Clontarf 29 Cork Constitution 13
CORK Con emerged second best from their AIL Energia Division 1A semi-final at a blustery Castle Avenue on Saturday afternoon, as a slick Clontarf outfit firmly put them to the sword mainly thanks to three first-half tries in the space of just ten minutes.
Con began proceedings with the strong breeze at their backs and captain Aidan Moynihan opened the scoring in the fourth minute with a penalty from 25m from under the Clontarf posts after an energetic early Con attack had the home side backpedaling.
Con kept the pressure on, utilising the elements to engineer another powerful attacking platform soon after, with Moynihan again dissecting the posts in the 10th minute to double the away side's lead.
But Clontarf showed why they were the top-ranked side in the regular season when outside-centre Michael Courtney dived over in the right corner in the 14th minute after good work from his half-backs Conor Kelly and Angus Lloyd in the build-up. And just four minutes later they were in again, as a wonderfully floated long pass from captain Matt D’Arcy was collected by left-wing Cian O’Donohoe who duly raced down the left touchline to give the hosts the lead.
Clontarf crossed for their third try in ten expensive minutes in the 24th minute with former Munster inside centre D’Arcy again the instigator, as he released the former Leinster second row Michael Kearney, who in turn fed the speedster O’Donohoe to race away to score his second try in the left corner, to send the home fans wild.
Con were struggling at this juncture but to their credit they hung in there, and a superb John Forde try in the 40th minute gave them badly needed oxygen. Hooker Max Abbott and number eight Luke Cahill combined well out on the left and when Con recycled, their half-backs Duncan Williams and Moynihan combined to send the big blindside flanker trucking it up the centre, with Clontarf unable to halt him, and he was able to dive over. Crucially Moynihan added the extras to leave Con trailing 15-13 at the half time break.
Clontarf were back in the groove at the start of the second half with full-back Tadhg Bird gliding through the smallest of gaps in the Con defensive line after the home centres Courtney and D’Arcy had once again put the ball through the hands.
Clontarf out-half Conor Kelly then struck the upright with a 52nd-minute penalty but luck was on their side when the home side collected the rebound with them working the Con line until prop Ivan Soroka burrowed over from close range.
Con needed a quick score but replacement out-half Jack Crowley got isolated a metre from the Clontarf line on the hour mark and the home defence forced the priceless turnover.
Con dominated territory and possession for the 50- to 70-minute period but the Clontarf defence held firm, although a speculative offload and a crooked lineout from Con did not help their cause, as they remained out of range, three scores behind their hosts.
The last 10 minutes became a formality as Clontarf pinned Con deep within their own 22 and the Temple Hill side just could not get out. To their credit, they withstood everything Clontarf threw at them in those final minutes, but the game had long been won by then, with the home side looking forward to another trip to the AIL final later this month.