Con remain fourth, nine points behind leaders Lansdowne, but with their morale considerably boosted by this extremely hard earned win. For Garryowen, league leaders at Christmas, it was their second home defeat in a week and leaves them seven off the pace.
Holland landed five of his penalties in the first half after which Con led 15-10 and two more on the turnover including the decisive kick in the 68th minute. It proved all-important as they held on for dear life with centre Robert Clune in the sin-bin.
“Johnny Holland was magnificent today,” said Con head coach Brian Walsh. “It was great for the forwards to look up and see the ball sailing between the posts and that kept us going. But I really don’t want to single anyone out and our defence at the end was magnificent.”
Not surprisingly, Walsh’s Garryowen counterpart Tom Tierney was bitterly disappointed given they scored the game’s only tries through Conan Doyle in the first half and Ronan O’Mahony, in the second, that drew the sides level in the 55th minute.
“It’s a small bit mystifying how we gave away so many penalties,” Tierney lamented. “We scored two very good tries but when you give away 21 points in penalties, you’re chasing the game and that’s what we ended up doing in the last few minutes.”
To be fair, though, the coaches had good reason to be pleased at the overall high standard of play.
“I thought it was a fantastic game of rugby,” enthused Walsh. “We had two sides going at it hammer and tongs. Garryowen scored a couple of good tries but I think we were consistently good and did an awful lot of good stuff. We got the penalties and took our reward for all the hard work. It could have gone either way at the end.
“I just felt it was a great advert for the league and there’s still a long way to go. Lansdowne are well ahead but we got a result against them earlier in the season. We probably have to win everything on the way home but there’s light there and opportunity and you want to be playing for something. We were playing to get back into the running today and we did that.”
CORK CONSTITUTION: D Lyons; C Healy, R Clune, I Dineen, C Desmond; J Holland, G Hurley; B Casey, B Vaughan, J Ryan, B Hayes, P Donnellan, G Lawlor, B O’Hara, J Ryan.
Rolling replacements: A Cudmore, P Galvin, C O’Flaherty, A Ryan, D Williams.
GARRYOWEN: R O’Mahony; L Bourke, C Hircock, C Doyle, C O’Shea; M Jarvis, N Cronin; R Brosnan, J Rael, J P Cooney, A McCloskey, M Melbourne, S Buckley, A Kavanagh, TJ Anderson.
Rolling replacements: D Rowley, P O’Shea, A Kennedy, J McInerney, G Ryan.
Referee: P Fitzgibbon (IRFU).