However, they’d hardly have reckoned with seeing their decision validated so early in the season. This clash at Temple Hill was exactly the kind of game Irish rugby’s movers and shakers want to see less of; scrappy, lacking intensity, error-strewn and won at a canter.
Indeed once Con had begun to stretch their legs after half-time, bagging three tries in 12 minutes, the margin of victory was the only uncertainty remaining.
Although they weren’t helped by three sin-binnings, ‘Nure did little to persuade the neutral that such a move isn’t the way to go. That less than 250 hardy souls turned out to watch the AIL champions open their defence of the title said everything about the lack of appeal of this fixture.
Con coach Brian Walsh has long been banging the drum for a reduced upper echelon, and he said he was anticipating more competitive games than this throughout the season, as every club is now jostling for position in the new elite.
“I do agree that we need a different structure to what’s there at the moment,” he said. “You need to have good teams playing each other week in week out, for the players’ development as much as anything, and to create more interest in the league.
“(The IRFU decision) is a step in the right direction, though it will depend on how it’s resourced and how it operates. It came in at the right time (just before the new season), in that it stopped people building up huge squads with whatever resources they may have had.
“Before, if you intended to get to the latter stages of the league, there were three or four teams every year who didn’t have an awful lot to play for, and that effected teams at the top and the bottom. So we should see it being more competitive all the way through.” To their credit, ‘Nure stayed in touch until just before the break, with Con backrower Billy Holland’s try the difference as David McAllister matched Jeremy Manning’s 12 points from the tee.
Con then struck a hammer blow when the Kiwi fly-half found giant wing Richard Lane with a cross-kick – the first of three tries for the former Ireland U21 man.
Manning crossed himself on the resumption following a sweeping length-of-the-field move kept alive brilliantly by centre Tim Kenneally, pushing their lead out to 31-12.
’Nure’s frustration boiled over as McAllister and Leinster prop Stephen Knoop were sin-binned within three minutes of each other, and Con took full advantage with Lane collecting two Manning cross-field kicks to complete his hat-trick, the latter converting the latter to finish with a 23-point haul.
A flood of substitutions ensured the game lost structure and began to resemble tag rugby, and ‘Nure grabbed a consolation when Bollard capitalised on a loose pass deep in Con territory to stroll over.
CORK CONSTITUTION: Denis Hurley; R Lane, E Ryan, T Kenneally, C Healy; J Manning, D Lyons; Darragh Hurley, L Gabriel, Tim Ryan; D Kelly, J Moloney; E Leamy, B Cuttriss (capt), B Holland.
Replacements: P Kelleher for Moloney (44-54) and Gabriel (72), C Nolan for Denis Hurley, Tom Ryan for Tim Ryan (both 60), B Nagle for Moloney (62), P Broughan for Kenneally (70).
TERENURE COLLEGE: D Cazabon; R Henderson, J Bollard, G Coffey, R McCarthy; D McAllister, M Mahony; J Barretto, K Mahony, S Knoop; B Moroney, K O’Dwyer; J Dever, C Connolly, A Dunlop (capt).
Replacements: C Gildea for McCarthy (26, inj), G Flanagan for M Mahony (28) N McCann for Connolly (49-59), and Baretto (68), J Larbey for K Mahony (68).
Referee: M Hermin (Ulster).