Friday 24 November 2017

Leaders Lansdowne edge rivals in top-of-table thriller

Mark O’Keefe of Lansdowne runs in for a try against Young Munster. Photo: Donall Farmer/INPHO
Mark O’Keefe of Lansdowne runs in for a try against Young Munster. Photo: Donall Farmer/INPHO Newsdesk Newsdesk

Lansdowne will enjoy the festive period a little bit more than their Division 1A rivals after defeating Young Munster 30-24 in a supercharged top-of-the-table clash.

Mike Ruddock's men hold a four-point lead at the league's halfway point, with only third-placed Young Munster able to match the headquarters club's haul of six try-scoring bonus points in the nine rounds so far.

Despite falling to their second straight defeat, the Cookies will take heart from a performance that earned them two bonus points in the end. Gearoid Prendergast's charges will regroup and look to make up lost ground against Lansdowne in their January 28 rematch.

Three first-half tries, one of them converted by Scott Deasy, who also kicked a penalty, had the hosts leading 20-12 at half-time on the Aviva Stadium's back pitch.

Lansdowne coach Mike Ruddock. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Lansdowne coach Mike Ruddock. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Influential lock Willie Earle, who was a real workhorse in the home pack, and pacy backs Ferdia Doherty and Daniel McEvoy all crossed the whitewash, with winger McEvoy running in his fourth try of the campaign.

Craig O'Hanlon and Calvin Nash were Munster's first-half try-scorers, and winger O'Hanlon's second of the afternoon wide on the right suddenly had the Limerick men just three points in arrears.

There was very little between the sides as fizzing winger Marc O'Keefe's third try in two games for Lansdowne was cancelled out by a Jack Harrington effort at the other end. However, outhalf Deasy put the hosts just out of Munster's reach with a closing penalty.

Clontarf, meanwhile, put together their most complete performance of the season so far to record a comprehensive 33-0 win over a below-par Dublin University side at Castle Avenue.

Very little went right for Trinity on the day as defending champions 'Tarf made it two victories on the bounce, climbing back into the top half of the table ahead of the Christmas break.

Hooker Bryan Byrne has not played for Leinster since September and he will hope his provincial coaches take note of his performance here. He had two excellent first-half breaks, the second of which led to a 25th-minute try for centre Matt D'Arcy which broke the deadlock.

Seven tries, six of them converted, saw Cork Constitution hit the half-century mark against an overworked UCD side, with Brian Hickey's men enjoying a 50-25 bonus-point victory at Temple Hill.

The Leesiders' sixth straight success has moved them up to second in the Division 1A table, and they were well on their way when leading 29-13 at half-time.

Con put 58 points on the students in their most recent meeting at Belfield last February and they were 10-0 up in as many minutes yesterday. Tomás Quinlan fired over a fifth-minute penalty before prop Liam O'Connor followed up with an unconverted try in the corner.

UCD outhalf Ciarán Frawley kicked two penalties and also converted winger Tom Fletcher's try, but Con pocketed their bonus point by the break, a 17th-minute penalty try for a collapsed scrum being added to by efforts from backs JJ O'Neill and Quinlan.

Winger David Brandon, meanwhile, helped himself to two tries as Old Belvedere ended a three-match losing streak with a 15-0 home win over St Mary's College. Recent Munster recruit Steve Crosbie kicked the other five points as 'Belvo moved six points clear of second-from-bottom St Mary's, ahead of a long winter break in Ulster Bank League Division 1A action.

Winger Steven McMahon had a dream outing at Dooradoyle yesterday as Garryowen swept their way to a convincing 41-12 bonus-point win over bottom side Terenure College.

McMahon, a 21-year-old Munster Academy back, scored a hat-trick of tries with Conor Oliver and Dave McCarthy also touching down in addition to a second-half penalty try.

The Light Blues pocketed their bonus point by half-time, turning around with a 29-12 lead. Tries from flanker Oliver and Terenure centre Marc Hiney had squared things up at 7-7 after 12 minutes.

However, once McMahon notched the first of his tries in the 21st minute, the floodgates were unlocked and captain Neil Cronin's penalty gave the hosts the breathing space to open up the game at every opportunity.

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