DUBLIN UNIVERSITY 39
Despite missing a number of regular starters, Dublin University rounded off an unforgettable regular season for the students with a 39-22 bonus point triumph over mid-table Garryowen at College Park.
Already assured of a historic Division 1A semi-final place, Tony Smeeth’s Trinity side warmed up for their last-four trip to Cork Constitution on Sunday, 28 April with their 11th league win which saw them score 20 second half points without reply.
Garryowen had been neck-and-neck with the students for a number of weeks, before a frustrating run of form ruled them out of the play-off race. With injured captain Colm Hogan watching on and four first-choice players away with Leinster ‘A’ in Boston, the hosts fell behind when full-back Jamie Heuston landed an early penalty for the Light Blues.
However, the return of Leinster’s Michael Silvester at full-back was a big boost for Trinity and he released lively winger Ronan Quinn for a try on the left which James Fennelly converted. Heuston was a key creative figure for Garryowen, and despite losing ex-Dublin University prop Andy Keating to an 11th-minute sin-binning, a Heuston pass played in winger Cian O’Shea for a five-pointer.
Before Keating’s return, Smeeth’s youngsters regained the lead when hooker Joe Horan touched down at the end of a rolling maul. Garryowen fell 19-8 behind after a high ball in behind the defence bounced favourably for Trinity centre Philip Murphy to score and Fennelly landed his second successful place-kick. Again though, they were unable to break completely clear of the visitors.
Indeed, two well-taken tries pushed Conan Doyle’s charges into a 22-19 half-time lead, openside Darren Ryan powering over from a lineout drive which was initially pushed back. Heuston converted and also added the extras to tighthead Keating’s try from an intricate lineout move on the opposite right wing. The students were on the back foot for much of the third quarter.
Garryowen patiently worked through the phases but Trinity’s disciplined defence turned them over near the hour mark. Once on the front foot, they played with great width and Quinn completed another sweeping attack for his second try in the 64th minute. With their tails up, the semi-finalists ruthlessly exploited the gaps inside the Garryowen 22.
The all-action Max Kearney, a two-time Leinster Schools Senior Cup winner with Belvedere College, has been in sparkling form in recent weeks. With 13 minutes remaining, he jinked past a series of Garryowen challenges to dot down under the posts. Centre James Hickey registered try number six in the dying moments with Fennelly finishing with a nine-point kicking haul.
Dublin University scorers: Tries: Philip Murphy, Joe Horan, Ronan Quinn (2), Max Kearney, James Hickey; Cons: James Fennelly (3); Pen: James Fennelly.
Garryowen scorers: Tries: Darren Ryan, Cian O’Shea, Andy Keating; Cons: Jamie Heuston (2); Pen: Jamie Heuston.
DUBLIN UNIVERSITY: Michael Silvester; Cian Crotty, James Hickey, Philip Murphy, Ronan Quinn; James Fennelly, Rowan Osborne; Aziz Naser, Joe Horan, Dylan Doyle, Reuben Pim, Cian O’Dwyer, Johnny McKeown, Max Kearney, Niall O’Riordan.
Replacements: Caolan O’Flynn, Bart Vermeulen, Arthur Greene, Paddy Hamilton, Conor Lowndes.
GARRYOWEN: Jamie Heuston; Tommy O’Hora, Andrew O’Byrne, Ben Swindlehurst, Cian O’Shea; Jamie Gavin, Rob Guerin; Jack Mullany, Liam Cronin, Andy Keating, Kevin Seymour, Dean Moore (capt), Tim Ferguson, Darren Ryan, Sean Rennison.
Replacements: David Canny, Scott Leahy, Shane Brosnan, Harry Byrne, Aaron Cosgrave.