Clontarf and Sunday's Well clear at the top
SUNDAY'S WELL and Clontarf will rest easier than most over the Christmas break as they reflect contentedly on their 100 per cent records from their perch at the top of the table.
In a competition where teams often play the percentage game in an attempt to grind out results for precious league points it is reassuring to see two teams who favour an expansive, fast-rucking game taking up pole position going into the New Year.
The achievement of Sunday's Well in coming to Dublin and thrashing previously-unbeaten Monkstown 34-13 was impressive. Well showed tremendous hunger and when centre Conor Burke crossed over for his first try after just four minutes it looked ominous for Monkstown.
After playing with the aid of a strong wind, the visitors led by only 10 points to six coming up to half-time. However, Conor Burke's second try in injury time, after a marvellous run by left wing Brian Roche, undid Monkstown's good work.
In the second half the Cork team's pacey back division, who were now getting a much better ball supply, continued in the same vein, and a third try by Conor Burke after 12 minutes put them on their way to a memorable victory.
In contrast, it was nip and tuck all the way at Castle Avenue, and while Clontarf will be happy with their latest scalp - they beat Highfield 18-12 - they must surely be concerned at the way Highfield's forwards dominated for long periods. Indeed, but for an excellent performance by number eight Dave Moore, Clontarf would have been in real trouble.
A Shane Guerin try and a Nicky Barry penalty gave Clontarf an 8-0 lead but a try by centre Terry Dillon two minutes from half-time had Highfield right back in it. When Barry won the race to his clever chip ahead Clontarf pulled eight points clear again, but back came Highfield with try from scrumhalf Billy Quinlan which John O'Neill converted.
The crucial score came 10 minutes from the end when Mark Woods broke down the right before passing to Matt Smith, who just managed to make it over the line.
Skerries proved to be the surprise packet of the day. A try three minutes into injury time in the first half proved decisive. Bective were cruising at 15-0 thanks to five penalties from outhalf Stuart Wilson when his opposite number Jimmy Dempsey crossed for his first try.
Dempsey struck again 12 minutes into the second half to put the home side on level terms. Centre Derek O'Sullivan broke the deadlock 10 minutes from time when he dived over for the match-winning score, with Skerries winning 25-15.
Dolphin, who are also unbeaten, made it five points out of six with a comfortable enough 32-19 win over pointless Derry at Musgrave Park. Outhalf Conor O'Mahony was the one pulling the strings for the home side and his haul of 27 points included two tries, five penalties and a conversion.
UCC condemned North to their third defeat, by 25 points to 16. NIFC lead 16-10 at half-time, but they tired in the closing stages and a fine try from winger Paul Barry and a second from second row John Fitzgerald gave the visitors the win.
Greystones suffered another setback, going down at home to DLSP, 13-25. Phil Wherahiko put his side in the driving seat with a try after 11 minutes.
Malone got off the mark at last with a home win over Wanderers. The visitors looked to be on their way to a 14-8 win, but the award of a penalty try for a deliberate knock on sparked a fightback, and Malone went on to score 33 points without-reply.