Garryowen end Lansdowne's streak
Lansdowne's 12-match unbeaten run, which lasted almost five months, came to an end at Dooradoyle where captain Neil Cronin inspired Garryowen's 24-16 win over the Division 1A leaders.
Scrum half Cronin kicked 14 points from the tee as the Light Blues did what no other club has this season, and in the process closed to within four points of the top four. Cronin opened the scoring with a sixth-minute penalty and converted winger James McInerney's try ten minutes later, as the Limerick men stormed out of the blocks in pursuit of their first victory in three rounds.
Two more Cronin penalties cancelled out Scott Deasy's 20th-minute opener for Lansdowne, but the visitors touched down on the stroke of half-time through elusive winger Foster Horan.
Mike Ruddock's men appeared to be turning the screw as a penalty for offside allowed Deasy to make it a five-point game at 16-11, early in the second period.
Number 8 Willie Earle's unconverted try from a maul had Lansdowne level but Cronin came up trumps for Garryowen in the closing stages when he ripped the ball back inside his own half and was followed by a strong run from Tim Ferguson who fed Liam Coombes to finish off in the corner.
The result not only lifted the Light Blues back into the play-off picture, with a game in hand, it did others a favour too as the chasing pack - led by Cork Constitution - are now 11 points behind Lansdowne with five rounds of the regular season remaining.
Clontarf returned to winning ways at Castle Avenue yesterday with a hard-earned 19-8 success against UCD in a tense Division 1A encounter.
Tom Byrne, Ariel Robles and Tony Ryan all helped themselves to tries, as the hosts registered their first victory of 2018 and put recent reversals to leaders Lansdowne and Young Munster behind them.
UCD had drifted away from the foot of the table with a 17-14 triumph over Buccaneers last weekend, which also brought their four-game losing streak to an abrupt end. Yet, with experienced performers like David Joyce and Ryan in their side, it was the hosts who started the contest on the front foot. Clontarf spread the ball effectively into the wide channels where Rob McGrath and James McKeown provided strong attacking outlets. An opening try appeared on the cards when Joyce kicked to the corner from an early penalty. The students dug deep under pressure, though, and disciplined defensive work eventually secured them a five-metre scrum.
Indeed, the visitors had an ideal opportunity to break the deadlock in the 15th minute, but young out-half Matthew Gilsenan's long-range penalty rebounded off a post and into the waiting arms of Clontarf centre Matt D'Arcy.
Alongside Robles in midfield, D'Arcy helped to drive the north Dubliners into UCD territory as the first half wore on. They finally broke the visitors' resistance in the 32nd minute when lock Byrne touched down after racing through a gap on the left. Joyce added the simple conversion. Andy Wood's men doubled their advantage to 14-0 in lightning quick time. Before UCD had a chance to settle, McGrath broke free on the right wing, and although he was halted just shy of the line, the alert Robles gathered the loose ball to cross over in the corner.
There was enough time for UCD to open their account courtesy of a Gilsenan place-kick before the break. They breathed a sigh of relief when Joyce pushed a 46th-minute penalty wide before Garry Ringrose's younger brother Jack began to make an impact for Andy Skehan's youngsters.
After an enterprising attack on the left, former Blackrock College scrum half Patrick Patterson powered over the line for an encouraging try. A tricky breeze ensured that Gilsenan fell short with his conversion attempt. Crucially, Clontarf produced a strong response to this concession and wrested back control on the 4G surface.
The ever-impressive Ryan took advantage of some slack defending on UCD's part to dot down in the 65th minute. Conor Kelly replaced Joyce in the final quarter, and he was narrowly off target with the conversion. Ryan's score had 'Tarf in a commanding position with an 11-point lead and they duly sewed up their eighth victory of the campaign.
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