Despite a spirited comeback effort from Clontarf, Cork Constitution stood firm to take a hard-fought 20-18 victory at Castle Avenue and move back to the top of AIB League Division 1A on Saturday.
AIB LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, February 20
CLONTARF 18 CORK CONSTITUTION 20, Castle Avenue
Scorers: Clontarf: Tries: Killian Lett, Martin Dufficy; Con: Martin Dufficy; Pens: Daragh O’Shea, Martin Dufficy
Cork Constitution: Tries: Richie Lane, Cronan Healy, Duncan Williams; Con: Richie Lane; Pen: Richie Lane
Cork Con, leading 20-8 with ten minutes to go, somewhat settled into their comfort zone, but unexpectedly ‘Tarf got right back into the game with replacement out-half Martin Dufficy making a huge impact by scoring a penalty and a try which he also converted.
Unfortunately for Dufficy, the converted try came on the stroke of full-time and the north Dubliners were unable to get back downfield after the restart to get the former Ireland Under-20 international into drop goal territory.
Beating ‘Tarf is never a straightforward task at Castle Avenue so Cork Con will happily take the four points, especially with a pivotal match coming up against Shannon, the side they knocked off the summit on Saturday.
Cork Con were given a boost coming into this tie, acquiring the services of scrum half Duncan Williams and centre Tom Gleeson who were both on the bench for Munster in their Magners League clash with Edinburgh on Friday night. Gleeson saw action as a late replacement.
This narrow victory was never certain for Constitution. After a tight first half in which neither team could establish a stranglehold, the score was level at 8-8.
‘Tarf struck first in the sixth minute when centre Daragh O’Shea delivered an acutely angled penalty goal and they looked like they were going to kick on from there. But Cork Con claimed the next two scores through a penalty and try from full-back Richie Lane.
‘Tarf certainly looked reinvigorated as the second half began, playing some quick, pressurising rugby in the Cork Con 22. However, the visitors started to exert their dominance and used some clever kicking tactics to push play back into ‘Tarf territory.
Cork Con made good use of their pressure and managed to score two tries through winger Cronan Healy and Munster prospect Williams within seven minutes of each other.
Healy touched down in the corner after a well-worked move on the back of set-piece ball from a lineout. After the restart, Cork Con were straight back pressurising the home side’s try-line. On the back of a ‘Tarf scrum, five metres from their line, Williams took advantage of a loose ball to snipe over for an opportunistic try.
It was the same old story for Clontarf in the end, as they lost another tight decision despite Dufficy’s heroics. Bernard Jackman’s men will have a tough fight ahead of them if they want to stay in Division 1A for next season.
CLONTARF: Phil Howard; Sean Carey, Daragh O’Shea, Killian Lett, Michael Keating; Peter O’Brien, Hugo Nolan; Ciaran Kavanagh, Aaron Dundon, Niall Treston, Simon Crawford (capt), Ronan Bolger, Eoin Cremen, Peter Synnott, Martin Garvey.
Replacements used: Ben Reilly for Synnott (13 mins), Jason Harris-Wright for Dundon (40+2), Martin Dufficy for O’Brien (57), Ben Barclay for Kavanagh, Adrian Clarke for Treston (both 64).
CORK CONSTITUTION: Richard Lane; Alex Ryan, Tom Gleeson, Evan Ryan (capt), Cronan Healy; Darragh Lyons, Duncan Williams; Martin Gately, Robert Quinn, Stephen Archer, Brian Hayes, Ian Nagle, Brendan Cuttriss, Ed Leamy, Frank Cogan.
Replacements used: Merle O’Connell for Nagle (25 mins), Gareth Murray for Gately (75), Tim Dukelow for Cuttriss (68), Conor Desmond for Evan Ryan (80).
Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon (IRFU)