Fanning dazzles as Mary's go back on top
St Mary's 24
Cork Con 20
Ail division 1a
ST MARY'S COLLEGE and Cork Constitution are both within touching distance of play-off spots following this highly entertaining clash at Templeville Road on Saturday.
St Mary's are back at the top of the table, a point ahead of Cork Con. They have just one game left, away to Clontarf; Cork Con have two matches, a rearranged outing at UL Bohemians next weekend, and a derby against Dolphin at Temple Hill.
Understandably, St Mary's were in the better mood following Saturday's contest. They had, after all, inflicted a rare defeat on a Con side which has gone unbeaten in the league since October and captured the AIB Cup.
But the consistency which has marked those performances just wasn't there on Saturday.
"We were very poor for 40 or 50 minutes with maybe a flash here or there," admitted the visiting coach Brian Walsh.
"We were disappointing defensively. It was not until the last 20 minutes that we actually started to get some real intensity into our game.
"But there's no sour grapes. Mary's were by far the better team for 50 or 60 minutes and deserved their success."
At least Cork Con had the consolation of coming away with a losing bonus point which hardly looked likely when they trailed 24-6 midway through the second half.
Missing Duncan Williams and Billy Holland, they struggled to come to terms with a revitalised St Mary's outfit which led 14-6 at the interval through well-worked tries from No 8 Hugh Hogan and centre Mark Sexton, both of which were converted by Gavin Dunne.
Still, full-back Scott Deasy kept the visitors in touch with two penalties, and, with the wind behind them in the second half, you would have expected them to close the gap further. Instead, it was St Mary's who came out of the traps much the better.
Prop Rob Sweeney and the increasingly impressive wing Darragh Fanning added two further unconverted tries to make the score 24-6. Only then did Constitution get their act together, Deasy switching to out-half to orchestrate matters.
A well-taken score from No 8 Frank Cogan was followed by a penalty try. Both were converted by Deasy to reduce the deficit to 24-20 and leave the St Mary's supporters sweating in the closing stages.
But the home side held on for a deserved success. "That was a great match," said their coach Peter Smyth.
"The really good thing about it was there was a huge breeze and so little kicking. Both teams attempted to run possession: it was a marvellous advertisement for club rugby.
"To get the bonus point was huge for us; hopefully we now have one foot in the semi-finals. But they remain the team everyone has to beat if they are to win the trophy."
St Mary's College -- G Dunne; R Doherty, S Grissing, M Sexton (P Brophy 68), D Fanning; S McCarthy, C McPhillips; J McGrath (C McMahon 80), Richie Sweeney (G Hickie 74), Rob Sweeney, G Logan, R Copeland, D Hall, P Nash (B O'Flanagan 66), H Hogan (capt).
Cork Constitution -- S Deasy; R Lane, T Gleeson, E Ryan (Capt), C Healy; D Lyons, D O'Driscoll (A Ryan 58); M Gately (G Murray 64), R Quinn, S Archer, M O'Connell, I Nagle, B Cutriss (E Leamy 10), P O'Mahony, F Cogan.
Ref -- C Stanley.