Walsh delight after Con grab late bonus
Blackrock Col 23
Cork Con 31
All-Ireland League Division 1A
Coach Brian Walsh was entitled to feel more than a bit concerned going into the final quarter of Cork Constitution's opening game in the defence of their title at Stradbrook on Saturday.
Cork Con trailed Blackrock 23-18 and a surprise defeat was definitely on the cards. Unless, that is, last season's All-Ireland League and Cup winners could get their act together in the closing stages.
Walsh, as it turned out, should not have been overly concerned. Suddenly realising the seriousness of their situation, Con raised their game to score tries from wing Richard Lane and prop Stephen Archer, plus a penalty by Lane, in the final 10 minutes.
So, not only did the defending champions secure a victory, but they also came away with a precious bonus point having scored four tries.
"We were a bit rusty," said Walsh. "That side hadn't really been together for a long time. We knew that this would be a tough place to come and play. We also knew that we had to set a standard that we could aspire to at some stage during the game.
"Unfortunately, we didn't set that standard until we had to. We eventually got the bit between our teeth and played super rugby for that period. We just need to click a bit earlier, especially as we have a very tough away game against Old Belvedere next weekend."
Blackrock deserve credit for running Cork Con so close. They have a new coaching set-up, with Andy Wood and Simon Broughton at the helm, and quite a few different players in their team.
Yet they matched the title -holders for most of the game and were unfortunate to miss out on a losing bonus point.
Centre Robert Keogh was on the mark with two first-half penalties and he converted a try from second-row Alex Dunlop to keep Blackrock very much in contention.
Cork Con went in at the interval 18-13 ahead by virtue of tries from out-half Daragh Lyons and No 8 Frank Cogan. Lane landed one conversion and also kicked two penalties.
Blackrock wasted a great opportunity at the start of the second half, when Brendan Macken held on when a pass would have put Andrew Conway over in the corner. But with Alan McGinty proving a useful substitute for injured out-half Leon Ellison, they soon had their supporters celebrating.
Full-back Niall Morris availed of some poor Cork Con defence to go over for a try, which Keogh converted and he also added a penalty. Now the upset was a real possibility.
But Blackrock just couldn't quite go through with their effort, while most crucially, Cork Con raised their game. And those late tries from Lane and Archer, combined with Lane's penalty, meant that they scored 13 unanswered points in the final 10 minutes.
Blackrock College -- N Morris; A Conway, B Macken, R Keogh, D Rowan; L Ellison (A McGinty 40), C Crowley; J Barretto, C Culleton (R Fisher 59), K Cahill (B Prescott 40), A Dunlop, D Dillon (capt), M Noone, B Kelly, M Carroll (R Graham 40).
Cork Constitution -- S Scanlon; R Lane, S Zabo, T Gleeson, C Healy; D Lyons, D Williams; M Gately (G Murray 64), R Quinn (M O'Leary 51),S Archer, I Nagle, B Hayes, B Holland, F Cogan (capt), P O'Mahony.
Ref -- S McDowell.