Young Munster and Clontarf clashed on Saturday like a pair of Ibex stags butting heads. For a neutral it wasn’t pretty but for the two sets of extremely noisy but good humoured supporters it was an enthralling battle.

The clash saw two sides cancel each other out for three quarters of the game as the crowd bayed and roared at every refereeing decision. Dudley Phillips had a good game with the whistle and will be eternally grateful for all the multi accented help he received from the sideline.

The weather also added to the occasion with regular bursts of rain and sleet fed down the diagonal of the pitch by a biting wind.

So…a soft day in Limerick.

Clontarf were more than aware of the reception they would receive from a Young Munster side that struggled in Castle Avenue in the earlier fixture and came out on the end of a large score conceded for their trouble. On Saturday they were full of intent and it showed.

Clontarf , however, were not for wilting which meant that mistakes, injuries, and fatigue were going to be the key factors. Young Munster were unlucky to lose their key ball carrying centre early on when he wrenched his knee badly in a tackle by Conor Keegan and was helped from the field. Ultimately the game went to the side with greater resilience and power. Clontarf just wore Young Munster down up front by dominating the line-out and taking three scrums against the head.

As the game moved into the final quarter the pressure began to tell on the home side. On 63 minutes, leading 9 – 6 and faced with a strong wind into his kickers face, Ben Reilly directed a penalty into touch on the five and after the Clontarf pack had shunted the defenders backwards, scrum half Sam Cronin broke blind and had the strength to force his way over in the corner. Young Munster replied with an immediate penalty for 9 – 14 but it was a false dawn and 8 minutes later Clontarf were back on the same spot where this time the line-out drive was extravagantly fouled by a Young Munster player who did a passable imitation of a wild west show rodeo rider trying to mount the back of the Clontarf maul. He went to the bin after the referee went to the posts for 9 – 21 to ‘Tarf and the game. Out half David Joyce added one after a ball squirted out of a ruck into open space for a gather and sprint to the corner.

Once again we have to acknowledge the conditioning team and work the players have put in this season. Victories like this are earned by endurance as much as skill. At the start of the game it was difficult to separate the sides; by the end there was only one team fully functioning.