Munsters sin-binnings.
The Cookies hit back in familiar fashion, through Moore in the corner, with Conor Hayes, who took on the kicking duties, firing over a superb levelling conversion.
Winger Hayes went on to have a key role in the result, edging the visitors ahead with a 61st-minute penalty as part of his 13-point haul.
Some more forward pressure yielded a try for returning captain Alan Kennedy, who picked from a ruck and scrambled in beside the posts with three minutes remaining. Hayes converted and tagged on a penalty, two minutes later, as the insurance score.
Elsewhere in Division 1A, Cork Constitution went up through the gears in the second half, scoring three unanswered tries to claim a 36-21 bonus point win over Shannon.
Munster Academy scrum half Ethan Coughlan (pictured above) sparked the best out of Shannon, snapping up two tries for a 21-12 interval lead on Thomond Park’s pitch.
However, Cork Con scored two tries inside five minutes of the restart to seize control. Greg Higgins, Louis Kahn and replacement Ian Leonard all touched down to add to earlier efforts from Sean Duffy and Alessandro Heaney.
Terenure College remain top of the pile, sitting on a perfect 15 points after winning 38-25 at Garryowen.
The Light Blues gave as good as they got at times, trailing 17-12 at the break with tries from Johnny Keane and Munster Academy lock Cian Hurley.
Terenure dominated the start of the second half, putting together a Colm de Buitléar effort and a penalty try. Tony Butler split the posts twice in response, but an Adam La Grue intercept score had six-try ‘Nure too far in front.
Emerging Ireland prop Thomas Clarkson returned to club action as a replacement during Dublin University’s impressive 27-17 comeback victory at Lansdowne.
Hooker Tadgh McElroy, a short-term signing for Leinster, finished a series of pick-and-goes for Lansdowne’s opening try in the 12th minute.
Some slick interplay between centres Andy Marks and Conall Doherty was rewarded with a late try under the posts from scrum half Mike Walsh. That gave the hosts a 17-13 advantage at the turnaround.
Trinity’s only try of the first half saw lock Max Dunne, younger brother of Jack, gallop over on the quarter hour mark. But the division’s second-placed side turned the screw in the second half, helped by Clarkson’s introduction.
Full-back Colm Hogan continued his fine early season form and the visitors’ pack struck at crucial stages, Dunne breaking through for his second try near the hour mark.
Leinster tighthead Clarkson barged over with five minutes left to give the students a decisive 10-point cushion. They remain just a point behind Terenure.