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Home Win Launches St. Mary’s Title Defence

Home Win Launches St. Mary’s Title Defence

Marcus O’Driscoll and Kevin Croke both scored tries as St. Mary’s College got their Ulster Bank League title defence off to a winning start against UL Bohemians on Saturday.

St. Mary's started this contest at Templeville Road with great intent and put plenty of pressure on the UL rearguard in the early stages.

However, for the most part, UL held firm when the hosts threatened to get through in the corners.

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St. Mary's did not have their first clear-cut scoring opportunity until the 16th minute when Ray Crotty was short with a 35-metre penalty attempt.

They were made to pay five minutes later when up-and-coming Munster out-half JJ Hanrahan opened the scoring for UL with a close-in penalty.

It was a major boost for the Limerick side after a tricky opening, but they were finding it hard to get their hands on the ball for much of the first period.

The visitors' defence was eventually breached in the 25th minute when St. Mary's replacement Marcus O'Driscoll drove over the line following some terrific approach play from Philip Brophy and Darren Hudson.

Crotty converted and added a well-struck penalty from 50 metres to give the Dubliners a 10-3 interval advantage.

Bohs cut into the St. Mary's cushion just four minutes after the restart when Hanrahan kicked majestically from halfway to split the posts for the second time in the game.

The Templeogue outfit were proving to be formidable in attack however, and they once again followed up a UL penalty with a try. This time it took them just three minutes to outfox the Bohs defence as number 8 Kevin Croke crossed in the right corner at the end of a fine cross-field move.

Crotty added the conversion, but Bohs clearly did not read the script and they powered back into the reckoning with a well-deserved try courtesy of replacement scrum half Rory White.

The score came after a lengthy period of intense pressure near the St. Mary's whitewash and the ever-reliable Hanrahan added the extras which made it a four-point game heading down the home stretch.

Hanrahan had a chance to reduce the margin even further with a 74th minute penalty, but he was wide of the mark with his kick from the left and that was as close as UL got in the closing moments.

Speaking afterwards, St. Mary's new head coach Hugh Hogan said: “We knew that this would be a very tough match. UL Bohs have been the form side in Limerick with six straight victories, including a Limerick Charity Cup success.

“They play a very good brand of rugby and we found them hard to break down. We're just delighted to have won because it could have gone either way.”

Referee: David Wilkinson (IRFU)