Frank Cogan scorched over for a brilliant solo try as Cork Constitution started the New Year by beating close rivals St. Mary’s College at home.
Cork Con needed extra-time to see off St. Mary's in last season's Division 1 final, but they did enough over the 80 minutes here to garner their fifth win of the campaign.
They defended the clubhouse end in the opening half at Temple Hill and played into the wind and rain. St. Mary's full-back Gavin Dunne opened their account in the 31st minute, slotting a penalty from 22 metres out.
Both sides took their time to settle, but once the cobwebs were blown away, the visitors enjoyed the better of the first half.
However, Constitution were able to soak up the pressure thanks to some aggressive tackling, and two penalties from scrum half Gerry Hurley, after 16 and 38 minutes, gave the defending champions a 6-3 interval lead.
Brian Walsh's men had boxed clever in the first period and although Dunne brought his side level with a 46th minute penalty, the hosts soon landed a telling blow.
The St. Mary's defence gave way as Frank Cogan, Cork Con's inspirational number 8 and captain, stole a lineout and raced a full 55 metres to touch down in the corner, evading the clutches of Paul Gillespie and Dunne on the way.
Hurley added the conversion for good measure and swapped penalties with Dunne for a 16-9 scoreline.
There was no sense that the Dubliners were out of the hunt and a well-taken unconverted try by replacement scrum half Matt D'Arcy, who darted away down the blindside, duly made it a two-point game.
Constitution out-half Scott Deasy had a try ruled out after referee George Clancy adjudged that he had lost the ball forward, following some excellent build-up play involving Cyprien Jouve and Simon Zebo.
But former Garryowen clubman Hurley showed his mettle to kick a brace of late penalties, bringing his tally to 17 points and putting the home side in a winning position.
St. Mary's gained some consolation in the form of an injury-time penalty from Dunne, which gave them a losing bonus point for their efforts.
Cork Con remain in second place in the table, three points behind leaders Old Belvedere, with St. Mary's a further five points adrift in third.
Fittingly, Constitution provided a winning send-off to their winger Cronan Healy, the club's record try scorer. The 29-year-old, who is a regular in the Ireland club international team, is due to fly Down Under for a year-long stint in Sydney, Australia.
Referee: George Clancy (IRFU)