There was no fairytale result for Division 2C leaders Sligo as Lansdowne broke clear of them in the second half to record a 34-15 Ulster Bank Bateman Cup semi-final win in Strandhill this afternoon.
ULSTER BANK BATEMAN CUP SEMI-FINALS: Saturday, January 13
SLIGO 15 LANSDOWNE 34, Hamilton Park
Scorers: Sligo: Tries: Mark Rooney, Philip Carter; Cons: Jack Keegan; Pen: Jack Keegan
Lansdowne: Tries: Penalty try, Jack Dinneen, Harry Brennan, Adam Boland, Daniel McEvoy; Cons: Pen try con, Scott Deasy 2; Pen: Scott Deasy
HT: Sligo 8 Lansdowne 14
Lansdowne will contest their first final of the historic All-Ireland competition since the headquarters club last lifted the trophy in 1931, with defending Bateman Cup champions Cork Constitution providing the opposition over the weekend of April 21-22.
It will be an all-Division 1A decider, but Sligo were still very much still in the hunt when trailing 14-8 at half-time. Full-back Jack Keegan opened their account with a third-minute penalty, which whetted the big crowd’s appetite at Hamilton Park.
Despite the hosts protesting that Lansdowne loosehead Greg McGrath was boring in, the visitors forced a penalty try from scrum pressure five metres out, before Sligo edged ahead on the 20-minute mark when they injected pace through their backs, with Mike Wells charging up to halfway and then his centre partner Mark Rooney was able to scorch clear of the defence and score in the corner.
Keegan, who had missed an earlier penalty, was off target with the difficult conversion and Lansdowne replied with a timely 36th-minute try. A well-executed lineout maul saw their Connacht-capped hooker Jack Dinneen touch down with Scott Deasy converting for a 14-8 lead.
The sides swiftly swapped tries on the resumption as this entertaining contest continued to ebb and flow. From a poor Sligo exit, Lansdowne centre Harry Brennan ran back a misdirected clearance kick at impressive pace, jinking in and out to break clear and score a brilliant try under the posts.
Despite losing lock Ciaran Cassidy to the sin-bin for taking a player out from the restart, 14-man Sligo dug their heels in. A fine move, which included a Wells chip kick and Shane O’Hehir’s unselfish final pass to the eventual try scorer Philip Carter, kept their hopes alive at 21-15 down.
Lansdowne went for the corner from penalties but the recent Connacht Senior Cup champions defiantly held out, and out-half Deasy was soon called upon to go for the posts and give the visitors a nine-point cushion.
Mike Ruddock’s men have been a class apart in the Ulster Bank League’s top flight so far this season and their strength in depth, including some strong-carrying forwards on the bench, allowed them to seal the result with two late unconverted tries from replacement Adam Boland, who crashed over from a lineout drive, and Daniel McEvoy, who had a clear run-in after a promising Sligo move broke down.
SLIGO: Jack Keegan; Calum Goddard, Mark Rooney, Mike Wells, Philip Carter; Mark Butler, Gary O’Hehir; Kuba Wojtkowicz, Shane O’Hehir, Conor Mitchell, Ciaran Cassidy, James Wilson, Shane Boyle (capt), Matt Davey, Matthew Cosgrove.
Replacements: Ross O’Boyle, Mark Keegan, Shane McGuinness, David Cawley, David Heath, Christian Neilsen, Niall Gray, Enda Gavin.
LANSDOWNE: Willie Walsh; Daniel McEvoy, Harry Brennan, Mark O’Keefe, Tom Roche; Scott Deasy, Alan Bennie; Greg McGrath, Jack Dinneen, Ian Prendiville (capt), Jack O’Sullivan, Conall O’Brien, Willie Earle, Aaron Conneely, Charlie Butterworth.
Replacements: JJ Earle, Adam Boland, Ntinga Mpiko, Collie Joyce-Ahearne, Gareth Molloy, Conor Murphy, Peter Hastie.
CITY OF ARMAGH 13 CORK CONSTITUTION 20, Palace Grounds
Scorers: City of Armagh: Tries: Robbie Faloon, Tim McNiece; Pen: Cormac Fox
Cork Constitution: Tries: Vincent O’Brien, Luke Cahill; Cons: Aidan Moynihan 2; Pens: Aidan Moynihan 2
HT: City of Armagh 10 Cork Constitution 13
Forwards Vincent O’Brien and Luke Cahill touched down twice as Cork Constitution overcame a spirited challenge from Division 2A outfit City of Armagh today to move within 80 minutes of winning their sixth Ulster Bank Bateman Cup title in-a-row.
A pulsating performance from hosts Armagh was not enough to derail Cork Con whose winning streak in this All-Ireland competition now stands at 11 matches, stretching back to the 2013 semi-finals. The Palace Grounds crowd witnessed an exciting semi-final clash and the gap of two Ulster Bank League divisions between the sides was not evident for much of it.
Constitution, who recently lost their Munster Senior Cup crown in a semi-final defeat to Garryowen, exerted the early pressure and opened the scoring with a 12th minute penalty from out-half Aidan Moynihan. Five minutes later, Armagh stunned the title holders when their full-back Tim McNiece took advantage of a defensive error to squeeze over for a try at the corner flag, making it 5-3.
Moynihan fired over his second successful penalty in the 25th minute, but Armagh were rewarded for some enterprising play when winger Robbie Faloon claimed a second unconverted try for the Ulstermen, five minutes before half-time. Unfortunately for the vocal home support, Con wrestled their way back into the lead just before half-time when hooker O’Brien crossed from a late catch-and-drive effort.
Moynihan’s conversion gave Brian Hickey’s charges a three-point buffer – 13-10 – and they struck again soon after the restart when classy number 8 Cahill broke through the Armagh defence and raced in from 30 metres out for a crucial 43rd-minute try. Moynihan added the extras and the Bateman Cup kingpins now looked comfortable with a ten-point cushion.
Willie Faloon’s men tried their best to reduce the margin but the Cork Con defence gave very little away. Armagh out-half Cormac Fox reduced the arrears with a penalty in the 57th minute. The excitement built for a grandstand finish with only a converted score between the sides.
However, despite Armagh pressing and building through the phases, Constitution’s sterling defence won them the game and another shot at Bateman Cup history in the spring when they will play current Division 1A leaders Lansdowne, who have won all 11 of their league fixtures so far.
CITY OF ARMAGH: Tim McNiece; Ryan Purvis, Chris Colvin (capt), Johnny Pollock, Robbie Faloon; Cormac Fox, Harry Doyle; Daryl Morton, Andrew Smyth, Philip Fletcher, Josh McKinley, Robert Whitten, James Morton, Stuart Hooks, Neil Faloon.
Replacements: Michael Hoey, Simon Carlisle, James Hanna, William Martin, Thomas Campbell, Chris Cousins, Evin Crummie.
CORK CONSTITUTION: Joe White; Liam O’Connell, Michael Clune, Ned Hodson, Rob Jermyn; Aidan Moynihan, Gerry Hurley (capt); Gavin Duffy, Vincent O’Brien, Ger Sweeney, Brian Hayes, Sean Duffy, Joe McSwiney, Ross O’Neill, Luke Cahill.
Replacements: Max Abbott, Brendan Quinlan, Dylan Murphy, Conor Kindregan, Sonny Dwyer, Gary Bradley, Barry Galvin.
(i) If teams are tied at full-time, extra-time of 10 minutes each way will be played
(ii) If still tied, the team that has scored the most tries will be the winners
(iii) If still tied, the away team will be declared the winners
Clubs may tog out up to seven replacements for both the semi-finals and the final and rolling substitutions will apply.
Nationally or provincially contracted players may not play in the Bateman Cup where a Division 1 club is drawn against a Division 2 club. Development and Academy contracted players are eligible to play in this competition.
All-Ireland Cup Champions’ Roll Of Honour:
2016/17 – Cork Constitution (Bateman Cup)
2015/16 – Cork Constitution (Bateman Cup)
2014/15 – Cork Constitution (Bateman Cup)
2013/14 – Cork Constitution (Bateman Cup)
2012/13 – Cork Constitution (Bateman Cup)
2011/12 – Garryowen (Bateman Cup)
2010/11 – Bruff (Bateman Cup)
2009/10 – Cork Constitution
2008/09 – Ballynahinch
2007/08 – Shannon
2006/07 – Garryowen
2005/06 – Cork Constitution