ST MARY'S COLLEGE are the new leaders of Division 1A of the All-Ireland League thanks to a stunning bonus-point 36-11 success over previous pacemakers Young Munster at Clifford Park on Saturday.
It was St Mary's fifth win on the trot after they had opened the season with two defeats in their first three games. Since then they have improved with every outing, culminating in Saturday's demolition of Young Munster.
Still, no one could have predicted such a scoreline. Scrum-half Matt D'Arcy got two of their four tries, with the others coming from Ciaran Ruddock and Stephen Gissing.
The accurate goalkicking of full-back Gavin Dunne was responsible for the remainder of their points. Philip Brophy also had a fine game at out-half in an outstanding team performance.
The result means that St Mary's are a point clear of Young Munster at the top of the table with three teams -- Lansdowne, Clontarf and Cork Con -- three points further back.
So, St Mary's home game against Cork Con next weekend is going to be another crucial encounter.
Clontarf's title hopes were dealt a further blow when they lost 9-3 at Dolphin. They simply could not come to terms with the superior work of the Dolphin pack.
Three penalties from Barry Keeshan secured the points for Dolphin; Clontarf could only manage a single penalty from Noel Reid.
Lansdowne continued their march up the table with a comprehensive 30-13 bonus-point success over Garryowen on the back pitch at the Aviva Stadium. Full-back and skipper Ross McCarron again played a major role, scoring two of the tries.
Wing Cian Aherne and substitute Willie Earls got the others as the young Lansdowne outfit moved to third spot in the table. Out-half Craig Ronaldson was again impressive, contributing the remainder of the Dubliners' points with the boot.
Garryowen did manage a bit of a rally with substiture Ian Hanly and Paul Neville going over for tries, but in the end they were well beaten.
If Lansdowne are on the up, the same sadly cannot be said of Shannon.
They have gone into freefall after a promising start to the season, their latest defeat (30-15) coming at the hands of lowly Blackrock College at Stradbrook.
It was, though, a hugely important success for Blackrock as it moved them off bottom spot in the table.
What's more, they secured the bonus point with four tries from Rob Keogh, Alex Dunlop, Mark Scott-Lennon and Jan-Simon Byrne. Out-half Darragh Fitzpatrick kicked the remainder of the points.
Shannon, who weren't helped by an early injury to Munster back-row Paddy Butler, could only manage five penalties from Tadgh Bennett in reply.
Ballynahinch are back at the top of Division 1B on points difference from Ballymena, despite only drawing 21-21 at home with UCD. It could have been worse, as the students, inspired by Niall Earls, led 21-5 at the interval.
It eventually took a try from James Thompson in the dying minutes to earn Ballynahinch the draw.
Overall, it wasn't a particularly good weekend for the top teams.
Ballymena went down 9-0 to Belfast Harlequins on Friday night, while Buccaneers were beaten 22-18 by bottom-of-the-table UCC at the Mardyke.
Luke Duffy scored the crucial try seven minutes from time to give the students their first victory of the season.
Dungannon were the only one of the top four teams to secure a victory, Ulster wing Chris Cochrane scoring two tries in their 28-15 bonus point-success over Bruff.
Elsewhere, UL Bohemians ended Galwegians' winning run, coming from 22-3 down to edge out the Connacht side 24-22 at Crowley Park.