A controversial late refereeing decision denied Cork Constitution a match-winning try as they drew 19-all with UCD at Temple Hill on Saturday.
Cork Con felt that centre Ned Hodson had juggled an intercept pass without losing possession before he ran over unopposed in the dying minutes. However, referee Peter Fitzgibbon, with the intervention of a tough judge, ruled otherwise and the game ended in a stalemate.
Disappointed Constitution captain James Ryan told the Irish Examiner: “We had the scores but made a few mistakes again, it was pretty much like the Lansdowne game that we let slip. It was heartbreaking stuff in a sense.
“The last ten minutes of the first half was fantastic, our defence was rock solid and it was a great boost not to concede a score going into the break.
“The couple of mistakes cost us, though. In a sense it feels like defeat but the upside is that we can take a lot from it, two points, still unbeaten at home, I know only draws, but we're coming slowly but surely.”
The hosts left UCD stunned with a first minute try. Munster prospect Darren Sweetnam, playing on the right wing, chased down a clearance kick from Tomas Quinlan, showing great pace to pick up and score. The conversion was added by Quinlan for 7-0.
UCD had dominated Ballynahinch and Young Munster in recent outings, and they were quick to respond here as full-back Barry Daly stepped the home defence and scooted in for an unconverted fifth-minute try.
Crucially, the Cork Con defence tightened up for the remainder of the first half – with a number of UCD try-scoring chances going a-begging – and Quinlan's left boot grew increasingly influential.
The young out-half split the posts with penalties in the 24th, 27th and 32nd minutes to give the Leesiders a 16-5 buffer at the break. The margin was out to 14 points in the 54th minute when Quinlan punished UCD for preventing a quickly-taken lineout. The real question now was could Constitution see out the result?
Tellingly, UCD managed to respond early on in the final quarter. Scrum half Nick McCarthy sniped over by the posts to reward his forwards for a prolonged bout of pressure in the 22. Liam Bourke, who came on at out-half, converted for a 19-12 scoreline.
Twelve minutes from time, Constitution's lead was completely erased when the referee awarded a penalty try to the students for an apparent obstruction on McCarthy. Con flanker James Murphy saw yellow for the incident and Bourke's conversion tied things up.
There was drama aplenty in the closing stages, however, as Quinlan was narrowly wide with a drop goal attempt and then Hodson's 74th-minute effort was chalked off by the match officials – much to the frustration of the home supporters.
Speaking afterwards, UCD director of rugby Bobby Byrne commented: “We had four or five opportunities to score although, in fairness, the Con defence was exceptional. They were very aggressive but we felt we should have still finished off one or two of those opportunities.
“They had that scoring opportunity late on too when there was a knock-on called which was dubious. It was a funny type of game that could have gone either way. A draw was probably a fair result.”
Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon (IRFU)