Lansdowne look locked in

Cork Constitution 14 Lansdowne 34

Temple Hill is not an easy place to visit, especially when the hosts were reeling from a shock defeat to St Mary’s just a week earlier.

But Mike Ruddock’s Dubliners only had to play for 47 minutes to secure a bonus-point win; by that stage they were 34-0 to the good and Con were staring at a potential record defeat.

That landmark still stands as a 42-3 reverse to St Mary’s in 2000, because Lansdowne seemed happy enough with their lot, while Con finally started to play in the last 20 minutes, yielding two deserved tries.

“You look at that Lansdowne side and you wonder how a lot of them aren’t in professional rugby,” admitted Con coach Brian Walsh. “They’re certainly physically able for it, and it helps if you have someone like Mike Ruddock, who has won a Six Nations Grand Slam with Wales, orchestrating it all. They have a big squad with a lot of talent so they don’t struggle when guys are away with Ireland U20s or with Leinster.

“But the one thing that stands out for me is their physicality; they’re such a powerful side. It just shows the level the league has gone to now, the non-contracted players are as big if not bigger than the contracted guys.

“We’ve a new gym built, it’s there for a purpose and we’ll use it. There’s a lot of work to be done in the off-season.

“We’ve struggled with consistency all year, a lot of guys are learning a lot of lessons. I think we’ve beaten everyone in the league but no one twice. That’s the frustration of it.”

Lansdowne had bigger men in the back row and centres against an injury-hit Con, allowing them to win the collisions and produce plenty of quick ball for their slick backs.

Craig Ronaldson’s penalty and his conversion of Foster Horan’s try had them 10-0 up inside 12 minutes, before there was a seven-minute stoppage as Con flanker Brian O’Hara was hospitalised after suffering a serious-looking leg injury.

The Con defence was then splintered by both Cian Aherne and Ferdia Doherty with the latter sending Ron Boucher in at the posts, and out-half Ronaldson dummied his way over just before half time, converting both tries for a 24-0 advantage.

It continued to be one-way traffic on the resumption, Ronaldson kicking a penalty and converting Tadhg Beirne’s try and a 49th-minute yellow card for Con hooker Andy O’Driscoll seemed set to precipitate a collapse.

But Ronaldson, who ended with an 18-point haul, missed the resultant penalty and Lansdowne all but packed up for the day soon after.

Con then started to play and were full value for their two tries, scored in the final 10 minutes by impressive scrum-half Gerry Hurley and number eight Cathal O’Flaherty, with Jonathan Holland converting both from either touchline.

Lansdowne’s lead at the top of the table is now 12 points with six games to go, a far cry from last year’s title run-in which saw St Mary’s prevail on the final day. But Walsh is not among those who would like to see a reversion to a four-team, end-of-season play-off. “I prefer it this way,” he said. “Anyone who goes through the league and plays consistently well like Lansdowne deserves the title. We have the All-Ireland Cup for the knockout element.”

Scorers for Cork Con: Tries: G Hurley, C O’Flaherty; Cons: J Holland 2.

Scorers for Lansdowne: Tries: F Horan, R Boucher, T Beirne; C Ronaldson. Cons: C Ronaldson 4. Pens: C Ronaldson 2.

CORK CONSTITUTION: D Lyons; N O’Driscoll, C Healy, S Deasy, C Desmond; J Holland, G Hurley (capt); J Rochford, A O’Driscoll, C Corkery; B Hayes, P Donnellan; G Lawler, B O’Hara, C O’Flaherty.

Rolling replacements: B Vaughan, P Galvin, A Ross, A Ryan, R Clune.

LANSDOWNE: R McCarron (capt); C Aherne, F Doherty, S Morrissey, F Horan; C Ronaldson, P O’Driscoll; I Prendeville, S Collins, D O’Reilly; W Earl, T Beirne; C Ross, C Butterworth, R Boucher.

Rolling replacements: T Moran, R Liddington, M Feely, M Walsh, C Toolan.

Referee: N Correll (IRFU).

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