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Cork Con Claim The Spoils At Castle Avenue

Cork Con Claim The Spoils At Castle Avenue

A 12-point tally from out-half Johnny Holland proved crucial at Castle Avenue as Cork Constitution moved to within one point of hosts Clontarf near the top of Ulster Bank League Division 1A.

With Lansdowne having secured the top flight title against Clontarf a couple of weeks back, the main intrigue lies in who will claim the runners-up spot.

Despite falling to a third straight league defeat, Clontarf still have a slight edge over their Munster rivals due to the losing bonus point they picked up in this four-point loss.

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The inclement weather at the north Dublin venue made life difficult for both sets of players but to their credit, they produced a very entertaining game of rugby.

'Tarf's reliable place-kicker, left winger Richie Lane, was on hand to open the scoring with just three minutes gone, as he was successful with a 35-metre penalty off his trusty right boot.

This was an excellent start for the hosts, who were eager to produce a strong performance in their final home game of the 2012/13 campaign.

They continued to put pressure on the Constitution rearguard, but Brian Walsh's charges eventually settled into the proceedings, and crossed the whitewash for the first time on 12 minutes.

The try came after a long spell of play towards the 'Tarf line, which ended with full-back Darragh Lyons supplying a neat offload for Johnny Holland to touch down to the right of the posts.

The young number 10 added the conversion to his own score and although he was narrowly wide of the mark with a three-point attempt six minutes later, Cork Con were now in a good position to push on for further tries.

'Tarf were the ones doing the pressing as the first half wore on though, and despite missing out with a number of promising opportunities, the Dublin side eventually regained their lead when flanker Tom Byrne powered through just past the half hour mark.

Lane's conversion kick was successful once again, but Con's deficit did not last for long as flanker James Ryan was in the right position to reach over for his team's second try on 34 minutes.

Holland came up agonisingly short with his tricky conversion attempt however, and Lane took advantage just before the interval with a well-struck penalty from distance, which gave Andy Wood's men a slender 13-12 cushion heading into the break.

The hosts displayed plenty of confidence upon the resumption, and they managed to increase their lead eight minutes after the restart when winger Michael McGrath finished off a sweeping move across the opposition line on the left flank. Lane missed the conversion.

'Tarf now had six points to spare over their southern counterparts, which was a potentially significant hold in a game of this nature.

Con's hand was slightly forced during this time as try-scoring flanker Ryan had been sent to the sin-bin on 46 minutes. This upset the pattern of their play, and it took them a while to properly adjust to their numerical disadvantage.

After an open-ended first half, the second period was certainly scrappier in nature which looked like it might suit 'Tarf as the final quarter beckoned.

Cork Con had different ideas though, and with 'Tarf being forced on the back foot more and more, the Temple Hill outfit pounced for their third try with just ten minutes remaining.

Second row Brian Hayes provided the finishing touches on this occasion, and with Holland registering his second conversion of the contest from a very difficult position, Con now had their 11th league success of the current term in their sights.

There were some tense moments for them in the closing stages, but thanks to a 74th minute penalty from Holland, their worries were eased to a certain degree.

Clontarf did push hard in the seven minutes of stoppage time for the score that would help them to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, but Constitution were able to hold out for a memorable win in the end.

Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon (IRFU)