AIL Ulster Bank League Division 1A – Saint Mary’s College vs Young Munster match report
Saint Mary’s College were in pole position at the top of the AIL division 1A table going into Saturday’s final round match against Young Munster at Templeville Road. With the sun shining high above Templeogue , and a large crowd in full song, the stage was set for a pulsating game of rugby. Young Munster had the better of the opening minutes but their first foray up the Mary’s 22metre line ended spectacularly with a red card being shown to winger Darragh O’Neill who was adjudged to have committed a dangerous tackle. The home support would be forgiven for expecting this to have taken the sting out of Young Munster’s threat but O’Neill’s sending off seemed to galvanise his team’s resolve. During this early period the Limerick side’s positive attitude in attack forced Mary’s into coughing up penalties. Two converted penalties in quick succession by Willie Staunton, and a yellow card against Mary’s Gavin Dunne for obstructing an opposition player, ensured this tie was not a foregone conclusion.
Despite a penalty breaking up a run of phases near the Mary’s try line, Young Munster continued to press forward for more scores. Munster’s success in two consecutive lineouts provided the foundation for another attack that was only thwarted when Mary’s player Conor Hogan managed to retrieve a loose ball near his own try line and desperately kick it out over the sideline. However with another lineout success in the bag Young Munster simply tucked the ball away and advanced over the try line for Ger Slattery to touch down. Staunton’s easy conversion kick increased the gap between the sides to 13 points and the boys in blue were now in danger of facing an insurmountable challenge. Mary’s next attempt to advance was broken up with several unforced errors and a number of scrums awarded to the visitors in the middle of the pitch. The opening half descended into a litany of errors by both sides yet a late penalty conceded by Young Munster, which resulted in a yellow card being shown to James O’Neill, enabled Gavin Dunne to kick over the home side’s first score of the game. Half Time: Saint Mary’s College 3 Young Munster 13.
Mary’s attempts to get a rhythm going in their forward play would continue to be undone by inaccuracy and unforced errors. In fact a further penalty conceded in front of their own posts allowed Staunton to tack on another 3 points. Some kind of inspiration was required at this stage if the Templeville Road side wanted to claim the AIL title and it was duly provided by two substitutes, Mark Sexton and Ciaran Ruddock. Ruddock’s tenacity in claiming a ball that was bouncing away from him helped Mary’s claim vital possession near the Young Munster 22metre line with the resulting play leading to a Mark Sexton try. Dunne’s conversion reduced the arrears to 6 points. The mercurial nature of the home side’s display reared its head upon the restart when Mary’s gave away possession followed by a penalty right in front of their own posts. Staunton made no mistake with his kick and Young Munster again edged further ahead of Mary’s.
At 10-19 Saint Mary’s character was being clearly tested with the Ulster Bank League title at stake. Playing against 14 men, and trailing by 9 points, Mary’s could ill afford to concede any more scores. As it happened Young Munster would not score again in what would be a thrilling conclusion to the match. Mary’s tightened things up defensively and began to cut down on handling errors and missed passes. A Dunne penalty kick, combined with Hooker Richard Sweeney playing an active part in earning his side another penalty following an attacking scrum, saw Mary’s claw back the arrears to just 3 points. Mary’s were finally coming to life but with the clock running down, and the lively Mark Doyle breaking the opposition line from a good Young Munster turnover , one wondered would another opportunity arise for the home side. Entering the final minutes, and with hopes fading, Young Munster’s huge clearance kick stayed in play giving Mary’s another bite at the cherry. Darren Hudson’s decision to aim a long sweeping pass across the back line, instead of taking the ball into the tackle, created the overlap that helped Mary’s carry the ball up to the Young Munster try line. Following a period of pressure at the line substitute Sexton landed down for his second try of the day which gave his side advantage for the first time in the match and got the blue crowd in full voice. Dunne’s conversion rounded off proceedings and wrapped up the Ulster Bank League for Saint Mary’s.
Full Time: Saint Mary’s College 23 Young Munster 19