Potts 'relieved' as late rally from Blackrock falls short
St Mary's 21
AIL Division 1a
AFTER opening their campaign with two defeats, St Mary's College are now right there among the leading contenders for the title.
Saturday's success over Blackrock at Stradbrook was their fourth victory on the trot and leaves them in third spot in the table, just two points adrift of second-placed Cork Constitution.
But the win was only achieved following a nail-biting climax. The previous weekend, the Templeville Road outfit had seen a 20-9 lead disappear as UCD hit back to grab a 24-23 Leinster Cup final victory in the dying minutes.
It could so easily have been a case of deja vu at Stradbrook. As the game went into the final quarter, St Mary's held a commanding 21-3 advantage and seemed on their way to a comfortable victory.
But a revitalised Blackrock staged a recovery which brought tries from No 8 Nick Noone and second-row Des Dillon, one of which was converted by out-half Rob Keogh. Suddenly Blackrock were right back in it, trailing by just 21-15.
With four minutes remaining, they had the chance either to take a scrum close to the line or opt for the line-out in the corner. They did neither, instead opting for Keogh to kick a penalty which reduced the deficit to 21-18. Unfortunately, Blackrock weren't to get a further opportunity.
St Mary's coach Ciaran Potts admitted to being quite anxious. He said: "Given the circumstances of our defeat to UCD, I was very worried.
"As for their decision to opt for the penalty instead of going for the try, yes I was a bit relieved. They had a five-metre scrum, so it was a perfect attacking opportunity, but I'm sure they had their reasons."
The truth is that St Mary's would have been absolutely kicking themselves had they let the match slip. They had got off to the perfect start with two tries in the opening 12 minutes for a 12-3 advantage.
Blackrock -- it has to be said -- didn't help their cause. The first try, initiated by full-back Paul Gillespie, and scored by right-wing Ronan Doherty, came in the opening minute.
If Blackrock's defence wasn't exactly great for that score, it was all over the place as centre Stephen Grissing was allowed to secure St Mary's second try after a kick ahead by Mark Sexton.
Gavin Dunne, featuring at out-half instead of his normal full-back spot, landed one conversion and added a penalty to give St Mary's their 15-3 interval advantage. All Blackrock could manage in reply was a penalty from Keogh.
Three further penalties from Dunne then seemed to put St Mary's in complete control at 21-3, before a Blackrock side, badly missing the services of some of their contracted players, eventually came good.
While their efforts did earn them a losing bonus point, they were not, unfortunately, quite enough for them to edge past their increasingly nervous rivals.
Blackrock College -- N Morris; D Rowen, L Ellison, S McDowell, M Rantz-McDonald; R Keogh, S Treacy (C Crowley 55); D Lewis (A Lyons 71), C Culleton, B Prescott, D Dillon (capt), M Carroll, P Graham (A Dunlop 45), B Kelly, M Noone.
St Mary's College -- P Gillespie; R Doherty, S Grissing, M Sexton (P Brophy 24), D Hudson; G Dunne, D Campbell (M D'Arcy 63); C McMahon, D Kilbride, K Carroll (R Sweeney 40), C Ruddock, G Logan, D Hall, P Nash (capt), H Hogan.
Ref -- L Colgan.