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Five-Try Cork Con Given Tough Bateman Cup Test By Buccs

Five-Try Cork Con Given Tough Bateman Cup Test By Buccs

Cork Constitution qualified for their third successive Ulster Bank Bateman Cup final when defeating Buccaneers 36-25 at sun-drenched Dubarry Park on Saturday evening.

However, the title holders were pushed all the way by the Pirates who refused to give up on their dream until the final whistle of a lively and entertaining Bateman Cup semi-final. Cork Constitution scored five tries but received a right good fright from a committed and sustained Buccs effort.

Cork Con arrived with a more-or-less settled squad apart from injured scrum half Gerry Hurley, while they rejigged their second row and back row combinations. Buccs had only David Heffernan and Daniel Qualter available from Connacht. The physical presence of Kolo Kiripati was also missed up front due to a bereavement.

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Cork Con had an early penalty but Tomas Quinlan's place-kick went wide via an upright. Buccs took the game to the favourites and following a smashing break by Heffernan, Alan Gaughan strode in for a 10th minute try which he also converted.

Andrew Dorgan then had a snipe but Eoghan O'Reilly stood up to this challenge before Cork Con levelled at the end of the opening quarter, an offload from Michael Keyes, son of former Ireland international Ralph, sending Rob Jermyn in for a 19th minute try converted by Quinlan. Five minutes later, Ned Hodson was yellow carded as the midlanders attacked strongly following a lineout on the left and Gaughan landed the resultant penalty.

Young out-half Quinlan then shaved the wrong side of the near upright with a 28th minute penalty attempt after Buccs did not release, while a high tackle four minutes later by Luke Cahill on Mark Dolan gave Buccs good territory with a penalty punted to touch.

Luke Satchwell made a terrific 36th minute break for Buccs who were unlucky when his pass to Ronan Farrell was a shade too firm and not held with the try-line beckoning in a fast-flowing contest.

This led to a promising close-in lineout for the hosts, but the throw was over-cooked and Max Abbott surged forward to midfield and the length of field counter-attack was finished off by Niall Kenneally for a try which Quinlan converted, giving Cork Con a fortuitous 14-10 lead at half-time.

Within a minute of the restart, the visitors grabbed their third try, taken acrobatically by Darren Sweetnam following a deft chip over the cover by Quinlan who added the conversion. The latter dropped a fine 48th minute goal to which Gaughan cancelled out with a penalty three minutes later, leaving the scoreline 24-13.

Two quick-fire tries by Darragh Lyons (59 minutes) and Alan Ross (62), with Lyons converting the latter score, gave the Division 1A outfit a flattering 36-13 advantage. But battling Buccs refused to wilt and were unfortunate again when Rory O'Connor was unable to profit from Ross Keller's pass.

Although a Gaughan penalty did not find touch, Cork Con failed to deal with it and the Athlone side now drove forward – only for hooker Heffernan to be held up on the visitors' line. However, Martin Staunton picked up possession to power over for a 76th minute try, Gaughan's conversion kick going just wide.

As the Pirates continued to attack, replacement Ross became the second Cork Con player to be sin-binned following a close-in cynical tackle on Alex Hayman. O'Connor then scampered away for Buccs but the visitors' cover stopped the replacement just short of the line. James Tormey then showed typical bravery and awareness when dealing with a tricky Cork Con counter.

There was still time for Audi Athlone man-of-the-match Hayman to get due reward for his endeavours when he stormed through for Buccaneers' third try in the final moments of the game. Gaughan’s conversion completed the scoring as Cork Con advanced to face Clontarf in the Bateman Cup final on Saturday, April 18.

Referee: Mark Patton (IRFU)