Bateman Cup kingpins Cork Constitution will meet Old Belvedere in this season’s final at the end of April following big wins for both sides in Saturday’s semi-finals at Temple Hill and Anglesea Road.
ULSTER BANK BATEMAN CUP SEMI-FINALS: Saturday, January 21
CORK CONSTITUTION 63 BUCCANEERS 0, Temple Hill
Scorers: Cork Constitution: Tries: Rory Burke, Conor Kindregan, Luke Cahill 2, Ned Hodson, John Poland, Liam O’Connell, Jason Higgins 2; Cons: Tomas Quinlan 2, John Poland 4; Pens: Tomas Quinlan 2
HT: Cork Constitution 35 Buccaneers 0
Recent Connacht Senior Cup winners Buccaneers were very much second best on the day as Cork Constitution put themselves on the cusp on an unprecedented fifth Bateman Cup title in a row.
Frustratingly for Buccaneers boss Brett Wilkinson, the weekend’s ‘A’ provincial fixtures had more of an impact on his side and they made the trip south without a number of the players who have guided the midlanders to the top of Ulster Bank League Division 1B.
Buccs’ depleted selection – minus six Connacht Eagles – tried gamely to match the hosts but in-form Constitution, who are second in the top flight standings, really hit the ground running and were already 35 points ahead by half-time.
Con gained possession from their kick-off and immediately piled forward with intent. Prop Rory Burke was swiftly grounding the ball wide on the left for a first minute try converted by Tomas Quinlan who soon added a brace of penalties.
When the Athlone side got a rare opportunity after a 17th minute home lineout went awry, referee Paul Haycock blew for a knock-on with the visitors having an overlap. But Buccs did not help their cause with a number of kicks not finding touch, resulting in other waves of attack bearing down on them.
Cork Con’s second try stemmed from another Pirates error as the midlanders moved the ball left to right but spilled it and centre Ned Hodson snapped it up to sprint away from halfway for an opportunist 21st minute try.
The visitors suffered another setback four minutes later when injury forced Shane Layden off with Mata Fifita coming on in the centre. Just before the half hour mark, ex-Bucc Conor Kindregan stretched over for a try following a maul after a penalty had been punted to touch
Constitution’s maul and scrum were facets that Buccs just could not deal with, earning hooker John Sutton a yellow card during which another home drive was finished off by Luke Cahill with Quinlan converting this 35th minute touchdown.
Buccs had a spell of pressure coming up to the interval but, when possession was turned over, Cork Con gained huge yardage from a massive relieving clearance and chased hard to get a foothold in the Pirates’ 22. From there, flanker Cahill got over for his second try in the final moments of the half, giving the title holders a clear-cut 35-0 advantage at the break.
Buccaneers had the better of the territory in the third quarter but lacked the guile and grunt necessary to unlock the fast-moving Cork Con cover, Alex Hayman being stopped fractionally short of the home line after 46 minutes.
Then the visitors were hit with a sucker punch when replacement John Poland made a near immediate impact to finish off a swift counter attack for a 56th minute try which he also converted. As Buccs troubles at scrum time continued, Ruairi Byrne was sin-binned and Liam O’Connell inflicted further punishment by notching a try on the hour mark to stretch the lead to 49-0, Poland again converting.
Although Buccs battled to the bitter end, scrum half Jason Higgins completed the rout with a pair of Cork Con tries in the final quarter. Poland, first cousin of team-mates Alex and Jack McHenry, converted both tries to complete Con’s 63-point tally.
CORK CONSTITUTION: Liam O’Connell; Alex McHenry, Ned Hodson, Niall Kenneally (capt), Rob Jermyn; Tomas Quinlan, Jason Higgins; Gavin Duffy, Max Abbott, Rory Burke, Conor Kindregan, Brian Hayes, Luke Cahill, James Murphy, Evan Mintern.
Replacements: Jack McHenry, Liam O’Connor, Greg Roche, Cian Barry, John O’Callaghan, John Poland, JJ O’Neill.
BUCCANEERS: Callum Boland; Eoghan O’Reilly, Shane Layden, Alex Hayman, Jordan Conroy; Alan Gaughan, Frankie Hopkins; Martin Staunton, John Sutton, Ryan O’Meara, Simon Meagher, Ruairi Byrne, Stephen McVeugh, Evan Galvin, Kolo Kiripati (capt).
Replacements: Rory Grenham, Niall Farrelly, James Foley, Mata Fifita, Rory O’Connor, Dean McMahon, Gerard Fallon.
OLD BELVEDERE 44 BALLYNAHINCH 14, Anglesea Road
Scorers: Old Belvedere: Tries: John Kennedy, Cathal O’Flynn, Ben Woods, David Brandon, Daniel Riordan, Shane McDonald; Cons: Willie Staunton 3, Aaron Sheehan; Pens: Willie Staunton 2
Ballynahinch: Tries: James Simpson, Stuart Morrow; Cons: Chris Quinn, Justin Rea
HT: Old Belvedere 25 Ballynahinch 0
Rather like events on Leeside, this semi-final clash was a one-sided affair in the opening half with Old Belvedere establishing a 25-0 interval lead thanks to tries from captain John Kennedy, his centre partner Ben Woods and hooker Cathal O’Flynn.
There were a number of notable absentees in the Ballynahinch line-up, owing to the Ulster ‘A’ team’s British & Irish Cup trip to Jersey, and they were behind their posts within two minutes. Woods did really well to gather Willie Staunton’s garryowen on halfway and pop the ball back to the supporting Kennedy who sprinted clear to score in the left corner.
‘Hinch were pinged for not releasing after a 14th minute tackle and out-half Staunton guided the central kick through the uprights for a 8-0 scoreline. It got worse for the Ulstermen as they missed a couple of penalties and then Staunton’s fine pass to the right found number 8 David Sherry who beat an initial defender and stepped inside another to set up O’Flynn’s close range converted score.
A terrific individual try from Woods, who burst through the ‘Hinch defence from just outside their 22, was converted by the influential Staunton and the latter’s late penalty had the margin out to 25 points at the turnaround.
Belvedere showed dominant form during the first 40 minutes, but the County Down outfit resumed in much better fettle. Their bench made the required impact and lock James Simpson took two defenders with him when crashing in under the posts for a much-needed seven-pointer.
The deficit was down to 25-14 after a second ‘Hinch try, Blane McIlroy’s quick ruck delivery giving his half-back partner Ross Carlisle the chance to run hard at the home defence in their 22 and his inviting offload sent centre Stuart Morrow over on a well-timed surge to the line.
A well-struck conversion followed from the boot of full-back Justin Rea, but nearing the hour mark, Belvedere rediscovered their scoring touch with a try from replacement David Brandon in the left corner. Staunton’s monster skip pass did plenty of the damage and Kennedy and Sherry linked well to send the waiting winger over.
Staunton’s impressive distribution was also a key factor in a 71st minute score for full-back Daniel Riordan after ‘Hinch had lost flanker Callum Irvine to the sin-bin. The well-drilled hosts added a sixth try late on when the excellent Sherry charged through and passed for winger Shane McDonald to finish off near the right corner, with Staunton tagging on a tremendous conversion for good measure.
The result puts Old Belvedere through to their first ever Bateman Cup decider. They are bidding to be the first Leinster club to claim the All-Ireland title in the modern era, as Munster’s Bruff, Garryowen and Cork Con have shared out the trophy since the competition was reintroduced in 2011.
OLD BELVEDERE: Daniel Riordan; Shane McDonald, John Kennedy (capt), Ben Woods, Sean Coughlan; Willie Staunton, Aaron Sheehan; Adam Howard, Cathal O’Flynn, Declan Lavery, Jack Kelly, Connor Owende, Jonathan Slattery, Michael Oyuga, David Sherry.
Replacements: Ed Rossiter, James McWilliams-Gray, Karl Miller, Paul Pritchard, Ben Butler, David Brandon, Simon Killeen.
BALLYNAHINCH: Justin Rea; Chris Quinn, Stuart Morrow, Jordan Grattan, Davy Nicholson; Ross Carlisle, James McBriar; Chris Stevenson, Joe Roe, Jonny Blair, Stewart Evans, James Simpson, Callum Irvine, Willie Stewart, Mike Graham (capt).
Replacements: Andrew Weir, Gareth Gill, Blane McIlroy, Ben Pentland, Stuart Orr, Kenny Morton, Chris Orr.