Lansdowne 16 Cork Constitution 11
JUST 581 days after the last Energia All-Ireland League Division 1A fixture, league heavyweights Lansdowne and Cork Con locked horns on the Aviva Stadium back pitch on Saturday afternoon.
The home side emerged as five points winners thanks to Cork’s Paul Kiernan’s last-minute try.
Con actually started the game extremely brightly, with their right winger JJ O’Neill latching onto an early knock-on from Kiernan to slice right through the Lansdowne cover from inside his own half, where he evaded a number of would-be tackles, before he released scrum-half, Duncan Williams, for a second-minute try for Con.
Con looked to be the sharpest of the two sides in the early stages, with the clear intention being to keep the ball in hand at all times, but it was Lansdowne who registered the next score, with out-half Peter Hastie slotting a 25m penalty in the 11th minute to get his side on the board.
In the 22nd minute, Con ran a crash ball off their own scrum in front of the posts only for the referee to blow inside centre Greg Higgins for holding on, and Hastie was able to give the home side a 6-5 lead, somewhat against the run of play.
Lansdowne then spurned a simple enough penalty opportunity in the 29th minute and went down the line, looking for a seven-pointer off a driving maul, but the resultant lineout was stolen brilliantly by Con number eight Dave Hyland.
Con worked their way up the pitch, mainly through hard carries from Higgins and one big burst from blindside John Forde, and they worked a 37th-minute penalty, which captain Aidan Moynihan converted to regain the lead.
Lansdowne had one more chance to score in the half but Cormac Foley’s penalty attempt from the halfway line was pulled to the left, as the reigning champions led 6-8 at the halftime break.
Con scored a quick penalty from Moynihan at the start of the second half to extend their lead, and soon after were denied a probable try when a quickly taken penalty by Moynihan just wouldn’t sit up for JJ O’Neill on the right-wing and it bobbled out over the touchline, much to Lansdowne’s relief.
Con looked favourites at this juncture, with them dominating at lineout time, but the home side did have a noticeable advantage in the scrum, which they were to exploit to the fullest. Indeed, it was very noticeable how Con’s running game seemed to completely break down in the second half, with them rarely being on the front foot in the second period.
Dave Hyland was shown a yellow card in the 60th minute for an infringement at an attacking Lansdowne maul, and from the resultant play, the home pack drove the reduced Con pack over the line, with their number eight Mark Boyle touching down. Peter Hastie was unable to convert from the left touchline, which meant it was 11-11 heading into the last half hour.
With a man advantage for ten minutes Lansdowne were keen to drive for home, throwing the ball around, looking for weaknesses in the Con defence, but the Cork side have to be commended for the manner in which they held out during this key period of the match.
They could not hold out for the entirety, however, with Lansdowne scoring a 79th minute try that was very much made in Cork.
Con out-half Aidan Moynihan launched a loose kick from just outside his own 22, but former Dolphin full-back Eamonn Mills ran on to it at pace, launched a quick up and under, which he regathered to breach the Con defence down the left had side.
And then when Cormac Foley moved the ball to the right former UCC man Paul Kiernan was able to slice through the outside centre channel unopposed to score the winning try in the last minute.