These were the unlikely parallels shared by the Temple Hill experience with events across the water at Twickenham as Cork Constitution stretched their winning start to the AIB League division one season to three games and consigned Buccaneers to their first defeat of the campaign.
Whether you liked it or not, the England-Australia game was never far away from those at Temple Hill, thanks to the eager reporting of the public address announcer. As Con began their comeback from a 17-0 deficit, the crowd were gleefully informed that the Wallabies were stretching their lead; their cheers equalling the gusto which greeted second-half tries from Jerry Murray, Rory Kenneally and their own Aussie hero Jim Williams.
News of the English recovery was not relayed to the suburbs of Cork, however ü perhaps it would have spoiled the mood; maybe it would have inspired Buccs to a find a second wind. As it was, the Connacht outfit were unable to break Con lines late on in the successful manner they had done in the first 35 minutes.
Then, centre Paddy O’Sullivan had further boosted his growing reputation with an opening try after nine minutes and Wayne Munn had doubled the lead by touching down in the 20th. Lee Turner, who had converted both tries, added a penalty and at 17-0 Buccaneers were looking set for a first League victory at Temple Hill in four attempts.
There were further reasons for Con misery. Losing Munster winger Anthony Horgan to a hamstring strain five minutes into his comeback from shoulder surgery during the summer was bad enough. By the time Con scrum-half Pat McCarthy had got his side rolling with two penalties at the end of the half, they had also seen their other winger, Derek Dillon being carried off with ankle trouble.
The omens were not looking good for Con, but as they restarted after the interval at 17-6 down, the home side at last began to show some purpose. Five minutes into the second half, Jerry Murray touched down as the Con pack drove Buccaneers over their won try line.
And though Con lost another man, prop Gareth Murray, in the process, McCarthy’s conversion brought the visitors within touching distance at 13-17. Turner’s penalty six minutes later restored the Buccaneers’ lead to seven points but then up popped Horgan’s replacement, Rory Kenneally to race over the line with McCarthy’s conversion tying the game at 20-20.
Turner again edged Buccaneers in front with a penalty but two minutes from time another Con drive again paid dividends, this time Williams getting the vital score before McCarthy completed his 100% return with the boot to cap off the scoring and seal victory with his conversion. Whether it was deserved or not, Donncha O’Callaghan was not sure.
“That’s a tight one,” the Con and Munster second row said having played a full 80 minutes in his first game back after spending six weeks out with a broken jaw. “I don’t know about that but I suppose if it was judged on heart then I think we deserved it.
“Technically I don’t think we played the better rugby but then again we’ll take the points. “At 17 points down we had an awful lot of work to do. We were sitting back far too much but in the second half I thought we took the game to them. Buccaneers have an absolutely massive pack and very mobile. There are a lot of Connacht players in there like Colm Rigney and Ronan McCormack and when you’re just about getting used to those fellas they bring on a guy like Martin Cahill. It makes for a hard afternoon.” With O’Callaghan now back, and Horgan only suffering a temporary setback to his recovery, Gaffney is being given more options as the Celtic League quarter-final against Connacht approaches later this month. And not before time, believes O’Callaghan.