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High-tempo Con come out on top

IT was a case of normal service resumed as Cork Constitution moved back to the top of Division 1A at Temple Hill on Saturday.

For much of this season, Cork Con have found themselves upstaged by their Dublin rivals, and Old Belvedere had set the standards to deservedly head the league at the halfway stage of the campaign. But not any more.

They were second best here, with Cork Con producing a brand of rugby which undoubtedly makes them favourites to retain the trophy.

Much is clearly going to depend on just who is available, but Cork Con have strength in depth and a remarkable facility for introducing new talent. On Saturday, they were without their highly influential second-row Ian Nagle due to his outing for the Irish Wolfhounds against Scotland 'A' on Friday night.

No matter. Cork Con coach Brian Walsh opted to play Cathal O'Flaherty, who was a member of the Presentation Cork team that won the Munster Schools Senior Cup last year.

O'Flaherty -- normally a No 8 -- had a terrific match, scoring one of his side's three tries, and setting up another with a 40-metre run. No doubt, he was suited to the high tempo Cork Con played at throughout this encounter.

To add to a fine day's work, Munster hooker Denis Fogarty made an impressive comeback after his long spell out with a shoulder injury and he scored Cork Con's second try before being substituted 10 minutes into the second half.

Old Belvedere tried to respond by playing at a high pace, but they could not get the required forward platform.

Consequently, their powerful No 8 Leo Auva'a failed to make his normal impression. But neither did most of the Old Belvedere team with the notable exception of Danny Riordan at full-back. Riordan did everything possible to try and keep his side in contention; he scored a try and provided the pass for another, but Old Belvedere were never in with a chance of getting a result.

Playing for the first time without their record-scoring wing Cronan Healy, now in Australia, Cork Con took off at a tremendous pace and by the end of the opening quarter, they were 15-0 clear.

O'Flaherty and Fogarty scored tries, with scrum-half Jerry Hurley landing a conversion and a penalty. O'Flaherty's try came after a spectacular move, started near their own line.

For a brief period, Old Belvedere got back into it when Riordan gathered a chip through from Andy Dunne to score for a try which the latter converted.

But Cork Con resumed control in the second half with Billy Holland sending Brian Hayes in for a third try, before Hurley made it 23-7 with another penalty.

Old Belvedere at least denied Cork Con a bonus point and hit back to gain a consolation score when substitute Derek Buckley went over. Their coach Phil Werahiko took the defeat firmly on the chin, stating: "Cork Con were very good. They were out of the blocks very quickly and we were always chasing."

Cork Constitution -- S Scanlon; R Lane, C Jouve, I Dineen, S Zebo; S Deasy, J Hurley; M Gately (A Foley 72), D Fogarty (R Quinn 50), S Archer, C O'Flaherty (J McSwiney 77), B Hayes, B Holland, B Cutriss, F Cogan (capt).

Old Belvedere -- D Riordan; E Devitt, J Kennedy, B Woods (C Keane 72), D Mongan; A Dunne, S Keogh (S Malone 72); V Soden, M Cooney (D Buckley 70), S Maguire, D Moore, D White, K Miller (A Trenier 44), J Risdon (D Gilcrist 63), L Auva'a.

Ref -- D Wilkinson.

Irish Independent