Captain Neil Cronin guided his Garryowen team to a gutsy 16-13 win over Munster rivals Cork Constitution in a ding-dong battle at Dooradoyle on Saturday afternoon.
Neil Cronin stepped up to fire home a 72nd minute penalty – his fourth successful kick of an 11-point haul – and make it two narrow victories on the trot for Conan Doyle's young charges.
Hugh O'Brien-Cunningham, JP Phelan and Barra O'Byrne were the Garryowen changes from last week's confidence-boosting 13-11 win at Old Belvedere, while Michael Clune replaced the in-form Shane Daly for Cork Con who moved Liam O'Connell to full-back.
As they did against Young Munster, Constitution gained the upper hand early on thanks to Tomas Quinlan's fifth-minute penalty and a converted try on the quarter hour from bulldozing second row Conor Kindregan.
Garryowen responded well to the early setback. Taking a Con lineout, the Limerick side countered with pace, centre Andrew O'Byrne made the break but his pass was spilled by a team-mate just metres from
The hosts missed a penalty on 18 minutes, matched by a Con miss ten minutes later. Garryowen were edging the possession and territory stakes at this point but needed scores to emphasise the point.
Con's discipline has been poor in the opening rounds and they suffered their fifth yellow card in 200 minutes of rugby when O'Connell was binned for a high tackle. That came five minutes before half-time and Garryowen's goal-kicking scrum half Cronin mopped up with a brace of penalty goals for 10-6.
Without initially making an imprint on the scoreboard, Conan Doyle's charges picked up the pace in the early stages of the second period.Patience is a virtue, amply displayed by the callow Garryowen team prior to their 55th minute try. Andrew O’Byrne finished off a multi-phase attack, Cronin converted and Garryowen led for the first time, 13-10.
On the hour arrived the double whammy that had a huge bearing on the outcome. Constitution had players to spare as they attacked the scoreboard corner, but home hooker Eamonn Costello bear hugged his opponent to prevent the pass.
The danger rapidly transferred to the other corner where winger Peadar Collins also effected a try-saving wraparound tackle to stop an offload to any one of three waiting Con players. It was the pivotal and defining moment of the game and lifted the spirits of those present cheering on the Light Blues.
Garryowen surged forward in the final quarter, trying as they were to achieve another score that would have secured the result, however it did not arrive at that stage. Andrew O'Byrne's neat kick to the corner almost got Steve McMahon in, subsequently followed by a series of intense close-in drives by Garryowen, but the ball was lost forward and Con survived.
To add to the disappointment, Garryowen missed a penalty with a quarter of an hour to go. Had they foregone their chance of winning the tie though? That appeared to be the case as a needlessly conceded penalty for hands in the ruck gave Quinlan the opportunity to bring the visitors level at 13-all.
Half a loaf is better then none at all, but Garryowen wanted it all and a final penalty chance provided the opening to take it. It was just on the margins of Cronin's kicking length, particularly against the ever stiffening breeze, but the Ireland Club international did not disappoint and Garryowen were back in front.
In the dying minutes Garryowen were reduced to 14 men, again due to uncontested scrums caused by the hosts, centre O’Brien-Cunningham had to leave the pitch as a forfeit player. It did not cause the winners any great distress and they successfully saw out the remaining minutes to achieve back-to-back wins in the league.
Referee: Kieran Barry (IRFU)