LANSDOWNE 35 CORK CONSTITUTION 27, Aviva Stadium back pitch
Scorers: Lansdowne: Tries: Harry Byrne 2, Daniel McEvoy, Joe O’Brien, Adam Leavy; Cons: Harry Byrne 2; Pens: Harry Byrne 2
Cork Constitution: Tries: Brian Hayes, Luke Cahill, Niall Kenneally, Jack Costigan; Cons: Aidan Moynihan 2; Pen: Aidan Moynihan
HT: Lansdowne 25 Cork Constitution 8
Harry Byrne enjoyed a dream Lansdowne debut on the Aviva Stadium’s back pitch as his 20-point haul helped the defending Division 1A champions claim a 35-27 bonus point victory over Cork Constitution, who sat at the top of the table after three rounds.
Ross Byrne’s younger brother stepped in at out-half for the absent Scott Deasy, bagging two first half tries and kicking two conversions and two penalties in this repeat of last May’s final. Cork Con had opened the new season with three straight wins but that run was ended today despite a spirited second half rally.
Byrne seized an early lead with a seventh-minute penalty for Lansdowne, who had opened their win account at UCD last weekend. The Ireland Under-20 international then sped through a gap for a terrific unconverted try, but Cork Con churned out a powerful lineout maul from which lock Brian Hayes touched down in the 16th minute.
As the pace and intensity increased, Lansdowne pushed into a 15-5 lead after Tim Murphy picked out his half-back partner with an incisive pass and Byrne jinked over the whitewash and converted himself. Byrne and his opposite number Aidan Moynihan swapped penalties before Byrne was able to release winger Daniel McEvoy for a try to the left of the posts and a 25-8 half-time lead.
A late attacking spell from Con before the break went unrewarded and they leaked a fourth try just four minutes into the second period. A costly turnover led to Lansdowne winger Adam Leavy racing clear from deep to brilliantly secure the hosts’ bonus point, with the conversion missed.
Mike Ruddock’s men were cruising at this point, but a pulsating final quarter saw Cork Con draw themselves back into contention. Number 8 Luke Cahill finished off their second try from a prolonged attack, with Moynihan supplying the conversion, and following a series of drives, Jason Higgins put winger Jack Costigan over in the corner.
The margin was down to 10 points – 30-20 – at that stage, but Lansdowne reestablished territory inside the Con half, building through the phases before the pressure told and flanker Joe O’Brienscored the clinching try. There was still enough time for Con captain Niall Kenneally to crash over for a final try in injury-time, ensuring the Leesiders took home a try-scoring bonus point.
LANSDOWNE: Eamonn Mills (capt); Daniel McEvoy, Harry Brennan, Mark O’Keeffe, Adam Leavy; Harry Byrne, Tim Murphy; Denis Coulson, Tyrone Moran, Ian Prendiville, Oisin Dowling, Jack Dwan, David O’Connor, Aaron Conneely, Willie Earle.
Replacements: James Rael, Greg McGrath, Joe O’Brien, Gareth Molloy, Tom Roche.
CORK CONSTITUTION: Liam O’Connell; Jack Costigan, Alex McHenry, Niall Kenneally (capt), Rob Jermyn; Aidan Moynihan, Jason Higgins; Gavin Duffy, Vincent O’Brien, Brian Scott, Brian Hayes, Conor Kindregan, Joe McSwiney, Ross O’Neill, Luke Cahill.
Replacements: Patrick Casey, Dylan Murphy, Cathal O’Flaherty, Richard Cassidy, Billy Crowley.