Corinthians chase home playoff after big scalp

Corinthians 29 Instonians 27

An incredible late penalty from Irish U20 Sean Naughton gave Corinthians a vital win on Saturday afternoon in the Energia League. A win next Saturday against Wanderers will ensure a home playoff spot against the same opposition.

The build-up to this game read like a heavyweight title fight preview: Instonians had been unbeaten for nearly three years leading up to their game with Sligo at the start of March. This was a game they lost in a surprising result.

Corinthians have been the supreme challengers, playing some stunning rugby at times. However narrow defeats to Instonians, Rainey and Skerries had them in second place coming into this battle at Corinthian Park. They knew a win would secure a home semi-final in their push for promotion to Division 2A of the Energia League.

Corinthians started the brighter of the two sides. They opened the scoring after a John Devine tackle led to Sean Naughton collecting and running near the length of the field for the afternoon's first try. Naughton then converted his own try.

Instonians responded with a try from Oli Clarke after a driving maul powered over Corinthians' line. This would be the first of an incredible five tries for the hooker on the day.

It did little to upset the Corinthians momentum however, and the home side extended their lead soon after when John Devine forced his way over for their second try. Evan Kenny provided the pass, following a line-out that saw the scrum half nip through the cover before feeding the centre. There would be one more score before the break and again, it came from an Instonians line-out was driven over the Corinthians line.

Again however, the conversion was missed. Corinthians led by four at half time. Whatever breeze there was, it would favour Corinthians in the second half, and their all-round game was more adaptable to the conditions compared to Instonians.

Try number three came from a Corinthians line-out that found Sean Naughton, who in turn found Devine to run over in the corner from the ten metre line. Again, their opponents responded with Clarke’s third of the day. They used their power to good effect with two further tries, as Corinthians struggled to cope with the rolling maul.

Malachy Joe Gavin hit back with a try of his own after some good build-up play from Corinthians' forwards. Naughton nailed the conversion, and all was now set for a grandstand finish.

Ironically, Instonians' fourth and fifth tries guaranteed them the league title. However Wanderers, who lie third, were also comfortably ahead in their game. Thus, Corinthians needed a win to stay second.

They would get one chance to do this, and it came following an Instonians lineout that was tapped back by Brian Walsh to Max Flynn. As the wing forward went forward, referee Shane Touhy saw a high challenge and awarded Corinthians the penalty just inside the Instonians half.

Sean Naughton stepped up and his kick went over, sparking wild celebrations. There would be further drama at the other end when Instonians were awarded a scrum at the death on the Corinthians line.

Following a reset, Corinthians produced a brilliant set piece to turn the scrum and were awarded the penalty. The referee then blew for full time, giving Corinthians the win, arguably the biggest of the entire season.

Director of Rugby Michael Harding said: “We are absolutely thrilled with the result, especially after conceding seventeen unanswered points in the second half. But to get back and score the next ten points to see out the win was very enjoyable.

“Our defence in the first half was nothing short of incredible at times. It's something to really build on for the next couple of weeks. As we have seen over the past few weeks, we have guys coming back from injuries and we are getting stronger so hopefully we can keep that momentum going.”

With Wanderers beating Rainey 40-17, the table now sees Corinthians in second, just three points ahead coming into next Saturday’s game at Merrion Road.

When the sides met at the beginning of the season, Corinthians won 36-26, but that will count for nothing as Harding pointed out.

"It’s probably a bigger game than last Saturday as there is so much at stake, and it is going to challenge us in a very different way. I know we beat them but that was at the beginning of the season. You cannot compare the two.

“Everyone is really looking forward to it. We have a big week of work ahead of us to get us physically ready for Wanderers, who have as much to play for as we do.”

 

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