St. Mary’s College boosted their survival hopes with a nail-biting 15-13 triumph over Cork Constitution at Temple Hill, making it two successive wins for Peter Smyth’s charges.
St. Mary's remain second-from-bottom but are now six points clear of Dolphin and just two behind eighth-placed Young Munster, and head coach Peter Smyth was very pleased with the level of performance his charges produced in what was a fast-paced and enjoyable encounter.
“I'm absolutely delighted, it's great to get points on the road. Hopefully that's turning the corner, it was badly needed,” explained Smyth, whose side had lost 26-15 to Cork Con back in October.
There were some excellent individuals from Mary's, mostably captain Kevin Sheahan, who led by example from number 8, and try-scoring scrum half Dave Fanagan who had promising youngster Sean Kearns making his first senior appearance alongside him.
Although Mary's fell behind to an early Tomas Quinlan penalty, the wind-backed Cork Con out-half was off target with a series of other kicks – three in all, in the cold and blustery conditions.
That allowed the visitors to take a 10-3 lead into the break, as they registered a fine individual try from Fanagan who has been one of their shining lights so far this season.
The score did come against the run of play on the half hour mark, but it was very well-taken by Fanagan who, following up on some good work by Sheahan and Ryan O'Loughlin, broke away from halfway and had the pace to evade the retreating defenders on the way to the whitewash.
Full-back Ray Crotty, taking over the kicking duties from the departed Gavin Dunne, converted and added a difficult late penalty to give the Dubliners their seven-point interval advantage.
Tom Tierney's home side got on top during the third quarter, though, with Quinlan converting a 46th minute penalty and after three scrums close to the Mary's line (Sheahan was in the sin-bin at this point for repeated team infringements), a final collapse gave them a hard-earned penalty try that was turned into seven points by Quinlan.
However, Constitution were left stunned when elusive right winger O'Loughlin, gobbling up Steve Toal-Lennon's reverse pass, cut a great angle and sidestepped his way through for a superb 61st minute try that went unconverted.
Try as they might, the hosts could not erase the two-point deficit during a tense forwards-dominated finale that saw them reduced to 14 men late on.
Giving his reaction to the Irish Examiner, Cork Con boss Tierney said: “Very disappointing. A few things didn't go our way, especially in the first half when we let them in for a very good try from their point of view, but a very soft one from our perspective.
“We had a couple of missed chances in the opening 10 minutes, a few kicks that we missed although those kicks were quite difficult. I suppose they were fighting for their lives being down at the end of the table.
“Everyone needs to get the points from home games, given that there is such a battle for places in the top four, because there are only 10 teams in the league and there is such little between the teams at the top and bottom. You're starting to look over your shoulder now and it's annoying that today we could have really copper-fastened our place in the top (play-off) group.”
Referee: Olly Hodges (IRFU)