Terenure College were stunned into submission by Ballynahinch this afternoon, as the Ulster Bank League Division 1A leaders were beaten 14-10 at a wet and windy Ballymacarn Park.
Terenure’s lead at the top has been cut to just a single point, but head coach James Blaney will not be too concerned as they still have a 10-point buffer over third-placed Cork Constitution entering the second half of the regular season.
The race to reach the play-offs is certainly picking up pace, with ‘Nure’s stumble up north giving their chasers renewed hope as thoughts turn to the tenth and final round before Christmas on December 19-20.
Ballynahinch had the benefit of a forceful wind behind them in the first half and centre Richard Reaney nailed two penalty attempts inside the opening 23 minutes to have them 6-0 ahead.
Right winger James O’Donoghue responded for ‘Nure just moments later, scoring a try which Mark O’Neill converted, but their Co. Down hosts edged back in front for the break thanks to Reaney’s third successful kick.
Given that the conditions would be in ‘Nure’s favour in the second period, they still looked well-placed to pick up the match points - especially after Mark O’Neill fired over an early penalty for a 10-9 scoreline.
However, man of the moment Reaney ran in an intercept try in the 48th minute to rock the Dubliners back on their heels and a dogged, disciplined defensive display from ‘Hinch over the remainder saw them run out deserving winners.
Cork Constitution’s resurgence continued as they rose to third in the table on the back of a thrilling 18-17 triumph over a determined Old Belvedere side.
Munster Under-20 starlet Tomas Quinlan was the toast of Temple Hill after his drop goal in the last play saw Constitution prevail in dramatic circumstances.
That was Cork Con’s only score of the second half having led 15-11 at the interval. A 19th minute try from centre Michael Keyes was supplemented by a penalty try and five points from Darragh Lyons’ boot.
‘Belvo were 15-3 adrift at one stage, but full-back Daniel Riordan’s fourth try of the league campaign sparked their revival. Josh Glynn, their razor-sharp goal-kicker, landed penalties over 58 and 69 minutes to nudge the Dublin 4 outfit ahead at 17-15.
However, the talented Quinlan managed to have the final say for Cork Con as they stretched their unbeaten run to four matches.
Lansdowne got the win they required to keep the heat on table toppers Terenure, but they did not have it all their own way against Dolphin at Irish Independent Park.
Mike Ruddock’s men were 37-6 winners over Dolphin in September’s opening round and would have been hoping to push for a bonus point against the division’s bottom side again today.
Nonetheless, a number of British & Irish Cup call-ups left them short of some key backs and they had to hang tough to record a 13-6 triumph in the end, with their captain Ron Boucher forced off through injury.
Two Barry Keeshan penalties had Dolphin leading 6-3 at the turnaround, but the visitors levelled through Scott Deasy in the 48th minute and a penalty try in the closing stages, which the home crowd felt was dubious, proved to be the match winner for Lansdowne.
After drawing with Cork Con last time out, UCD got back to winning ways by beating St Mary’s College 25-17 at Templeville Road. Ireland Under-20 out-half Ross Byrne scored 15 points - a try, two conversions and two penalties - with Shane Grannell and Garry Ringrose also touching down for the students.
St. Mary’s had been on course for their third victory on the trot, leading 17-11 thanks to well-taken tries from Marcus O’Driscoll and Nick Timoney, but they endured a poor final quarter as Bobby Byrne’s charges came from behind.
Last year’s champions Clontarf slumped to their fourth loss in five league outings as Ed O’Keeffe emerged as Young Munster’s two-try hero in an 18-17 victory at Tom Clifford Park.
It was a gutsy display from the Cookies who had a player taken to hospital following an injury early in the second half, and they started the game without promising forward Diarmaid Dee who picked up an injury in the warm-up.
But they made the best possible start when centre and man-of-the-match O’Keeffe notched his opening try after just three minutes, which Ben Martin converted.
Number 8 Tony Ryan’s converted effort in the eighth minute had ‘Tarf level and the north Dubliners edged ahead for half-time - 14-10 - thanks to a second seven-pointer from Under-20 winger Anthony McGivney.
Martin’s second successful penalty left only a point between the sides but when Clontarf out-half David Joyce was on target again, it looked to have clinched the result for Andy Wood’s charges.
Young Munster struck late on, though, laying siege to the ‘Tarf line and their efforts were rewarded when O’Keeffe squeezed over at the end of a closely-contested affair.
Prop Doron McHugh’s third try of the season proved decisive for leaders Galwegians in their hard-fought 10-6 win at Garryowen.
It was third hosting first at Dooradoyle and the Light Blues took a 13th-minute lead thanks to a penalty from out-half Jamie Gavin, which took his tally for the league campaign to 70 points.
An early head injury to Brian Murphy unsettled Galwegians slightly, but a classy line-break from his centre partner Gary O’Brien and a spell of pressure from the forwards saw the visitors go close to scoring.
Loose passing and a suffocating Garryowen defence kept ’Wegians scoreless until the 44th minute when John Cleary landing a long-range penalty, with the floodlights turned on as the sky darkened overhead.
The sudden loss of full-back Alex Wootton, who was red-carded for foul play, left Garryowen under all sorts of pressure and ’Wegians quickly took control. Barry Lee’s touch-finder set up a lineout and McHugh was driven over from the resulting maul, with Cleary converting.
But the home side were in no mood to fold, with a penalty from Gavin - straight in front of the posts, entering the final quarter - closing the gap back to four points. There was another twist when Galwegians’ influential lock Brian McClearn saw yellow, but Matt Brown’s men dug their heels in to see out a deserved victory.
Shannon picked up just their second victory in five league games as out-half and captain Tadhg Bennett booted them to a 12-10 success at home to Malone.
Two well-struck penalties from Bennett after 15 and 25 minutes, respectively, edged the hosts in front at Coonagh, and he added a third six minutes before the break.
A sin-binning for Malone, who face Ballynahinch in next Wednesday’s Ulster Senior Cup final, left them short-handed but out-half Neil Burns finished off a 37th minute try to get them off the mark.
Centre Josh Pentland converted to reduce the arrears to 9-7 for half-time and he also slotted a 53rd-minute penalty following the sin-binning of Shannon flanker Brian Downey.
But Bennett replied in the 61st minute to restore Shannon’s advantage and Ian Sherwin’s side held on in determined fashion, staying in front as Malone pushed a couple of late penalty attempts wide.
It was an important win for Shannon ahead of their 19 December derby clash with Garryowen, with Bennett and his team-mates lifting themselves into eighth spot.
Dublin University’s enviable run of results continued up north at Deramore Park where they took a 27-13 verdict against Belfast Harlequins, bagging a bonus point in the process.
Trinity have now gone six matches without defeat in Division 1B - five wins and a draw - and their latest triumph included a brace of tries each from influential backs Conor Kearns and Jack McDermott. The latter, growing in stature at outhalf, also kicked seven points with his points haul for the season now standing at 75.
Ballymena ended Buccaneers’ three-match winning streak as they solidified their second place standing with a 23-8 win at Dubarry Park.
Back row duo Stephen Mulholland and Mike McComish both touched down with full-back Sean Taylor also running in a try for the Braidmen, who remain seven points behind ’Wegians at the summit.
UL Bohemians won for the first time in seven league games as they got the better of hosts Corinthians, winning 14-12 in Galway this afternoon.
Trailing 7-0 at the interval, Bohs looked in trouble when winger Darin Claasen ran in an intercept try for a 12-0 scoreline. Crucially though, Corinthians failed to add the conversion.
UL managed to hit back with late tries from half-backs Craig Miller and Shane Airey, with the latter importantly converting both to secure his side’s first Division 1B success since September.