Out-half Gavin Dunne kicked a brace of second half penalties to guide St. Mary’s College to a narrow derby win over Blackrock College at Stradbrook on Saturday.
St. Mary's, who completed the double over 'Rock last season, battled their way to a fourth successive win in All-Ireland League Division 1A.
It was a solid afternoon's work from Ciaran Potts' side, who got over the disappointment of losing last weekend's Leinster Senior League Cup final to UCD.
St. Mary's were 15-3 to the good at half-time, with tries from winger Ronan Doherty and centre Stephen Grissing doing the damage. Blackrock's points came from a Rob Keogh penalty.
Doherty opened the scoring after just two minutes, profiting from a midfield break by full-back Paul Gillespie and the final pass from number 8 Hugh Hogan who ran a good support line.
Out-half Gavin Dunne kicked the conversion and after his opposite number Rob Keogh replied with a tenth minute penalty, St. Mary's broke through for their second try.
Mark Sexton kicked ahead and his centre partner Grissing tapped the ball on before a defensive lapse allowed him to snipe in for an unconverted score.
Dunne kicked three further penalties, either side of the interval, to put 18 points between the sides.
The second half was a much more even contest and Blackrock raised their game, particularly in the forwards where Leinster prop Ben Prescott, captain Des Dillon and replacement flanker Alex Dunlop stood out.
Tries from Dillon and number 8 Michael Noone made a real game of it, but Dunne's right boot got St. Mary's over the finish line in what was a real arm wrestle of a match in the end.
The visitors' 21-3 advantage was eaten into as Dillon and Noone's scores got Blackrock back in touch. St. Mary's ran out of defenders after a series of strength-sapping rucks and Dillon was able to pick and cross the whitewash.
Dillon's try went unconverted, and with six minutes to go, Noone showed great pace to evade the cover along the wing and run in a seven-pointer.
'Rock had a close-in penalty in the dying moments, and opted to kick the points with Keogh splitting the posts for a 21-18 scoreline.
Andy Wood's men could not get back into a similar scoring position and St. Mary's held on to take the spoils.
The Templeville Road outfit's fourth victory of the campaign has seen them close the gap on second-placed Cork Constitution to just two points.
Those two sides meet in a pre-Christmas cracker next weekend, while fourth-placed Blackrock are on the road to Shannon.
Speaking after what was a nerve-jangling finish, head coach Potts said: “Given the circumstances of our defeat to UCD, I was very worried.
“As for their decision to opt for the penalty instead of going for the try, yes I was a bit relieved. They had a five-metre scrum, so it was a perfect attacking opportunity, but I'm sure they had their reasons.”