Billed the biggest game in their history, Corinthians could not have wished for a better result in their first division 1B home fixture on Saturday.
Having already secured a worthy opening-day victory over Trinity in Dublin last weekend, Corinthians followed up with a merited 30-16 win over Shannon, the most decorated side in the All Ireland League. The division newcomers showed no signs of nerves against their more illustrious opponents, and their confidence, which increased as the game progressed, was the most compelling aspect of their play.
Coach Phil Pretorious, who has moved the club from division two rugby where they spent four seasons after promotion from division three in 2008-2009, must take credit for instilling both pluckiness and assuredness in their display, particularly with the ball in hand. Both sides contributed to a game where the ball was moved around from the outset, but it was Corinthians who were superior on the day.
Shannon, as was expected from a club that has high hopes of making a swift return to division 1A, dominated the opening 10 minutes, but failed to capitalise on an overlap out wide, and within 10 minutes, Corinthians’ strength in the set piece resulted in a penalty which, with the wind, outhalf Sean O’Hagan converted. It gave the home side the perfect fillip and for the next 10 minutes they dominated, frustrating Shannon, who conceded another two penalties which O’Hagan had no problem converting for a 9-0 lead.
Shannon eventually replied through centre Tadhg Bennett after 25 minutes and followed up with their best passage of play, instigated by outhalf Georid Lyons. From an ensuing penalty to touch, Shannon’s pack, led by lock Paddy Kerins, drove forward before tight head Niall Horan found enough space to touch down. Bennett added the extras for a 10-9 lead.
Crucially, however, Corinthians reclaimed the initiative two minutes before half time, and followed suit when capitalising on a penalty to touch. From the resulting lineout claimed by Aaron Conneely, No 8 Eoghan Masterson exploited a hole in the Shannon cover to race through for a try which O’Hagan converted for a 16 - 10 half-time lead.
With the wind at their backs, Shannon attacked from the restart and were rewarded with an early penalty, closing the gap to three points, but disaster struck the Limerick outfit when Darin Classen intercepted out wide and, from 35 metres out, did well to round his tacklers and claim a third try, with O’Hagan once again adding the extras.
Shannon were given a brief lifeline when Bennett struck a 65th minute penalty after Corinthians lost a man to the sin-bin, but in the face of a committed Corinthian defence, the Limerick outfit began to lose their composure on which Corinthians capitalised. When the home side claimed a Shannon line-out, a confident Corinthians turned defence into attack. O’Hagan did well to break through the cover and set up left winger Ivan Venter who finished with a deserved fourth try and bonus point.
Corinthians: D Panter, D Classin, J Buckley, F Gormley (capt ), I Venter, S O’Hagan, M Murphy, F Bealham, J Merrigan, T Tolan, G Warde, D Phelan, J Connolly, A Conneely, E Masterson. Subs, M Byrne, D Buckley, C Raftery, D Keogh, C Murphy.