Despite missing two of their most experienced campaigners in Áine Donegan and Ali O’Connor, College werea match for Insta — who were without Róisin Upton but welcomed back Elaine Bromell — in most areas, but were handed a harsh lesson in chance conversion.
The students led through Julie Coyne’s corner bash but Eimear Cregan did likewise to cancel it out before Claire Sullivan’s skilful scooped half-volley — coming after Kym Daly’s surging break down the right — put Insta on the front foot at the break.
Olivia Roycroft dragged one corner wide while Institute netminder Ciara Ronan was equal to Aine Curran’s snapshot from another, before Insta disappeared over the horizon as Aoife Kenny blasted a set-piece into the bottom corner and teenager Eimear Ryan deftly batted a bouncing ball home.
Cregan cracked home a fifth from a corner on the final whistle, leaving Insta with a four-point lead over Cork Harlequins and a game in hand. The sides meet in Limerick next week, where an Institute win could all but sew up the title.
Quins overcame the absence of many of their first-choice defence to keep in touch at the top by overcoming a stubborn Ashton side 2-1. Acacia Taylor put them in front but Ashton levelled it with a short corner move worked back to injector Ciara O’Herlihy, before Karen Bateman volleyed a home a corner rebound to save the hosts’ blushes.
Elsewhere, Ciara McCarthy and Emma Peters struck in the last 10 minutes to help Bandon overcome a stubborn UL side 2-0.
Skipper Peters created the first when she got to the baseline and pulled back for McCarthy to convert, before Hilary Chapple set her free in the circle and she shot across Hilary Griffin’s bows to find the bottom left corner.
The men’s games saw Cork C of I comfortably defeat their own second team 4-1, with in-form Stephen Sweetnam hitting two and Gary Wilkinson and David Harvey sharing the others. They could even afford a missed penalty stroke from Phil Smith, though Simon Wolfe did notch a consolation for the B’s.
Recent Midleton College graduate John Sweetnam bagged a hat-trick for Cork Harlequins in an 8-1 romp against Catholic Institute.
Meanwhile, Ireland were again left to rue the concession of an early goal but upped their performance levels as they lost 2-1 to the Netherlands in Spain.Robbert Kemperman put the Dutch in front in the fourth minute and Roderick Weusthof doubled the lead before half-time, before John Jackson’s wicked reverse-stick strike pulled one back for the Irish.