UL Bohemians will have to wait another year for their first ever Division One final appearance after Cronan Healy’s 78th-minute try guided Cork Constitution to a 21-18 win at Temple Hill, moving them into next weekend’s decider.
AIB LEAGUE: DIVISION ONE SEMI-FINAL: Saturday, April 28
CORK CONSTITUTION 21 UL BOHEMIANS 18, Temple Hill
Scorers: Cork Constitution: Tries: John Maloney, Cronan Healy; Con: Richie Lane; Pens: Richie Lane 3
UL Bohemians: Tries: Martin McPhail, Tommy O’Donnell; Con: Ben Martin; Pen: Ben Martin; Drop: Fergal Lawlor
Winger Healy was the match-winner – setting up a Musgrave Park final against Garryowen in seven days’ time – as he intercepted a poorly-judged pass from Bohs full-back Ed Torrie to score and keep Con on course for their first league title since 1999.
Bohs led 11-6 at the break as they answered two Richie Lane penalties with a try from Martin McPhail, Fergal Lawlor’s drop goal and a Ben Martin penalty. They moved 18-14 ahead thanks to flanker Tommy O’Donnell’s 64th-minute try but winger Healy had the last laugh.
Con made it nine Division One wins on the trot but they had to overcome a stern examination of their title credentials from Bohs who were competing in their first ever play-off match in the top flight. Mindful of what difference their first half wind advantage could make, Bohs began in business-like fashion with Torrie making an eye-catching run and Lawlor flicking a drop goal attempt just to the right of the posts.
Yet Con were first off the mark with winger Lane, Division One’s second top scorer with 147 points before kick-off, firing over a brace of penalties after 8 and 13 minutes. In what was an end-to-end first half, Mike Tewkesbury’s Bohs side had their fair share of possession and their expansive play was rewarded on the quarter-hour mark when Sevens international McPhail sliced through for a well-taken try – his 11th touchdown of the league campaign.
Australian centre Ben Martin, who looked comfortable again in the play-making role, looped a pass out to the right flank where McPhail shrugged off a poor tackle from Healy to race over. Martin, who sent a couple of touch finders over the dead ball line in the first period, missed the conversion but despite a subsequent barren spell, which was only sparked by a 22nd-minute gallop forward by O’Donnell, Bohs made up for it late in the half when out-half Lawlor dinked over a lovely drop goal and Martin added a penalty from the right for an 11-6 half-time advantage.
Con made a quick start to the second half, with Lane clipping over a penalty, at the second attempt, and the Leesiders regained the lead on 60 minutes when John Maloney, on as a blood sub for lock Shane O’Connor, made an immediate impact. He took a pass from Lane to dot down, after an initial break from impressive full-back Denis Hurley.
Ireland Under-20 flanker O’Donnell hit back almost immediately as Bohs piled on the pressure, worked their way back up into the Con 22 and in a move involving Martin and Chris Delooze, the powerful O’Donnell beat the challenges of Tom Ryan and O’Connor to score to the left of the posts.
Martin’s conversion sent UL into an 18-14 lead but despite some dogged defending, they eventually gave way with Healy superbly taking his chance, brushing past a last-ditch tackle to dive over and Lane adding some much-needed cushion with the conversion.
CORK CONSTITUTION: D Hurley; R Lane, T Gleeson, D O’Kane, C Healy; D Lyons, P McKee; C Murphy, D Murray, Tim Ryan, R Noonan, S O’Connor, M O’Connell, B Cutriss, F Cogan (capt).
Replacements used: E Leamy for Cogan (2-7 mins, blood sub), Tom Ryan for Murphy (45), Leamy for Cutriss (56), J Maloney for O’Connor (58-61, blood sub), R Quinn for Murray, C Quaid for O’Kane (both 78).
UL BOHEMIANS: E Torrie; M McPhail, B Martin, C Finn (capt), T Luke; F Lawlor, C Delooze; G Walsh, G Ryan, M Storey, B Madigan, R Hartigan, T O’Donnell, J O’Connor, J O’Neill.
Replacements used: F Leonard for Ryan (56 mins), R Feeney for Storey, A Hartigan for O’Neill (both 71), I Hanly for Luke (78), D Moloney for O’Donnell (80+2).
Referee: George Clancy (Munster)