For the fans yesterday, there were plenty of thrills and spills, but for the respective coaches it was palpitation country as neither side yielded an inch and kept faith with respective plans to play with width and intensity.
In short, it was a game neither side deserved to lose. Christians coach Tom Crowe was delighted with his side’s performance and pleased enough with the outcome: “It was tit for tat, score for score, nailbiting right to the end, the draw was a fair result, we’re looking forward to the replay in Limerick.”
His Crescent counterpart Ger Slattery agreed it was a fair result: “Both sides had their patch, the result could have gone either way at times so maybe being afforded a chance to fight another day was the best outcome in the circumstances, but it was a real good game, some great football.”
Christians dominated the opening stages, starting from the kick off claimed by star No.8 Conor O’Sullivan. Save for one clearance and a scrum won for a CBC knock on, Crescent hadn’t touched the ball and ironically the opening try came from that scrum conceded by the Cork side. Having disrupted the put-in, Christians benefited when the ball shot out and flanker Conor Walsh reacted first to pick up and dive over and a 5-0 lead.
Crescent responded immediately with their first attack when John Hurley knocked over an 11th-minute penalty. That spurred them on further and breaks from Jamin Hoffman and skipper Hurley gained valuable ground before Oisin Evans was at the back of a driving maul to nudge over the line for an unconverted try but a valuable 8-5 lead, playing against the wind.
Christians subsequently won more territorial control, they missed a penalty opportunity after 24 minutes but out-half Billy Cain made amends with one he knocked one over in 29 minutes to level the scores.
Crescent refused to sit back and Hoffman was unlucky to graze the touchline en route to the try line after 32 minutes. Happily, referee Shane Kierans called play back for a penalty and Hurley nailed in from in front of the posts to restore the three-point advantage, 11-8 to Crescent at the break.
In much the same manner as the first-half, Christians started the second brightly and drew level after three minutes with a second penalty from Cain. Keeping the game tight, and utilising the strength enjoyed through O’Sullivan, Mark Donnelly, and captain Scott Buckley, CBC powered on and scored another try midway through the second half from the No.8.
There was still time for Crescent to strike back and they did so very well with a 52nd minute try from winger Billy Carew, after some huge pressure from forwards and backs alike.
But Christians had their moments as well and in an attempt to break the deadlock Cain struck a long range penalty attempt well but to the left and wide. It ended with his brave but in vain effort to win it with a drop goal denying them the chance to become the first CBC side to retain the title at this level.
T Downes; M Soans, C Coughlan, F Conway, K Waterman; B Cain, J O’Riordan; C Rasmussen, D Good, M Donnelly; A Brien, D McAuliffe; S Buckley (captain), C Walsh, C O’Sullivan.
A Coleman for Good (49), H Fitzgerald for Rasmussen (51), C Barry for Walsh, D O’Hara for Brien (both 52)., Rasmussen for Donnelly (injured, 59)
D Larkin; B Carew, J Hoffman, J Delaney, T Duggan; J Hurley (captain), D Ahearne; C Fitzgerald, R Reynolds, R Gallery; C O’Malley, C McDonagh; O Evans, A Garland, J Madden.
J Hanley for Gallery (4, injured), C Dineen for Reynolds (49), T Allen for Aherne (51).
S Kierans (M.A.R).
SMI Newcastle West 22 High School Clonmel 7 --