The New Year brought some surprise results in the Ulster Bank League today as former leaders Terenure College lost at home to Cork Constitution and bottom side Dolphin picked up their maiden win – at the 11th attempt.
Tries from half-backs Gerry Hurley and Tomas Quinlan proved decisive at Lakelands Park as Cork Constitution beat Terenure College 21-7 to consolidate their current place in the Division 1A play-off positions.
It was a disappointing start to 2015 for a ‘Nure side that also suffered recent defeats to Lansdowne, Ballynahinch and UCD, and that lost ground now means they are seven points behind table-topping Lansdowne.
Terenure out-half Mark O’Neill sent an 11th minute penalty wide during a strong opening from the home side. Constitution full-back Darragh Lyons then looked set to touch down from a neat kick by Quinlan, only for referee Dudley Phillips to award a penalty to Terenure for a Con infringement.
The visitors were growing in confidence, though, and despite losing influential number 8 James Ryan to injury after 25 minutes, the Leesiders opened the scoring just shy of the half hour mark.
Young out-half Quinlan made no mistake with a long range penalty. His second successful strike, in the dying minutes of the half, gave Tom Tierney’s men a 6-0 buffer at the break.
The gauntlet had been thrown down to ‘Nure, who were aiming to avoid a fourth defeat in five games. They remained on the back foot when play got back underway, and Con flanker Graeme Lawler went close to scoring a try three minutes in.
Significant breaks by Harry Moore and Kyle McCoy on 50 minutes got ‘Nure moving again, though, and there was greater purpose to their play once more. Mark O’Neill opted for touch rather than the posts three minutes later and this proved to be a wise decision, as hooker Robbie Smyth finished off a powerful lineout maul to secure the day’s first try.
A confident conversion by O’Neill edged ‘Nure into a 7-6 lead and set up an intriguing conclusion. The home team could not push on from there, however, and when Quinlan’s 62nd-minute penalty helped Con to reclaim the advantage, the Cork outfit built some serious momentum.
‘Nure were still in contention with 11 minutes left to play, but Hurley left them in an ominous position when he raced on to his own chipped kick to touch down underneath the posts. Quinlan converted and then benefited from some superb approach play by Hurley to dive over in the left corner for his side’s second try.
Quinlan’s touchline conversion and a 77th minute penalty were both short of the target, but those scores were not needed as Constitution picked up a very valuable four points on the road.
Meanwhile, UCD kept up the pressure on the four teams currently ahead of them in the race for the play-off spots with a 31-24 victory over Ballynahinch at Belfield.
Garry Ringrose excelled on both sides of the ball for College who attacked at every opportunity and might feel they left a try-scoring bonus point behind them.
Tries from Shane Grannell and Nick McCarthy, coupled with a breakaway effort from second row Gavin Thornbury, were good enough for UCD with out-half Ross Byrne’s impressive kicking game also a key factor.
Down in Cork, Dolphin finally put a stop to their winless streak with a gutsy 12-11 defeat of seventh-placed Young Munster.
Steve Ford’s side failed to score a try in this provincial derby, but four well-struck first half penalties from Munster-capped out-half Rory Scannell (pictured below) proved to be enough in the end.
There was no real pattern to the game in a disjointed start, although Scannell settled the early nerves by converting a 30-metre penalty in the ninth minute. He added a second one just two minutes later.
This round 11 fixture began to open up in the second quarter during which Scannell and Gearoid Lyons swapped penalties, before a fourth successful kick from the former gave Dolphin a 12-3 interval lead.
Barely a minute had elapsed in the second period when Connacht recruit Shane O’Leary showed his class to run in a superb 60-metre breakaway try. Ireland Under-19 flanker Ben Kilkenny was involved initially before centre O’Leary darted away to score in the corner.
The conversion was missed but Lyons followed up with a 58th minute penalty to make it a one-point game and set up an intriguing final quarter.
It was all hands to the pump for Dolphin defensively, as Munsters mounted attack after attack. Replacement Ben Martin missed a long range penalty for the Cookies with four minutes left and Ford’s charges managed to hold on for a morale-boosting result, which leaves them just three points behind St. Mary’s at the foot of the table.