Monday 20 November 2017

Smyth keeping Mary's focused

Blackrock 9
St Mary's 26
AIL division 1a

Kieran Rooney

ST MARY'S COLLEGE are within range of a semi-final spot following Saturday's derby victory at Stradbrook, but coach Peter Smyth is wary of getting carried away.

The victory moves them up to second in the table with only two rounds remaining, yet Smyth only has to reflect on his side's topsy-turvy campaign to realise how quickly things can change.

St Mary's opened with four victories, and then lost four out of five before regrouping; they are now hoping that the momentum of their improved form will seal a top-three spot.

"We know that it is in our own hands," said Smyth. "It's a matter of winning our remaining games but the fact is that our next game is against Cork Constitution, who are the best team in the country."

Cork Con apart, no one really knows what to expect in Division 1A. Just look at Blackrock College's changing fortunes: a few weeks back, Rock produce a stunning 25-3 success at Shannon. On Saturday, though, they just never got their act together.

While there was the obvious excuse that Blackrock were without some of their top players, who were required by Leinster, they should really have been capable of more. Brian Gibney, one of their joint coaches, admitted as much.

"It's difficult but that's something we have to deal with. The guys who come in might not be as good as the players they have replaced, but they still have to perform," he said.

"We didn't perform. We made a lot of mistakes, had two sin-binnings and gave away a lot of penalties. St Mary's put a lot of pressure on us and we didn't have an answer."

All true, although Blackrock led 9-8 at the interval though three penalties from out-half Darragh Fitzpatrick, with St Mary's replying through a try from right-wing Ronan Doherty and a penalty from Gavin Dunne.

What's more, by that stage the scrums were uncontested following injuries to both Blackrock props, which hardly suited the more powerful St Mary's pack.

Even so, St Mary's eventually won comfortably with tries from the two players who seem to get most of their scores, second-row Robin Copeland and left-wing Darragh Fanning, one of which was converted by Dunne.

Fanning's try, following a pass from Copeland, did not come until the final minute but by then Blackrock were a well-beaten side. The fact that they had flanker Paul Ryan and scrum-half David Moore yellow-carded in either half didn't help, but the truth is that they never looked the part.

While St Mary's can now aim for a play-off spot, all that remains for Blackrock is to stay clear of the relegation zone in their remaining three games. With Clontarf losing again, Rock should at least be capable of that.

Blackrock College -- N Morris; S McDowell (D Madigan 54), K Tonnetti, J Power, S Monahan; D Fitzpatrick, D Moore (A Henry 63); J Barretto (A Dunlop 41), C Culleton, A Lyons (S Cahill 24), D Dillon (Capt), P Huntly, P Ryan (J Mannion 49), M Carroll, Z Farivarz.

St Mary's College -- G Dunne; R Doherty, S Grissing, M Sexton (P Brophy 61), D Fanning; S McCarthy, C McPhillips (C Quinn 78); J McGrath, Richie Sweeney (D Kilbride 78), Rob Sweeney, G. Logan, R Copeland, D Hall, P Nash, H Hogan.

REF --J Lacey.

Irish Independent

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