Lansdowne 25 Young Munster 24, Aviva Stadium back pitch
The ever-dependable Scott Deasy came to the rescue of defending All-Ireland League champions Lansdowne as his late penalty guided them to a tense 25-24 victory over a stubborn Young Munster side on the Aviva Stadium's back pitch today.
Trailing 17-5 early in the second half, the relegation-threatened Cookies strung together unanswered tries from Tom Goggin, Luke Fitzgerald and Conor Hayes to move ahead.
However, Lansdowne held their nerve during a frantic finish and Deasy coolly slotted over a 73rd minute penalty to keep his side in second place and on course for a home semi-final.
Eager to bounce back from last week's surprise defeat at Terenure College, Lansdowne laid down a marker in the very first minute.
Peter Sullivan, who was released through a gap by fellow winger Daniel McEvoy, raced clear for his ninth try of the Division 1A campaign which Deasy converted.
Although conditions were not necessarily conducive to fast open rugby, both teams made rich contributions to an enthralling encounter.
Ireland Under-20 head coach Noel McNamara was present to keep a watchful eye on Munsters' Conor Phillips and Billy Scannell, and winger Phillips closed the gap to 7-5 with a superb catch of a Shane Airey cross-field kick on the left wing.
Deasy's smart tactical kicking enabled Lansdowne to regain control and he nailed a 25th penalty to double the lead.
The home side added their second try approaching half-time, a series of forward drives ending with former captain Ian Prendiville powering over to make it 17-5 at the break.
Despite losing flanker Jack O'Sullivan to the sin-bin, Lansdowne extended their lead with Prendiville completing his brace in the 45th minute. Their formidable front row contained Prendiville, Martin Mulhall and recent Leinster debutant Ronan Kelleher.
Nonetheless, once Munsters found themselves with a numerical advantage again, they produced a stunning scoring blitz to turn the game on its head.
Second row Goggin finished clinically in the 54th minute, an oustanding break nearing the hour mark was rounded off by centre Fitzgerald, and Hayes, a late addition to the starting XV on the right wing, also got on the end of a multi-phase attack in the 64th minute.
A brace of Airey conversions gave Gearoid Prendergast's charges a 24-22 advantage and suddenly a fourth league win was on the cards.
There was plenty of life left in Lansdowne, though, and they were a different proposition once restored to their full complement. They lifted the tempo to create a close-in penalty opportunity which Deasy turned into a crucial three points.
The Limerick men were unable to respond in a closely-fought finale as Lansdowne held out by the slenderest of margins. UCC's victory at the expense of Shannon will ramp up the pressure on Munsters, although the two points they gained in the capital could prove invaluable in their quest to retain their top flight status.
Lansdowne: Eamonn Mills (capt); Daniel McEvoy, Harry Brennan, Tom Roche, Peter Sullivan; Scott Deasy, James Kenny; Martin Mulhall, Ronan Kelleher, Ian Prendiville, David O'Connor, Oisin Dowling, Jack O'Sullivan, Tom Murphy, Willie Earle.
Replacements: Greg McGrath, Ntinga Mpiko, Jack Dwan, Tim Murphy, Conor Murphy.
Young Munster: Alan Tynan; Conor Hayes, Derek Corcoran, Luke Fitzgerald, Conor Phillips; Shane Airey, Stephen Kerins; Conor Bartley, Ger Slattery, Keynan Knox, Tom Goggin, Alan Kennedy (capt), Fintan Coleman, Conor Mitchell, Diarmaid Dee.
Replacements: Billy Scannell, David Begley, Alan Ross, Evan O'Gorman, Clayton Stewart.
Dublin University 10 Terenure College 7, College Park
Wily out-half James 'Jesus' Fennelly emerged as Dublin University's saviour by kicking a decisive late penalty goal in their hard-earned 10-7 home win over bottom side Terenure College this afternoon.
Underfoot conditions were particularly difficult at a rain-hit College Park and the greasy ball led to just two tries being scored - a big change from the usual free-flowing fare at the city centre venue. Fennelly's match-winning strike has boosted fourth-placed Trinity's hopes of gaining a semi-final place. They are now four points clear of Garryowen with four rounds remaining.
The students included recent Leinster debutant Jack Dunne in the second row, but defences were on top for most of a wind-affected first half. That was until just before half-time when young hooker Dan Sheehan picked from a ruck and arrowed his way over from the edge of the Terenure 22 for the opening try. Number 10 Micheal O'Kennedy converted to give Tony Smeeth's youngsters a seven-point buffer.
Terenure's backs had caused Lansdowne plenty of problems last week and they began to make inroads in the third quarter of today's game. They chipped away closer in through the forwards and were finally rewarded when number 8 Eoin Joyce crossed in the corner with 15 minutes to go. James Thornton stepped up to land a cracking conversion and bring 'Nure level.
The momentum appeared to be with James Blaney's men, only for the Trinity bench to have a big impact during the closing stages. They upped the physicality and showed the composed game management which has helped them to win four matches in quick succession. As he did against UCC recently, Fennelly fired home the closing penalty with two minutes remaining as the students ground out another tight verdict.
While disappointed to be pipped to the post, Terenure took home a losing bonus point which keeps alive the prospect of them avoiding automatic relegation in head coach Blaney's final season. They have five points to make up on second-from-bottom Young Munster whom they host on the final day of the regular season in mid-April.
Dublin University: Colm Hogan (capt); Rob Russell, James Hickey, Philip Murphy, Ronan Quinn; Micheal O'Kennedy, Rowan Osborne; Giuseppe Coyne, Dan Sheehan, Dylan Doyle, Jack Dunne, Reuben Pim, Johnny McKeown, Max Kearney, Niall O'Riordan.
Replacements: Joe Horan, Aziz Naser, Cian O'Dwyer, Conor Lowndes, James Fennelly, Bart Vermeulen.
Terenure College: Matthew Byrne; Jake Swaine, Stephen O'Neill, Adam La Grue, Conor Kelly; James Thornton, Jamie Glynn; Conor McCormack, Robbie Smyth, Tiarnan Creagh, Michael Melia (capt), Stephen Caffrey, Harrison Brewer, Paddy Thornton, Eoin Joyce.
Replacements: Liam McMahon, Killian Bolger, Matthew Caffrey, Erik Wijten, Mark O'Neill.
GARRYOWEN 7 CORK CONSTITUTION 15, Dooradoyle
Cork Constitution outscored Munster rivals Garryowen by three tries to one as they came away from Dooradoyle with a well-judged 15-7 victory.
Sean French snapped up two more tries to add to his hat-trick against UCD last Saturday. The 19-year-old winger was fresh from training with the Ireland Under-20s against Joe Schmidt's senior side in Belfast yesterday, and will be hoping to feature in his native Cork next Friday when the Ireland U-20s resume their Six Nations campaign against France.
Cork Con, who retained their eight-point lead at the top of the table, adapted better to the wind and sometime rain in Limerick, while Garryowen leaked scores at crucial stages and now trail fourth-placed Dublin University by four points heading into the final four rounds of matches.
Stung by UCD at home last week, Constitution got off to a flying start in Limerick thanks to their Ireland Club XV out-half Aidan Moynihan sniping over after just three minutes. He was unable to convert from out wide and the cross-pitch wind was tough for both sides to negotiate with a number of stop-start passages of play.
Garryowen hit back with an 18th minute try from centre Peadar Collins, their leading scorer in the league wriggling free and then adding the conversion which proved to be the only successful place-kick of the afternoon. However, the Light Blues were guilt of too many unforced errors and sloppy turnovers and they conceded again just before referee Nigel Correll's half-time whistle.
French struck a timely blow for a Con side missing captain Niall Kenneally and powerhouse lock Conor Kindregan, who is rumoured to be off to America. Number 8 Luke Cahill broke to the right of a five-metre scrum and passed wide to the waiting French who used his powerful frame to stretch out of a tackle from Cian O'Shea and ground the ball in the corner.
The Munster Academy youngster completed his brace with 18 minutes remaining, again showing his poaching skills out wide as Con stretched the Garryowen defence. It was a frustrating finish for Conan Doyle's charges who remained just out of bonus point range despite the best efforts of the industrious Dave McCarthy, captain Dean Moore and Munster's Sean O'Connor.
Garryowen: Jamie Heuston; Bryan Fitzgerald, Peadar Collins, Dave McCarthy, Cian O'Shea; Jamie Gavin, Rob Guerin; Niall Horan, Liam Cronin, Andy Keating, Kevin Seymour, Dean Moore (capt), Sean O'Connor, Diarmuid Barron, Tim Ferguson.
Replacements: Mike Sherry, Mike O'Donnell, Sean Rennison, Ben Healy, Ben Swindlehirst, Andrew O'Byrne, Dan Hurley.
Cork Constitution: Liam O'Connell; Sean French, Jack Costigan, Alex McHenry, Rob Jermyn; Aidan Moynihan, Jason Higgins; Gavin Duffy, Vincent O'Brien, Dylan Murphy, Evan Mintern, Brian Hayes, Joe McSwiney, Ross O'Neill, Luke Cahill.
Replacements: Brendan Quinlan, Patrick Casey, James Murphy, Duncan Williams, Greg Higgins.
UCC 15 SHANNON 3, the Mardyke
UCC registered their first win in three rounds as they handed seventh-placed Shannon, the team directly above them in the Division 1A table, a 15-3 defeat at the Mardyke.
In damp and windy conditions it was the students' starting wingers, Michael Clune and Matt Bowen, who crossed for the only tries of a keenly-contested Munster derby. The outcome has raised UCC's hopes of retaining their top flight status, moving them three points clear of second-from-bottom Young Munster in the current table.
Shannon did the double on the Cork side last season and were 31-20 winners of November's home fixture, yet it was UCC who were quickest out of the blocks today. Their talented young out-half James Taylor rifled a seventh minute penalty through the posts, before hands in the ruck allowed Shannon's Fionn McGibney to level just two minutes later.
It was a nip-and-tuck contest with neither team able to fully seize control, the wind catching a cross-field kick from Taylor who also missed a subsequent penalty attempt. A counter-attacking run from full-back Rob Hedderman sparked a strong spell on the front foot for UCC, and they got within range to set up winger Clune to touch down with Taylor back on target with the conversion.
Shannon upped their physicality with a big hit by Conor Glynn forcing a knock-on, and Colm Heffernan and Ronan Coffey both carried well to get Tom Hayes' men over the gain-line. Leading 10-3 at the turnaround, UCC stole a march on Shannon with a well-finished 42nd-minute try from Bowen who broke onto a well-weighted kick through. Knock-ons and a yellow card ruined Shannon's attempts to respond.
The visitors made good inroads with breaks from centres Pa Ryan and Robbie Deegan, but handling errors continue to cost them. UCC worked themselves into good positions too, only for Shannon replacement Ger Finucane to thwart them twice - firstly with a cover tackle and then with a well-timed turnover. Hayes' charges had one last bite at the cherry from a lineout steal but were held up.
UCC: Rob Hedderman; Michael Clune, Cian Bohane, Peter Sylvester, Matt Bowen; James Taylor, John Poland; Shane O'Hanlon, Harry Jephson, Bryan O'Connor, Cian Barry, Andrew Davies, Daire Feeney (capt), Lee McSherry, Ryan Murphy.
Replacements: Paidi McCarthy, Robert Loftus, Mark Bissessar, Jack O'Sullivan, Eoin Monahan.
Shannon: Jamie McGarry; Jack O'Donnell, Pa Ryan, Robbie Deegan, Eathon Moloney; Fionn McGibney, Jack Stafford; Conor Glynn, Jordan Prenderville, Tony Cusack, Ronan Coffey, Jade Kriel (capt), Luke Moylan, Kelvin Brown, Colm Heffernan.
Replacements: Ty Chan, Luke Masters, Thomas Ahern, Aran Hehir, Ruairi Karlsen, Ger Finucane, Ben Daly.
UCD 17 CLONTARF 26, Belfield Bowl
A Paddy Patterson-inspired UCD had their first half lead erased as Clontarf hit back with four tries to seal a 26-17 bonus point triumph at the Belfield Bowl.
College were on course to claim the scalp of another Division 1A heavyweight, just a week on from winning at leaders Cork Constitution, but a penalty try before half-time, coupled with second half scores from Matt D'Arcy, Michael Courtney and Cormac Daly, saw third-placed 'Tarf prevail.
UCD had the advantage of a strong wind first up, pinning the north Dubliners back following a scrum penalty and then the 20-year-old Patterson, who scored on his RDS debut for Leinster last week, seized his chance when tapping another penalty and touching down from close range.
In-form full-back Conall Doherty converted and also added the extras to Patterson's second try, which saw the Leinster Academy half-back beat two defenders after UCD had flooded forward from a turnover on the halfway line. Although a Doherty penalty widened the margin to 17 points, 'Tarf gained the upper-hand at scrum time to force a late penalty try, cutting the deficit at the break to 17-7.
Turning around with the elements behind them, the visitors swiftly reduced the arrears further as talismanic centre D'Arcy slid over in the corner past Andy Marks' last-ditch tackle. It was D'Arcy's seventh try of the league run and he increased his influence with a defence-splitting break and pass for winger Michael Courtney to dive over on the opposite right flank.
Tullamore native David Joyce expertly used the wind to curl the touchline conversion over with the aid of the left hand post. That kick put 'Tarf in front for the first time at 19-17, and Joyce repeated the trick entering the final quarter, turning young lock Cormac Daly's try from a quickly-taken penalty into a seven-pointer. Try as they might, UCD were unable to hit back and missed out on a deserved bonus point.
UCD: Conall Doherty; Andy Marks, Paul Kiernan, David Ryan, Tim Carroll; Matthew Gilsenan, Paddy Patterson; Michael Milne, Bobby Sheehan, Liam Hyland, Brian Cawley, Tom Treacy, Jonny Guy, Alex Penny (capt), Ronan Foley.
Replacements: Richie Bergin, Sam Griffin, Cian Prendergast, Nick Peters, Cillian Burke.
Clontarf: Jack Power; Michael Courtney, Sean O'Brien, Matt D'Arcy, Cian O'Donoghue; David Joyce, Angus Lloyd; Ivan Soroka, Declan Adamson, Vakh Abdaladaze, Ben Reilly, Cormac Daly, Tony Ryan, Brian Deeny, Michael Noone (capt).
Replacements: Connor Johnson, Royce Burke-Flynn, Tom Ryan, Hugo Lennox, Conor Kelly.