Stunning Corinthians book play-off final spot

Corinthians Bryan Walsh rises high to collect in Corinthians Energia League Play Off Semi-Final win over Wanderers.

Corinthians Bryan Walsh rises high to collect in Corinthians Energia League Play Off Semi-Final win over Wanderers.

A breathtaking twenty minute period saw Corinthians turn defeat into victory in a thrilling play-off semi-final in Corinthian Park last Saturday.

Victory means that the Galway side will now take on UL Bohemians in Annacotty next Saturday at 2.30pm. One final win for Corinthians will guarantee a place in Division 2A next season. Conversely, a loss will ensure another season spent in Division 2B.

Their prospective opposition this weekend narrowly avoided upset against Sligo in the other play-off semi-final. Bohemians scraped by their Connacht opposition by the narrowest margin, on a score-line of 13 - 12.

Bohemians widened the margin by one score last year when they defeated the same opposition 16 - 14. They saw off Dungannon in the final to retain their 2A status two weeks later.

In the regular season, the University of Limerick side managed six wins, one draw and 11 losses, narrowly avoiding the relegation play-off place by one point.

Undoubtedly, Corinthians’ hosts on Saturday have a depth of experience at this juncture in the season. However, this Corinthians team is a young outfit flying high at the moment, bolstered by multiple impressive wins this season - none more so than in their last game against Wanderers.

Match report

Following previous heartbreak at this stage - including defeat in the semi-finals in recent years to Dungannon and Greystones - there was a nervous energy going through Corinthian Park. A large crowd gathered for one of the most anticipated games of the entire season.

What followed was eighty minutes of high-octane rugby, with both teams producing moments of quality in excellent conditions.

It was clear from the start that Wanderers meant business and they raced into a 0 - 14 lead through tries from Pete McDermott and Stephen Dunne. The first coming from a scrum that was not dealt with, as the ball shot out the back with McDermott fastest to react. The second coming from a line out and driving maul that Dunne finished well.

Trailing by fourteen, Corinthians needed to respond, and it happened emphatically. Following pressure on the Wanderers line, the recycled ball found Devine whose attempted kick through was only half blocked. The pass from Evan Kenny found Sean Fox who outsprinted the backs to score.

With Sean Naughton converting, Corinthians were back in the game and the gap would remain seven at the break.

Corinthians upped their game with a wonderful display of running rugby in the second half, scoring three converted tries in the space of eleven minutes. Finn McNulty was first; an up and under collected on the Wanderers ten metre line was worked back to Kenny who drove forward. The scrum half shipped three challenges before going to ground.

Rory Glynn then collected and made his way to the Wanderers line, with Malachy Joe Gavin also picking and driving. Orin Burke passed to McNulty who skipped over one challenger to score.

The second in this incredible period of play came from Sean Naughton. The score originated from a Corinthians scrum, after which the out-half had much work to do. He touched the ball down and converted from a difficult angle.

Two from two at this stage and Corinthians sensed there were more.

Wanderers had possession in their own half and tried to run the ball out. Following three phases, a pass from midfield seemed to miss four players - with Michéal O’Reilly quickest to react. The winger sprinted clear to dot down under the posts.

The game was not over however, and Wanderers hit back with their third try of the afternoon.

The gap was now down to seven, but Corinthians showed their mettle under pressure, striking back immediately. From the kick off the ball went loose with Kenny quickest to it. With the forwards in support the ball was spread wide and Burke and O’Reilly secured possession before it was fed inside to Fiachna Barrett who, in turn, fed to John Devine.

Devine got the pass off to Naughton who left Wanderers in his wake to score his second and Corinthians fifth, securing the win and their place in the Division 2A/2B league play-off final.

Corinthians’ Director of Rugby Michael Harding commended the opposition: “Wanderers are an outstanding team. Last week there was only a point between us. We knew if we kept them out of our 22’, we had a chance. Their first visit to our 22’ was a mistake from us and the try came off the knock on in the scrum and it was a mess.

“But we never dropped our heads. Last year we would have dropped our heads and at 14-0 we would have been in trouble. But this year we are totally different. We knew the boys would come back into it and at half time at 14-7 we never panicked.

“We said at half time that the next ten minutes would make a difference. If they got another score they would be on top, but we put our best foot forward. To score twenty one points in ten minutes, well, that’s the game really.”

“We are still a young team, we have a lot of U20’s out there but the team has matured throughout the season. If we can bring that defensive mentality to UL Bohs then we will see what happens.”

An incredible statistic from the game showed that Corinthians missed just five tackles in the entire eighty minutes, with an outstanding one hundred and fifteen made.

The work rate of the team never slacked, and while the plaudits will go to the try scorers, it must be noted that this was a true team performance.

The opportunity to win promotion to Division 2A makes next Saturday’s game one of the most important in the club’s recent history.


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