Cork Constitution 32 Trinity College 27
WHERE to start? The seven tries scored before an extraordinary closing 20-odd minutes and the three yellow cards collected by Cork Constitution in that hectic closing spell?
Either way, few games provided the drama, excitement or quality of tries at Temple Hill on Saturday, when Con and Trinity carried on from the previous week’s 10-try, 35-35 thriller in Dublin, the home side just prevailing on this occasion.
After 66 minutes, Con led 27-20, but were under the cosh deep in their own 22, when flanker Jack Kelleher became the first player to be sent to the sin-bin, 15 against 14.
Two minutes later, he was joined by scrum-half Louis Kahn, 15 v 13, and Trinity made their numerical advantage count with a fourth bonus point try wide left by full-back Colm Hogan with out-half Aran Egan expertly converting from the touchline.
It tied matters for only the second time though the odds clearly favoured the Students despite the carnage inflicted on their scrum by Con loose-head prop Liam O’Connor.
Con, however, believed otherwise and the decision by captain Aidan Moynihan from the re-start to plant a penalty in the corner instead of trying his luck into a difficult wind proved a wise call.
Even though they were a man down in the pack, the Con seven still managed to maul their way to the line, where hooker Billy Scannell touched down for the winning try.
Con had engineered a head of steam and despite losing Scannell to a third yellow, two minutes into nine added on for stoppages, were on top, playing the game in Trinity’s half, when a breathless encounter finally ended.
At the outset, the teams just continued from where they had left off a week earlier, Con sweeping in front with a try after six minutes from right wing Daniel Hurley following important supporting roles by Max Abbott, James Murphy and Niall Kenneally.
Without four minutes, however, Trinity levelled at 5-5, captilasing on a Con handling error in midfield with prop Bart Vermuelen quickest to react and in a flash right wing James Dillon dotted down in the corner.
Con responded with two more tries of their own. A line-out take by Sean Duffy resulted in his second-row partner Cathal O’Flaherty scoring after 15 minutes, Moynihan converting, as he did for his own try, 10 minutes later.
In between, though, both defences live charmed lives. A clever Kelleher kick into space and lung-bursting chase by Hurley forced Trinity to scramble under their own crossbar until a penalty relieved the danger.
In an instant, Con were frantically defending in their own left corner following Dillon’s kick and equally impressive turn of speed though Kahn’s composure under pressure lifted the siege before Moynihan swept through to make it 19-5.
In keeping with the trend, however, Trinity replied with a couple of quick-fire tries themselves, the visitors benefitting from a scrum on halfway following a forward pass which had sent Murphy in the clear.
Hogan timed his run perfectly to send left wing Ronan Quinn scampering down the touchline and scoring for 19-10 after 31 minutes.
This soon became 19-17 after a terrific break by Egan, who had players either side before opting for centre Gavin Jones to claim try number three, converted by Egan.
George Coomber crossed for the bonus point try, Moynihan adding a penalty for 27-17 at the interval. Egan replied in kind after 53 minutes before that mad-cap climax.
Tries: D Hurley, C O’Flaherty, G Coomber, A Moynihan, B Scannell. Cons: A Moynihan (2). Pen: A Moynihan.
Tries: R Quinn, G Jones, J Dillon, C Hogan. Cons: A Egan (2). Pen: A Egan.
G Coomber; D Hurley, H O’Riordan, N Kenneally, B Crowley; A Moynihan, captain, L Kahn; L O’Connor, M Abbott, L Masters; S Duffy, C O’Flaherty; J Kelleher, D Hyland, J Murphy.
B Scannell, J Blair, M Lamarque, M Stafford, I Leonard, G Higgins.
C Hogan; J Dillon, L McDonough, G Jones, R Quinn; A Egan, L O’Reilly; B Vermeulen, Z Baird, T Connolly; J Kearney, S Woods; A Ryan, R Byron, S McCrohan.
J Manzo, J Cahir, A Coleman, D Walsh, C King, M O’Reilly.
S Gaffikin (IRFU).