Terenure College and Clontarf have opened up a gap at the top of Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Division 1A, with the defending champions’ stirring late fightback seeing them overhaul Dublin University 38-33 at Castle Avenue.
Clontarf came from 16 points down, their replacement scrum half Ben Murphy running in their sixth and final try after Matt D’Arcy’s expertly-timed offload out of a tackle had sent Tony Ryan tearing through the middle.
It was hard luck on Trinity who had led 21-12 at half-time and went on to score four tries of their own. Out-half Aran Egan, the division’s top scorer, tallied up 16 points from a try and four kicks.
An early Egan penalty was cancelled out in the eighth minute when Clontarf produced a monster lineout maul, hooker Dylan Donnellan crashing over for his fourth try of the season which Conor Kelly converted.
Egan punished a high tackle from JJ O’Dea to close the gap to 7-6, and they retook the lead in the 19th minute when ‘Tarf flanker Cormac Daly illegally collapsed a maul for the concession of a penalty try and a yellow card.
‘Tarf continued to fall foul of referee Barry Erskine’s whistle, Egan using Paddy McCarthy’s turnover penalty to make it 16-7. The hosts failed to profit from a spell of scrum pressure, Kelly missing the target and O’Dea was also pinged for an extra roll.
The students were clinical in response, their maul and a series of pick and drives taking them close before excellent full-back Colm Hogan charged onto a pass to score with four minutes left in the first half.
Andy Wood’s men squeezed in a late try, former Trinity scrum half Angus Lloyd attacking the short side off a maul to send his half-back partner Kelly over. It left the game tantalisingly poised at 21-12.
A try out of nothing kept the visitors on course early on the resumption, a loose ‘Tarf pass being thumped downfield by Louis McDonough before Andrew Smith failed to gather it and Ronan Quinn swooped in to dribble through and score.
The ever-alert Donnellan hit back by completing his brace, stealing a march on the Trinity defence with a quick tap to power over the line.
However, by the hour mark, his side were 33-17 down after Egan had jinked his way over in the left corner via passes from Hugh O’Kennedy and Gavin Jones.
The north Dubliners were now running out of time, but captain Matt D’Arcy lifted them with a penalty at the breakdown. Replacement O’Kennedy then saw yellow for knocking on when trying to intercept a pass inside his own 22.
Number 8 Tony Ryan registered ‘Tarf’s bonus point with a lunge over the line with 10 minutes remaining, and further momentum came from a Hugh Cooney effort in the right corner which was created by a D’Arcy midfield run and Smith managing to keep the ball in play.
The left-footed Kelly added a terrific conversion, reducing the arrears to 33-31, and Murphy duly sealed a memorable comeback victory by following up on the defence-slashing work of D’Arcy and Ryan off a lineout.
Leaders Terenure College made it five successive bonus point wins with a barnstorming second half display at Lansdowne. They prevailed 32-12 with 22 unanswered points, including tries from Adam La Grue, Conall Boomer and Alan Bennie.
Lansdowne were first to strike on the Aviva Stadium’s back pitch, Michael Silvester acrobatically diving over in the right corner from a Cormac Foley pass. Caolan Dooley answered back with an opening penalty for Terenure.
‘Nure took a 10-5 lead when Stephen O’Neill beat Silvester to pluck down a cross-field kick from Callum Smith and score to the right of the posts. Dooley comfortably converted.
It was nip and tuck during the second quarter, a Connor O’Sullivan-inspired break giving Lansdowne a shot at a late try. ‘Nure lost Colm de Buitléar to the sin bin and Lansdowne captain Clive Ross seized the chance to power over from a few metres out, giving the hosts a 12-10 advantage.
Five minutes into the second half, a short Smith pass put Terenure’s returning winger O’Neill darting downfield from halfway. He linked with Craig Adams who passed back inside in swift fashion for La Grue to finish off.
Terenure kept kicking towards the corners in search of more tries, and their decision-making eventually paid off in the 66th minute. Their maul was stopped short but Boomer burrowed over with support from fellow flanker Luke Clohessy.
Dooley converted and tagged on a further penalty to widen the margin to 25-12, and the icing on the cake was scrum half Bennie’s last-minute bonus point try, which saw him dummy from a ruck and squeeze over on the back of another determined spell from his forwards.
Shannon posted their first league win since gaining promotion, handing local rivals Garryowen a 30-19 defeat on Thomond Park’s main pitch. Jordan Prenderville helped himself to two tries from mauls, and young tighthead Luke Rigney also crossed the whitewash.
Pat O’Connor’s charges led 30-5 at one stage, hooker Prenderville’s fourth-minute drive for the line laying the foundations. Shannon also had the upper hand at scrum time, surging through to force a penalty try in the 12th minute.
Garryowen got off the mark on the quarter hour, a weaving run from full-back Jamie Shanahan providing the initial inspiration. Lock Darren Ryan burst onto an inviting pass from Jack Oliver to score from 20 metres out.
A big shove from the Shannon scrum set up Mike Cooke to make it 15-5, and Dan Hurley’s speedy kick chase and follow-up tackle put them in position to strike again five minutes before the interval.
Garryowen successfully defended the maul on this occasion, but Rigney, supported by Shannon skipper Ronan Coffey, was unstoppable from a couple of metres out. Out-half Cooke converted and added a late penalty for a 25-5 scoreline.
Front row injuries meant the Light Blues had to go to uncontested scrums soon after the restart, and another nicely-controlled Shannon maul delivered the bonus point try for Prenderville in the 47th minute.
Garryowen generated quicker ball through their next attacking phases. The newly-introduced Evan Maher produced a sniping run, Max Clein carried up close and Maher was swiftly in to send Jack Delaney driving over just to the left of the posts.
At the end of a scrappy final quarter, Garryowen gained some consolation with a well-taken Colm Quilligan try as the winger cut in to take advantage of two missed tackles. Garryowen have slipped to the division’s bottom rung, with Shannon moving up to eighth place.
Elsewhere, Aaron Cairns, George Pringle and Jamie Macartney all scored their third tries of the campaign as Ballynahinch beat Young Munster 25-20 at home. A late Conor Phillips effort earned the Cookies a battling bonus point.
UCD and Cork Constitution played out a nine-try thriller at the UCD Bowl, with the Leesiders triumphing 36-31 thanks mainly to three tries during a 15-minute second half spell from Niall Kenneally, Billy Scannell and replacement Matisse Lamarque d’Arrouzat.