Home advantage for Corinthians in 2B play-off

Corinthians 27 Wanderers 26

Corinthians will face Wanderers at home in their AIL Division 2B play-off.

Corinthians will face Wanderers at home in their AIL Division 2B play-off.

Just a single point separated Corinthians and Wanderers in a tense thriller played at Merrion Road in Dublin on Saturday afternoon.

Crucially, that single point fell in favour of the Galway side. This means they will have home advantage when the teams meet for a third time this season on Saturday week, with a place in the division 2B league playoff final at stake.

On the other side of the draw, UL Bohemians, who finished second from bottom in Division 2A will fight for their divisional status against Sligo - who finished fourth in Division 2B.

In a season of big wins, it could be argued that this was the biggest. Going into Saturday’s game, both teams knew what was needed. A home playoff is a major advantage, and both teams gave it everything. The individual performance of Sean Naughton was most impressive, as he scored five from five off the tee in difficult conditions.

Corinthians scored first. A line-out was collected and fed to Max Flynn who was stopped short of the line. Malachy Joe Gavin then collected the recycled ball and he drove over for the try that was converted by Sean Naughton.

Wanderers were quick to respond following a line-out that saw them go close. A long ball out wide found Eoin O’Shaughnessy who touched down.

With the conversion missed from a difficult angle, the visitors had a two point advantage with just nine minutes gone in the first half. That advantage lasted ten minutes, when O’Shaughnessy scored his second following a scrum that was again spread wide. The conversion was successful from David Fitzgibbon.

A Fitzgibbon penalty extended Wanderers’ lead. Two more either side of half time left Corinthians with a challenge.

It was a challenge that was accepted with power and grace, as Corinthians scored two unanswered tries in the space of eight minutes. First from Sean Fox, who skipped inside two challenges in a move that started behind half-way, and was spread in both directions before going under the posts. The second came from Michéal O’Reilly following a lineout that again was driven up the middle of the field, before Tom Waters was stopped metres from the line. Even Kenny’s quick hands found the winger for a brilliant score.

Naughton converted both with the second, a kick of pure genius from a difficult angle. A penalty again gave Corinthians the lead, only for Wanderers to get over with a drive from prop Sean Goodburn. Incredibly, the conversion was kicked wide of the posts giving Corinthians one last chance to win the game.

However, it was not their attack play that won the game but their defence. With time almost up - Wanderers pushed on - only to be denied by incredible tackling. With play on the half way line, a Wanderers player was penalised for not releasing and Corinthians were awarded a penalty. Naughton stepped up once again and his kick would clinch the win for Corinthians.

Director of Rugby Michael Harding was understandably pleased with the win but also pointed that they need to improve ahead of the semi-final. “We are delighted with the way the regular season has ended. To take fourteen points from our final games against Malahide, Instonians and Wanderers is incredible, but we are not fools. We all know we must lift our performance for the play-off. If we play like we did in the first half we will be in trouble.

“When it clicked for us, we played well and a couple of things we wanted to improve on, we did. We all want to improve week on week and there are a few areas that need to be worked on and we will do that over the next two weeks.

“Wanderers delivered like we thought they would with a physical and tough performance. There were times we found it hard so we know we will need a big eighty minutes to get over them and get to the final.”

There are no major injury concerns following the Wanderers game and Corinthians will be looking for a massive home support in what is the biggest game of the year.

A win Saturday week will see the team just 80 minutes away from promotion, something that the club has strived to do for some time since their relegation at the end of the 2017/18 season.

 

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