Fresh from winning his first two Leinster caps, Dylan Donnellan enjoyed a try-scoring return with Clontarf whose fifth straight win has them four points clear at the top of Energia All-Ireland League Division 1A.
ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE MEN’S DIVISION 1A:
Saturday, November 11 –
CLONTARF 35 CITY OF ARMAGH 17, Castle Avenue
Scorers: Clontarf: Tries: Dylan Donnellan, Alex Usanov, Peter Maher 2, Hugh Cooney; Cons: Conor Kelly 4, Jack Murphy
City of Armagh: Tries: Barry Finn, Jack Treanor 2; Con: Brayden Laing
HT: Clontarf 14 City of Armagh 5
Donnellan, the Clontarf captain, used a tap penalty to score his fifth try of the campaign, as Andy Wood’s men ran out 35-17 winners over City of Armagh at Castle Avenue.
Armagh trailed 14-5 at half-time and had two late consolation tries from mauls, both scored by replacement Jack Treanor. Winger Peter Maher bagged two of the hosts’ five converted scores.
Wearing their navy alternate jerseys, Clontarf were quick to threaten on the back of a James McNabney knock-on. They attacked the blindside of a scrum, and a few phases later, prop Ben Griffin was unfortunate to fumble a pass with the try-line at his mercy.
A scrum penalty, coupled with a strong carry from McNabney, saw Armagh begin to make metres. Both teams probed with the boot, including chips over the top, and a rare crooked throw from Donnellan spoiled ‘Tarf’s first maul opportunity.
Ruadhan Byron raided up into the Armagh 22 nearing the quarter hour mark, and after the visitors had conceded two quick-fire penalties, Donnellan tapped and drove in low, getting past Dylan Poyntz’s initial challenge, to open the scoring in the 18th minute.
Conor Kelly’s left boot turned it into a seven-pointer and Armagh used a scrum penalty to reach the ‘Tarf 22 for the first time. Josh Murphy stole the resulting lineout, but scrappy possession soon bobbled loose and Ulster Academy prop Cameron Doak gobbled it up.
Matthew Hooks’ angled run almost took him over the ‘Tarf whitewash, but Matt D’Arcy brought him down short. Armagh were unable to retain possession, and a few phases later, Tadhg Bird, Maher and D’Arcy spearheaded a spritely ‘Tarf break down the left wing.
Kelly had a cut from close in, and his half-back partner Louis O’Reilly drew a penalty before Jim Peters fed prop Alex Usanov to power over from five metres out. The extras from Kelly made it 14-0 with 31 minutes on the clock.
Bird and Maher countered again impressively from an Armagh kick, yet this time Sam Cunningham was able to chop down Fionn Gilbert in the visitors’ 22, with John Glasgow first to the breakdown to win a clearing penalty.
Indeed, Tim McNiece increased his influence with a turnover and a subsequent penalty at the breakdown, and Chris Parker’s charges were able to build through the phases for a timely try.
The momentum led to replacement Barry Finn burrowing over from close range, following an initial defence-splitting break by Lewis Finlay and nice hands from Brayden Laing, Glen Faloon and captain Nigel Simpson. Laing’s conversion bounced away off the near left hand post.
Tighthead Griffin broke two tackles as Clontarf threatened to respond just before the interval, but within two minutes of the restart, they had extended their lead to 21-5 to strengthen their grip on the game.
A free-flowing first-phase attack off a lineout released the speedy Maher to go over in the left corner, past attempted tap tackles from Shea O’Brien and Cunningham. Kelly crisply threaded the conversion over from out wide.
Cunningham was a pass away from putting Hooks over for a potential try as Armagh roared back downfield. Former captain McNiece also made upwards of 30 metres with a surging run on the opposite wing. ‘Tarf held firm, though.
Donnellan then collected an overthrown Armagh lineout at the rear, setting up D’Arcy, on halfway, to dummy his way inside Hooks and accelerate through a gap. He made it up to the opposition 22 before sending his centre partner Hugh Cooney over in the right corner.
The north Dubliners’ bonus point try was converted by Kelly, nailing another difficult kick. Lifting the tempo again, Armagh were left to rue another lost lineout and then Finn, following up on a McNiece and Finlay-inspired break, was held up by a combination of Murphy, Byron and replacement Declan Adamson.
D’Arcy was at the heart of another clinically-taken ‘Tarf try just minutes later. He intercepted O’Brien’s offload on the hosts’ 10-metre line, avoided the chasers and linked with Ireland Sevens international Maher who neatly stepped inside a couple of defenders to finish from 25 metres out.
Following replacement Jack Murphy’s conversion for a 35-5 scoreline, Laing retained possession from his own short restart, and a couple of penalties later, the Armagh forwards drove Treanor over in the 68th minute, near the left corner.
Laing converted and it was his kick through that almost set up a third Armagh try. Dylan Nelson was first to the ball in the ‘Tarf 22, and he combined with the supporting Hooks who was unfortunate to knock the ball on as he attempted to score, under pressure from Adamson.
Treanor did go on to complete his brace, as ‘Tarf conceded scrum and maul penalties and Armagh made sure to take advantage. Simpson was the target man in the air, and a well-set maul saw the reserve hooker cross again, supported by Simpson and Doak.
CLONTARF: Tadhg Bird; Peter Maher, Hugh Cooney, Matt D’Arcy, Noah Sheridan; Conor Kelly, Louis O’Reilly; Alex Usanov, Dylan Donnellan (capt), Ben Griffin, Fionn Gilbert, Jim Peters, Josh Murphy, Richie Whelan, Ruadhan Byron.
Replacements: Declan Adamson, Ivan Soroka, Darragh Bolger, Sam Owens, Jack Murphy, Steve Crosbie.
CITY OF ARMAGH: Shea O’Brien; Sam Cunningham, Matthew Hooks, Tim McNiece, Glen Faloon; Brayden Laing, Lewis Finlay; Dylan Poyntz, Jonny Morton, Cameron Doak, John Glasgow, James Crummie, James McNabney, Nigel Simpson (capt), Neil Faloon.
Replacements: Jack Treanor, Paul Mullen, Niall Carville, Barry Finn, Dylan Nelson, Andrew Willis.