Cork Con secure home comforts for play-offs
St Mary's 0 Cork Con 22
CORK CONSTITUTION remain firmly on track to retain their Ulster Bank All-Ireland League title following a comprehensive success at Templeville Road on Saturday.
Not only did the victory put Cork Con back on top of the Division 1A table, but it also assured them of a home semi-final. On this form, they are going to be very hard to stop.
St Mary's, who hang on to third place in the table after Young Munster's defeat, are not exactly pushovers -- Con needed extra-time to get the better of them in a hard-fought final last season.
But on this occasion they were unable to cope with an exceptionally strong Cork Con outfit which was able to call on the bulk of their Munster-contracted players. Crucially, coach Brian Walsh had the holders really well prepared.
"We wanted to be very physical in the first 20 minutes or so, as the last two times we came here we lost the physicality battle," stressed Walsh.
"It's what you do with the ball after that, but I thought we controlled the ball very well, controlled the tempo of the game and defended well. We didn't panic at any stage.
"Once we got the first score in the second half, I think we looked very comfortable. That's no disrespect to Mary's, it's just the way the game went."
Walsh, as usual, was calling it as it happened. St Mary's, coming off a surprise defeat to Blackrock, played with great determination in their bid to secure one of the play-off spots.
They matched their rivals for most of the first half, only trailing 3-0 to a Gerry Hurley penalty until three minutes before the interval.
But once Con secured the opening try through centre Cyprien Jouve, there was only going to be one winner.
Hurley's conversion from near the touchline made it 10-0 at the break. From then on, the Cork Con pack, which included Denis Fogarty in a powerful front-row, just got stronger and provided their back division with more opportunities.
Left-wing Simon Zebo crossed for two more well-taken tries, gathering his own kick ahead for the first of them. Hurley converted and Zebo then collected a chip from out-half Scott Deasy to go over for the visitors' third try, which put them 22-0 clear.
Brendan Cuttriss excelled in the back-row as Cork Con were able to bring on players of the calibre of Duncan Williams and Peter O'Mahony. St Mary's had an impressive replacement of their own in out-half Ian McKinley but, as hard as the Leinster man tried, he was unable to engineer a score.
St Mary's take on Old Belvedere in their final game following a second heavy defeat and are in grave danger of missing out on the play-offs.
St Mary's -- P Gillespie (I McKinley 50); R Doherty, S Grissing, P Brophy (M Sexton 50), D Hudson; G Dunne, M D'Arcy; C McMahon, Richard Sweeney, Robert Sweeney, C Ruddock, S Bradshaw (K Sheahan 57), D Hall, P Nash (capt), H Hogan.
Cork Constitution -- S Scanlon; R Lane, C Jouve (D Williams 60), I Dineen, S Zebo (C Desmond 77); S Deasy, G Hurley; M Gately (G Murray 71), D Fogarty (R Quinn 65), S Archer, B Hayes (P O'Mahony 58), I Nagle, B Holland, B Cuttriss, F Cogan (capt).
Ref -- D Wilkinson.
STATE OF PLAY
n YOUNG Munster's defeat to Dolphin yesterday means Old Belvedere join Cork Constitution and Clontarf in the Division One play-offs, while the top flight is almost certain to be without Shannon and Garryowen next season.
Young Munster must beat local rivals Garryowen and hope St Mary's don't win away at Old Belvedere to reach the final four, while the bottom two are not down mathematically but need a minor miracle to catch Dolphin.
In Division 1B, Lansdowne and Buccaneers will have a straight shootout for the second promotion spot when they meet at the Aviva Stadium next week.