| 4.3°C Dublin

Holland seals deal for Con

CORK CONSTITUTION put themselves right back into contention in an increasingly tight battle for the All-Ireland League Division 1A title with a hard-earned success at Anglesea Road on Saturday.

Ultimately, it took a penalty from out-half Johnny Holland four minutes from the end of normal time to avenge their defeat in last year's final.

With Young Munster losing heavily at home to St Mary's College, Cork Con are now just four points off the top.

By contrast, title-holders Old Belvedere drop to bottom spot in the table, without a win in their opening eight matches.

Few could have predicted that they would find themselves in such a precarious situation.

To be fair, they have had to do without most of last season's successful team.

Neither do Cork Con have the same resources as last season but, importantly, they have more depth than Old Belvedere.

The return of John Ryan helped their scrum, while the second-row combination of Ian Nagle and Brian Hayes brought them plenty of good line-out possession.

Yet they just could not get over for a try against an outstanding Old Belvedere defence.

Belvo full-back Danny Riordan scored the only try of the game, a superb individual effort, which out-half Aidan Wynne converted from the touchline, to give his side a 7-0 advantage in the opening quarter.

That lead was reduced to 7-3 by the interval when Gerry Hurley landed a penalty. With the wind behind them for the second half, Cork Con looked in good shape to go on and secure the win.

Their situation looked even better when Holland reduced the deficit to 7-6 with a second penalty 12 minutes into the second half.

By this stage, Old Belvedere had the added problem of trying to cope with Munster scrum-half Duncan Williams who had been introduced as a Cork Con substitute, but they found it impossible to break through.

Old Belvedere were tackling everything that moved, with their two U-20 players in the back-row, Colin Mallon and Michael Oyuga, making a big impression.

Eventually, though, the pressure told when Belvo were penalised for offside four minutes from the end.

Holland, who had taken over the kicking duties following the substitution of Hurley, kept his composure to land the winning points. The only consolation for Old Belvedere was that they picked up yet another losing bonus point.

Despite the defeat, their coach Phil Werahiko remains positive. "That was a massive improvement from a defensive point of view and, hopefully, it's something to build on. Unfortunately, apart from the try, we didn't execute well enough in attack," he said.

Cork Con coach Brian Walsh also paid tribute to the Old Belvedere defence, stating: "I don't think they missed a tackle all afternoon but we remained patient. "This is a very important away win as it puts us back in contention. It's proving to be a very tight league."

Old Belvedere -- D Riordan; P Woods, J Kennedy, B Woods, D Mongan; S Keogh, A Wynne; V Soden, M Cooney, B O'Dea, D Moore, R Leyden (capt), B Smyth, M Oyuga, C Mallon. Reps used: P O'Regan, D Gilchrist, A Dunne, E Devitt.

Cork Constitution -- D Lyons; R Clune, S Scanlon, I Dineen, N O'Driscoll; J Holland, G Hurley; B Cagney, A Cudmore, J Ryan, B Hayes (capt), I Nagle, J McSwiney, B O'Hara, J Ryan. Reps used: D Williams, C Quinn, A White, K Stokes.

Ref EREE -- E O'Dowd

Irish Independent