It was only one of a few weekend results that turned the campaign on its head, but a distinct sign that the months ahead should produce a raging battle for supremacy, with the Ballyphehane side lining-up for a place in the queue for glory.
Dolphin utterly deserved their win, their bonus point as well, as they put St Mary’s to the sword for much of this lively contest played in cold and damp conditions.
The home side prospered from dominating the set pieces, particularly the scrum, and they had a lot more structure about their backline play. St Mary’s did challenge occasionally and Robbie Hudson scored a deserved late try; however, the visitors really didn’t deserve to come anything near a losing bonus point.
Dolphin coach Steve Ford looked back on a quality team performance that featured quite a few impressive individual cameos, amongst them from skipper Niall Scannell: “We did a lot of things right, some things disappointed me, particularly giving a try away at the end but I wouldn’t argue about the extent of the victory, the way we gathered momentum and the way we took our chances against a really good side like that.
“We’re also getting our defence sorted and we’re doing good stuff, we’re starting to get into it, we stopped them from getting any momentum and that was crucial because they do have a bit of pace out wide. We put pressure on them and that was significant, they are champions so from that perspective it is a big win for us. We were clinical and that’s what we needed to be.”
The opening try came from the impressive James Cronin in the eighth minute off a magnificent pass from Christy Condon and Barry Keeshan kicked the extra points before adding a penalty. Gavin Dunne responded with two penalties for the visitors but Keeshan pushed the lead back out to seven with his third successful kick before the break.
Dolphin pushed on from that; Danny Barnes was denied a try by the dead ball line chalk before Chris Bannon pushed the lead out to 18-6 with a fine individual try. Dunne gave the visitors some hope with his third successful kick at goal but Dolphin’s dominance in the scrum paid off when referee Stuart Gaffikin awarded a penalty try that Keeshan converted midway through the second half for a 25-9 advantage.
Eamonn Mills, with some considerable help from Bannon, raced away for a 72nd minute try that Keeshan also converted and it mattered little when Robbie Hudson stole a late consolation try.
For Dolphin it’s onwards and upwards, but arch rivals Cork Constitution, revelling in their own win over leaders Lansdowne, stand in their way at Temple Hill this Friday under lights when a huge amount will be at stake for the two Cork clubs. It’s a challenge Ford relishes, given the position he says he would rather be in than not: “We’re all looking forward to that, ourselves and, I’m sure, Con too.”
DOLPHIN: E Mills, J Kiernan, H Fleming, D Barnes, G O Suilleabhain, B Keeshan, C Bannon, J Cronin, N Scannell (captain), C Condon, C Rowe, D O’Mahony, R O’Herlihy, B O’Callaghan, R Murphy.
Rolling replacements: J Cleary, J Leahy, J Vaughan, E O’Shaugnessy, R Scannell.
ST MARY’S COLLEGE: G Dunne, C Lilly, M O’Driscoll, R Hudson, C Hogan, A Burke, M D’Arcy, C McMahon, Richard Sweeney (captain), Robert Sweeney, C Ruddock, G Sexton, K Haupt, D Keller, G Austin.
Rolling replacements: T O’Reilly, D Fawcett, R O’Loughlin, K Sheehan, S Toal-Lennon.
Referee: S Gaffikin (IRFU).