Gavin Dunne’s injury-time drop goal gave St. Mary’s College a nail-biting 13-11 victory over Young Munster at Templeville Road on Saturday afternoon.
Mary's made tough work of their latest Ulster Bank League win, but in the end overcame Munsters and in doing so, opened up a six-point margin between the sides in the table.
With the return of Leinster's Ian McKinley at out-half, Mary's raced into a 7-0 lead after six minutes. Scrum half Matt D'Arcy found McKinley with a reverse pass and he beat two tacklers to touch down under the posts.
Although McKinley added the conversion, it did not spur the home side on and back came Young Munster with scrum half Alan Kingsley landing a penalty from just outside the 22.
In the 13th minute, Mary's were again penalised, but Kingsley opted to kick for the corner rather than take a shot at goal. it proved a wise decision as, after winning the ball on their throw, Munsters drove towards the home line.
A resolute defence held the first wave of attack ten metres short, but when the ball came back to Willie Staunton, his exquisitely timed pass caught Ronan Doherty out, finding Aaron Carroll who had the easiest of tasks to touch down in the corner. Kingsley missed the conversion.
After the excitement of the opening 15 minutes, the game became a scrappy affair. Mary's could not turn their dominance in possession into points, but were awarded a penalty for offside, an opportunity McKinley took to regain the lead at 10-8.
The remainder of the first half saw both sides unable to convert scoring opportunities. First, after a fine break from McKinley, the home side were unable to break the Cookies defence while being camped on their line. Eventually, Mary's were penalised.
Before the break, Kingsley decided to kick for the corner again when Munsters were awarded a penalty, but they failed to repeat the earlier phases that resulted in Carroll's try.
However, Kingsley kicked the visitors back in front, seven minutes after the restart. 11-10 ahead, Mike Prendergast's men were unlucky not to score again in the 52nd minute after a scintillating break by out-half Staunton which deserved more – but Mary's recovered and cleared the danger.
From that point onwards, Young Munster seemed content to ride out the storm. Poor handling cost Mary's, three minutes later, as they drove towards the whitewash, when D'Arcy fed the ball back to McKinley who knocked on in a promising position.
At that stage, Young Munster were finding it difficult in defence and Mary's seemed to get the reward their work deserved when lock Ciaran Ruddock went over. However, referee Simon McDowell adjudged that the ball was not grounded.
From the resulting scrum, Mary's launched another surge and it took a textbook tackle from Mark Doyle, who somehow wrestled the ball free in the tackle, to deny Darren Hudson at the corner.
The defining moment came in the dying minutes, though. As the Mary's forwards made ground, McKinley's replacement Dunne fell back into the pocket and split the posts with the match-winning drop goal from 30 metres out.
Young Munster had enough time to set up Staunton for a drop goal attempt from halfway, but his effort fell short and the Dubliners deservedly took the spoils.
Referee: Simon McDowell (IRFU)