Rob Keogh’s right boot came to Clontarf’s rescue again as his injury-time drop goal edged them past Garryowen by two points at Castle Avenue on Saturday.
The Light Blues were on the cusp of their third straight victory thanks to two converted second half tries from full-back Alex Wootton, who made his first PRO12 start for Munster last week, and young winger Liam Coombes.
But 'Tarf rescued a much-needed win from the jaws of defeat thanks to full-back Keogh, whose 11-point tally today took his league haul to 46 points in four outings.
It was a slow-burning first half on the north Dubliners' grass pitch, a Keogh penalty after 20 minutes opening the scoring for Andy Wood's men. Garryowen were the more enterprising team in the early exchanges, intelligently varying their game.
Try-scoring opportunities were at a premium, though, and Clontarf missed out on a score when advancing winger Michael Brown was bundled into touch. The youthful visitors did threaten the try-line again on the half hour, however referee Frank Murphy pinged them for holding on and 'Tarf showed their clinical edge soon after.
The ensuing 'Tarf lineout on halfway was swift and devastating, possession being moved into the hands of Ireland Club international captain Matt D'Arcy who shimmied and swerved clear to touch down under the posts. Keogh’s conversion made it 10-0.
Undaunted, Garryowen fought back back and two minutes into first half injury-time, Munster Academy winger Steve McMahon wriggled clear 30 metres out. However, the referee adjudged that he had been held in the tackle.
The Limerick side, who had recent Munster try scorer Conor Oliver in their back row, were on the defensive when play resumed. 'Tarf started the second period with plenty of attacking thrust and adept running, determined to up the pace and put the game out of the visitors' reach.
However, resilient Garryowen grabbed the first points of the half through provincial player Wootton, who finished off a superb team move that began in the visitors' 22. From a scrum, captain Neil Cronin's skip pass put centre Andrew O'Byrne dashing up to halfway, he passed for Wootton who had the wheels to race clear and score by the posts for Cronin to comfortably convert.
A long range penalty from Keogh gave 'Tarf a six-point cushion in the 51st minute, but they were in serious danger of losing for the third time on the trot after Coombes reached over in the corner following a multi-phase attack.
Scrum half Cronin nailed a cracking conversion from the touchline for a 14-13 scoreline, with only five minutes remaining. Wood's side failed to panic and they almost scored from a charged down kick.
They got back into scoring range in the dying embers of the game, a plethora of close-in drives setting up Keogh for the winning drop kick. 'Tarf controlled possession for the remaining minutes of injury-time, using their forwards to carry and retain possession from ruck to ruck and grind Garryowen into submission.
The result gives the title holders a timely boost before their round 5 trip to Lansdowne in three weeks' time, while Garryowen will be buoyed by a performance which proves their ability to compete with the division's leading clubs.
Referee: Frank Murphy (IRFU)