Clontarf play it tight to book place in decider

Three penalties from Matt D’Arcy proved decisive at Lakelands Park on Saturday afternoon, when champions Clontarf booked their place in the Ulster Bank League Division 1A decider at the expense of Terenure College.

The Shannon team of 2005/06 were the last side to successfully defend their AIL title, but with a May 9 showdown against Lansdowne on the horizon, Clontarf will have an opportunity to secure back-to-back league triumphs for the first time in their history. Andy Wood’s charges had suffered a setback in the build-up to this contest, as regular place-kicker David Joyce was ruled out with a shoulder injury. Evan Ryan was the preferred choice alongside captain Sam Cronin at half-back, but it was left to inside centre Matt D’Arcy to assume kicking duties.

He was marginally off-target just two minutes into the game and missed again eight minutes later with a 35m effort.

With the playing surface affected by adverse weather, there was little room for an expansive style of rugby from either outfit. Terenure out-half James Thornton was short from an 18th-minute penalty, and even though Ryan did his best to develop an overlap for the north Dubliners in the closing stages of the half, the sides were still scoreless at the interval.

Terenure had recorded a gutsy 14-9 victory against Clontarf at the same venue last November, but although Thornton was agonisingly close from his second kick at goal, D’Arcy’s expertly struck penalty in the 51st minute finally provided some work for the scoreboard operator. However, he couldn’t convert a similar effort six minutes later, and after Terenure lock Fergal Walsh was held up just shy of the line on the hour mark, the sin-binning of Clontarf replacement Dermot O’Meara offered their opponents a temporary numerical supremacy.

Yet Thornton’s three-point attempt with 15 minutes remaining again drifted away from the posts, and the visitors punished them by extending their lead to 6-0. A routine D’Arcy penalty threw down the gauntlet to last season’s Division 1B winners, and after strong defensive work was required to keep out raiding Terenure scrum-half Kevin O’Neill, D’Arcy had the final say with a close-range three-pointer deep into stoppage-time.

Scorers for Clontarf:

M D’Arcy 3 pens.

TERENURE COLLEGE:

I Hanley; J O’Donoghue, S O’Neill, H Brewer, H Moore; J Thornton, K O’Neill; G Hamilton, R Smyth, O Heffernan; F Walsh, K O’Dwyer; R Duke, J O’Neill, K McCoy.

Replacements:

K Buckley for Smyth, J Barretto for Hamilton (both 61), M O’Neill for O’Donoghue (78).

CLONTARF:

M McFarland; M Brown, C O’Shea, M D’Arcy, C O’Brien; E Ryan, S Cronin; I Soroka, B Byrne, R Burke-Flynn; T Byrne, B Reilly; K Moran, A D’Arcy, T Ryan.

Replacements:

A Robles for Brown (40+2), C O’Keeffe for Byrne (56), D O’Meara for Cronin (59), Cronin for Moran (65), I Hirst for Soroka (67), Moran for O’Meara (73).

Replacements:

S Gaffikin (IRFU).

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