Cork Constitution claimed an unprecedented Ulster Bank Bateman Cup four in-a-row with a runaway 38-19 final win over Galwegians today.
Man-of-the-match Ryan Foley (2), Shane Daly and Max Abbott all touched down at Crowley Park as the Leesiders, who meet Clontarf in next week's league decider, completed the first leg of a potential All-Ireland double.
The double-scores victory was not a fair reflection of what was a rip-roaring contest, with hosts Galwegians looking far from the team that was relegated from Division 1A two weeks ago.
They were only 20-12 behind at half-time after playing into the wind, their ex-Connacht centre Brian Murphy sandwiching in a brace of well-taken tries between efforts from Foley and Daly.
Tomas Quinlan's assured goal-kicking stretched Constitution's lead out to 26-12 and although classy full-back John Cleary picked off 'Wegians' third try, the visitors stormed home with closing scores from Abbott and impressive scrum half Foley.
Cork Con (2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016) are now top of the Bateman Cup roll of honour with fellow four-time winners Lansdowne (1922, 1929, 1930 and 1931), and Brian Hickey's men still have two more final appearances to come – next Sunday's Aviva Stadium showdown with Clontarf and the Munster Senior Cup decider against Young Munster at Thomond Park on Saturday, May 14.
Although pinned back in their own half early on, a terrific turnover from Josh Pimm and man-and-ball tackle from Murphy led to Galwegians gaining some welcome yardage.
Lively openside Pimm exploited some space past halfway, but wind-backed Cork Con opened the scoring with a superbly-struck seventh-minute penalty from out-half Quinlan, wide on the left.
An opportunist try from Foley moved Con 10-0 in front, Brian Hayes' lineout take setting up a promising maul and although the ball went loose, Foley managed to cut past Marty Cummins to score to the right of the posts. The extras were added by Quinlan.
However, Galwegians managed to hit back early in the second quarter, an improved scrum providing the platform for New Zealander Api Pewhairangi to burst past four tacklers and from a subsequent ruck, his centre partner Murphy burrowed over.
The left-sided conversion was pushed wide by Aidan Moynihan and 'Wegians leaked three points following the restart, James Murphy winning a breakdown decision and Quinlan coolly slotting over the kick.
The nip and tuck nature of the game continued as the home forwards pressed from a maul and a five-metre scrum before Murphy took a fantastic line onto an Moynihan pass to score his second, running hard into a gap left by Ned Hodson who had to go off with a knee injury.
Moynihan converted to close the gap to 13-12, but an intercept and big boot downfield from lock Hayes gave Constitution the territory to create their second try.
Four minutes before the interval and armed with a penalty advantage, Quinlan's well-weighted grubber was dotted down by Hodson's replacement Daly for a timely seven-pointer.
The left-footed Quinlan lofted over a penalty, four minutes into the second period, and good work in contact from replacement Luke Cahill and Niall Kenneally kept Con on the front foot.
Quinlan, who missed two drop goal attempts either side of the break, kept the scoreboard ticking over with his fourth successful penalty, leaving 'Wegians 14 points adrift.
Crucially, Matt Brown's charges replied by the hour mark, Murphy proving dangerous in the 22 once more before the ball was moved wide for Cleary, who was excellent under the high ball all day, to crash over despite the presence of Sweetnam and Aaron Spring.
Replacement Dave Clarke's cracking conversion from near the touchline brought 'Wegians back within striking range – 26-19 – and suddenly it was all to play for again.
But 'Wegians lock Cummins paid the price for repeated penalties, his maul infringement in the 22 earning him a yellow card, and Con took advantage immediately, driving through for hooker Abbott to touch down in the 67th minute.
Quinlan missed the conversion and despite some purposeful running from Cleary and Pewhairangi, 'Wegians were unable to respond as they emptied the tank. Rubbing salt into their wounds, Foley completed his brace in the dying minutes, sniping through from a few metres out after gobbling up a ruck ball that had squirted free. Quinlan's conversion made it a 19-point winning margin.
Referee: Nigel Correll (IRFU)