While Leinster are top of the pile in the Junior Inter-provincial standings Ulster and to a lesser extent Munster remain in contention for the title after last weekend’s action.
The rain and wind descended on Youghal RFC for the game at the weekend and turned it into a war of attrition as the pictures demonstrated but it was Munster that prevailed in the end, just.
Having played with the elements in the first half, Kanturk man Mark Healy’s penalty never looked like being enough and sure enough, the second half was marked by a succession of early kicks from Ballyclare marksman that had Ulster 9-3 up and in control.
Action from Saturday’s clash in Yoghal. Pic: Janusz Trzesicki Link to full match gallery.
The game turned on mid way through the half with Ulster camped on the home line looking for the score that would have all but sealed the win. A series of five metre scrums didn’t deliver the score and then the unthinkable happened for the visitors, a turnover and a break the lenght of the field by Eoin Duffy.
The converted try gave Munster the lead and the kind of steely resolve that backboned the title winning campaign of 2013 saw the men in red over the line and gave them their first win of the campaign.
Leinster hold the advantage for now with nine points, Ulster have six and Munster have five. The title looks like it will go to one of the two sides in the Dromore game this weekend as Ulster’s superior points difference means a one point win will make them very hard to overhaul, while if Leinster win or drawm, the title is theirs.
For Munster to retain their crown, they’ll need a bonus point win by a marging of at the very least 61 points (that’s if Ulster win by a single point, if Ulster win by more Munster must better it from there).
It’s a long shot and probably beyond the reach of them as Connacht have improved considerably from a defensive standpoint since the round one loss in Ulster.
However, the game next Saturday in Presentation RFC is an inter-provincial that they will be determined to win and make it five wins from six in two seasons. Considering the hugely disrupted build up with Junior Cups still in progress in the province, it would be an impressive return.
For Ulster, the title hopes remain strong and while losing this will sting no matter what happens on Saturday next, they could be about to end a long wait for honours with a single point win and that is a great position to find themselves in nonetheless.
Munster (15-9, 1-8): Eoin Duffy (Waterpark); Warren Kelly (St Senans), Mark Chandler (Cobh Pirates), Mark Healy (Kanturk), Cian Keegan (Skibbereen); Stuart Lee (Old Christians), Aaron Daly (Youghal); Pa Ryan (St. Senans), Mike Cronin (Castleisland), captain; Aidan Foley (Clonakilty); JJ Frahill (Cobh Pirates), Aaron Skerritt (St Senans); Kevin Allen (Cobh Pirates), Johnny O’Sullivan (Kanturk); Ian Fitzgerald (St Senans).
Replacements from: Forwards: Hugh Carolan (Waterpark), Mike Calnan (Skibbereen), Darragh Joyce (Waterpark), James Corbett (Newcastle West), David Fitzgerald (Waterpark), David McCormack (Clanwilliam). Dave O’Donoghue (Waerpark), James O’Neill (Tralee). Backs: Eoin Geary (Cobh), Eoin O’Carroll (Tralee), Eoghan O’Dwyer (Thurles), Darren O’Keefe (Crosshaven).
Ulster (15-9, 1-8): Ashley Finlay (Cooke); Andrew Hodgen (CIYMS), Gary Clotworthy (Ballyclare), Jason Morgan (Bangor), Mike Aspley (Bangor); Niall Lawther (Ballyclare), Scott Nelson (Ballymoney) Captain; Chris Nash (Academy), Phil Whyte (Bangor), James Blair (Academy); Rob Boyd (Ballyclare), Gareth Fitzpatrick (Dromore); Gareth McCoy (Portadown) Jamie Clegg (Bangor), Jamie Johnston (Enniskillen).
REPLACEMENTS from: Scott Finlay (Cooke), Mark Neilly (Portadown), Chris Hamilton (Donaghadee), James Carleton (Portadown), Gary Weatherup (Ballyclare), Ally Lockhart (Donaghadee), Phil Cartmill (Cooke) and Alan Wilkinson (Enniskillen).