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Cork Con Retain Bateman Cup

Cork Con Retain Bateman Cup

Man-of-the-match Darragh Lyons and captain Gerry Hurley pulled the strings for Cork Constitution as they successfully defended their Ulster Bank Bateman Cup title at home to UCD.

Tom Mulcahy's men coped better with the wet conditions, turning the screw with a much-improved second half display as their simple but effective game-plan paid off.

Darragh Lyons covered any danger from the full-back position and kicked astutely throughout, with his opportunist 26th minute try moving the defending champions ahead for the first time.

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The Leesiders' captain Gerry Hurley also kicked superbly from hand and off the kicking tee, landing five of his six kicks at goal – including three penalties in the second half.

UCD had the lion's share of possession in the opening 40 minutes but were unable to transfer that dominance onto the scoreboard, as they trailed 10-6 at the turnaround.

Their out-half James Thornton kicked two penalties after 24 and 31 minutes, although he missed two other attempts at the posts – and a third and final one after the break.

One of the oldest trophies in Irish rugby, Cork Con became the first club to retain the Bateman Cup since Lansdowne achieved a three in-a-row between 1929 and 1931.

Munster sides have dominated the provincial cup winners' competition since it was reintroduced by the IRFU in 2011.

Cork Con's double follows on from wins for Bruff (2011) and Garryowen (2012), and today's victory for the seniors comes just a few weeks after Constitution's Under-20s were crowned Fraser McMullen All-Ireland Cup champions for the first time.

UCD were first to threaten at a drizzly Temple Hill as Sam Coghlan Murray tried to fasten onto a well-judged kick from Thornton, but the winger knocked on under pressure from Lyons.

Although Michael Keyes showed well on an early break for Cork Con, the students had a stubborn grasp of territory with good hands from Alex Kelly and Andrew Boyle creating some promising opportunities out wide.

Kelly had to hobble off soon after with an ankle injury and Thornton was just short with a difficult 14th minute penalty from the right, following a strong run on the opposite wing by the dangerous Barry Daly.

Cork Con had the stronger set piece and a lineout steal allowed replacement Alex Ryan burst through midfield, with William Ryan and Andrew O'Driscoll carrying forcefully just outside the visitors' 22.

UCD survived that spell of pressure and after Mark McGroarty was invited forward on the left, his opposite number James Ryan infringed at a ruck and Thornton claimed the three points on offer.

But the Leesiders hit the front just two minutes later, profiting from a UCD pass that went astray – not for the first time.

Lyons, bloodied and bandaged after an earlier collision, won the race to his own grubber kick and he hacked through to score as the covering Niall Earls and Daly both unfortunately lost their footing on the greasy pitch.

Hurley followed up with a crisply-struck conversion and UCD missed an immediate chance to respond as influential centre Stephen Murphy hacked through twice only for the ball to beat him into touch.

Bobby Byrne's youngsters managed to close the gap to 7-6 nonetheless, as Cork Con hooker O'Driscoll was sin-binned for a ruck offence and Thornton landed the resulting kick from long range.

They could have entered half-time with a slim lead, but Thornton missed a kickable effort from the right after Daly, Jamie Glynn and Risteard Byrne all featured in attack.

Constitution, having played most of the opening 40 minutes without the ball, went in four points up when Hurley's last kick of the half punished the students for illegally collapsing a lineout maul.

It was a good reward for openside James Ryan who had won an earlier penalty to get Mulcahy's charges into scoring range at the tail end of the half.

The home side forced the issue early in the second period, Lyons missing a drop goal attempt before UCD prop James Tracy saw yellow for side-entry at a Cork Con maul.

Although the resulting 48th minute penalty was missed by Hurley, the Munster-capped player made no mistake six minutes later after a powerful Constitution scrum.

UCD were resilient while Tracy was off and the returning Kelly broke for deep to give a rare glimpse of their attacking class. But crucially they emerged scoreless from a visit to the Cork Con 22 as Thornton flicked a 61st minute penalty wide.

Into the final quarter, the more experienced Constitution outfit tightened their grip on the game with Munster's Billy Holland exerting more influence up front and powerful centre Niall Kenneally hammering into tackle after tackle.

It was this intensity and physicality, coupled with a well-drilled set piece game, that kept the hosts on track to retain the trophy they won at St. Mary's College last year.

The Constitution maul was proving very difficult for UCD to deal with and a Hurley penalty put 10 points between the sides with 68 minutes on the clock.

UCD were soon out for the count. An eye-catching cross-field run from winger Eoin O'Donnell preceded Hurley's fourth successful penalty which sewed up the result six minutes from time.

Referee: Nigel Correll (IRFU)