Con’s league run comes to an end
CORK CONSTITUTION slipped to second place in the All-Ireland League Division 1A table on Saturday afternoon, courtesy of an eight-point defeat to defending champions Lansdowne at the Aviva Stadium’s back pitch.
Despite forging a spirited second-half display – which garnered a try bonus for the Leesiders – Con’s winning start to the new campaign was halted by the Harry Byrne-inspired Dubliners. In addition to building on triumphs over Shannon, UCC and Dublin University, Brian Hickey’s men were also aiming to avenge last season’s final reversal against Lansdowne.
However, after he broke the deadlock with a routine penalty, Byrne raced through a gap on the right flank for a ninth-minute try. As expected, the Con pack started to exert its influence on the game as the half progressed. When Aidan Moynihan opted for touch off a resulting attack, a powerful line-out maul was finished over the line by lock Brian Hayes.
This unconverted effort looked set to be a catalyst for the visitors, but Lansdowne asserted their authority. After a short pass from his half-back partner Tim Murphy, Byrne jinked his way over the whitewash for a second try.
He added the bonuses in comfortable fashion, before trading penalties with Moynihan to keep Lansdowne firmly in the driving seat. Their territorial dominance continued in the lead-up to the interval and winger Daniel McEvoy was released for another five-pointer to the left of the posts.
Lansdowne’s 25-8 cushion was subsequently enhanced on the resumption, as Adam Leavy (younger sibling of Ireland flanker Dan) punished Con for a turnover inside the opposition ’22’. His stunning solo try appeared to place the outcome beyond any doubt – only for their Temple Hill counterparts to dramatically reduce their deficit during a pulsating closing-quarter.
Another impressive set-piece on the hour mark ended with number eight Luke Cahill grounding beyond the Lansdowne line, edging them a step closer to the Ballsbridge club. Indeed, after Jack Costigan touched down 13 minutes from time, Con suddenly found themselves within touching distance of a losing bonus point.
A fifth Lansdowne try through Joe O’Brien put paid to their chances but skipper Niall Kenneally crashed over deep into stoppage time to ensure that Con didn’t come away empty-handed.
Scorers for Lansdowne: Harry Byrne 2 tries, 2 cons, 2 pens, Daniel McEvoy, Adam Leavy, Joe O’Brien try each.
Scorers for Cork Constitution: Brian Hayes, Luke Cahill, Jack Costigan, Niall Kenneally try each, Aidan Moynihan 2 cons, pen.
LANSDOWNE: Eamonn Mills; 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, 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.
Referee: Stuart Gaffikin (IRFU).