Out-half Tadhg Bennett recaptured his best kicking form as his 20-point tally inspired Shannon to a memorable 25-17 victory over former table toppers Old Wesley on Thomond Park’s back pitch.
Tadhg Bennett made it a happy Halloween for Marcus Horan's young Shannon squad by landing six penalty goals – two of them in the second half – and converting centre Will Leonard's 26th-minute try.
It was Shannon's second successive win, adding to the momentum gained from their recent derby triumph over UL Bohs. However, they had to recover from a poor start.
Stung by their recent loss to Dublin University, Old Wesley were quickly into their stride in Limerick. From a lineout midway into the Shannon half, number 8 Mark Rowley took the ball up to the 22 and with quick recycled play, possession was swung out the back-line resulting in a try by full-back Rory Stynes. Barry McLaughlin was wide with the conversion.
But Shannon responded immediately, forcing a number of penalties and the assured Bennett had no difficulty in converting three of them into points to take a 9-5 lead. Indeed, prior to the third of these kicks, the powerful Shannon pack looked like they might drive over for a try, egged on by their vocal supporters, only to be denied by a knock-on.
As the game entered the second quarter, it was becoming apparent that Old Wesley were up against a hungrier and better organised outfit.
Just before the half hour mark, a Shannon attack brought play deep into the Wesley 22, but in their desperation Wesley conceded another penalty and, to add to their woes, a yellow card for flanker Stephen Boyle.
Sensing more than a penalty, Horan's fired-up charges opted to run the ball, their attack eventually resulting in a well-placed kick from scrum half David O'Donovan (pictured above) which was expertly fielded and grounded by the leaping Leonard. Bennett converted the try to make it 16-8.
The Limerick men now had their tails up and the visitors were living off scraps of possession. The hosts were nearly over again and this time Wesley's blindside Darren Horan was sin-binned for not rolling away, with Bennett duly extending the lead to 11 points.
A high tackle on Wesley's goal-kicking winger McLaughlin nearing the interval allowed him to reduce the arrears to 19-11. However, Morgan Lennon's men were dealt a considerable blow when influential number 8 Rowley was forced off with a facial injury.
Shannon started the second period in fine fettle with Bennett kicking two penalty goals to push the score out to 25-14 and any hopes of a Wesley recovery were starting to fade.
A third yellow card, this time to Wesley scrum half and skipper Ian Cassidy for an illegal tackle, did not help their cause. 20 minutes in, there was a ray of hope for the recent league leaders when Shannon winger Stephen Fitzgerald saw yellow, allowing McLaughlin to peg back three points. Five minutes later, openside James Vaughan received a similar punishment for cynical play.
But even playing against 13 men, Wesley struggled to make any inroads, and they were not helped by an increasing error count. Shannon dug their heels in to hold onto their eight-point winning margin and close out a confidence-boosting result.
Referee: Karol Collins (IRFU)