Con tar­get double after Cup tri­umph

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - RACING -

CORK Con­sti­tu­tion sur­vived a fran­tic fin­ish to edge out hosts Old Belvedere 18-13 at An­gle­sea Road yes­ter­day and win their fifth straight Bate­man Cup. Brian Hickey’s men did all their scor­ing in the first half, with tries from Liam O’Con­nell and man of the match Brian Hayes es­tab­lish­ing an 18-10 in­ter­val lead, and had just enough in re­serve to hold off a de­ter­mined come­back from Belvedere who were rel­e­gated from Divi­sion 1A three weeks ago.

It was the first leg of a po­ten­tial All-Ire­land double for Con­sti­tu­tion, who face cham­pi­ons Clon­tarf in an Ul­ster Bank League de­cider next week.

Cork Con were first to threaten with a Ned Hod­son break and when Belvedere prop De­clan Lav­ery in­fringed at a maul, To­mas Quin­lan’s left boot swept the fifth-minute penalty through the posts.

Quin­lan’s half-back part­ner John Poland was dis­tribut­ing swiftly and ac­cu­rately from ruck to ruck, and Con con­tin­ued to make in­roads in at­tack.

A bril­liant multi-phase move had Belvo back-ped­alling to­wards their posts; nice han­dling cre­ated an open­ing and Quin­lan’s skip pass sent winger O’Con­nell over for a neatly-taken eighth-minute try, which was con­verted with aplomb by Quin­lan.

Paul O’Keefe got Belvedere off the mark with a 22nd-minute penalty from the 22, re­ward­ing Ed Ros­siter and Jack Kelly for a well-ex­e­cuted li­ne­out and some solid car­ry­ing from the likes of Sean Cough­lan, Paul Pritchard and Jonathan Slat­tery. Pritchard’s op­po­site num­ber Mur­phy re­turned the favour, shrug­ging off a tackle and set­ting up a penalty which Quin­lan fired over for 13-3.

The sides swapped tries ap­proach­ing the in­ter­val, the Belvo for­wards de­light­ing the home sup­port with Ros­siter’s 32nd-minute score. Slat­tery made a break from a li­ne­out and with James McWil­liams-Gray mak­ing a big im­pact off the bench as a force­ful car­rier, fel­low front-rower Ros­siter was able to crash over from close range.

O’Keefe’s con­ver­sion made it 13-10 but Con­sti­tu­tion were quick to re­spond. Cap­tain Niall Ken­neally claimed the restart and O’Con­nell’s quick feet and off­load sent Hayes over past Daniel Rior­dan in the right cor­ner.

Quin­lan, who missed the dif­fi­cult con­ver­sion, was then short with an early sec­ond-half penalty from near half­way.

The third quar­ter was a real dog­fight, at the end of which Ken­neally lifted the Leesiders by win­ning a penalty at the break­down and then threat­en­ing in the Belvo 22. How­ever, re­place­ment Liam O’Con­nor’s pass went for­ward as Con looked to take ad­van­tage on the left.

Sud­denly, it was Belvedere who were look­ing dan­ger­ous, Karl Miller lead­ing the charge and tee­ing off a barn­storm­ing set of car­ries as broth­ers Michael Oyuga and Con­nor Owende used their phys­i­cal­ity to punch holes around the fringes. The end prod­uct was a close-in penalty stuck over by O’Keefe’s re­place­ment Wil­lie Staunton, which cut the gap to 18-13 with a quar­ter of an hour re­main­ing.

After a fum­ble from Rior­dan near his own posts, Con’s strong scrum had them on the cusp of a clinch­ing try; how­ever Cahill, who elected to break off the back, Hayes and Conor Kin­dregan were all held up close to the white­wash by the gritty Belvo de­fence. The wind also pushed a Quin­lan penalty ef­fort wide.

Belvedere were bid­ding to be the first Bate­man Cup win­ners from Le­in­ster since Black­rock Col­lege in 1938/39, and had the bit be­tween their teeth dur­ing the clos­ing stages. They had a scrum back in an invit­ing po­si­tion after O’Con­nell had kicked the ball dead, and then Con’s try-scor­ing winger was also pinged for a ruck of­fence in the 77 th minute.

Belvo opted for a scrum, and a cou­ple of phases later, their for­wards were held up un­der the posts as Con’s re­serve hooker O’Con­nor put his body on the line to deny them. The Leesiders were sloppy in the sec­ond pe­riod, but it was their hard graft in de­fence which even­tu­ally saw them pre­vail.

As Belvedere went wide deep in the Con 22, for­mer Mun­ster lock Hayes’ in­ter­ven­tion at a ruck forced the ball to go loose and re­place­ment Ross O’Neill gob­bled it up, a sub­se­quent penalty against Belvo cen­tre Cough­lan al­low­ing a re­lieved Con to see out an­other Bate­man Cup vic­tory.

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