The experienced Hurley - back home after two years playing professionally in France - was even more pleased when an injury-time try secured an invaluable bonus point which edges them into second behind runaway leaders Lansdowne.
Having had to relinquish a five-year grip on the Munster Senior Cup at the back end of 2017, this was a positive start to 2018 for Constitution and ironically, Garryowen’s league defeat to Young Munster on Friday helped clear the way for elevation to second place.
Hurley said: “Everyone was disappointed at losing the cup semi-final to Garryowen, but we have to get on with things; we’re now second but we’re still chasing Lansdowne who are the team to beat this season and they just keep on winning.
But having suffered disappointment in the cup, we did bounce back strongly (today) despite missing our captain Niall (Kenneally) and the vice-captain Conor Kindregan.
Con were in control for much of the tie and they were boosted by a 13th minute try from Joe White converted by Aidan Moynihan.
The visitors enjoyed a spell of dominance early in the second quarter and came close to scoring after 26 minutes only to be penalised on the Constitution line. Denied that score, Buccaneers conceded a second try to Sean Duffy five minutes from the break and they failed to recover.
Con upped the tempo and the impressive Luke Cahill charged over for the third try seven minutes after the resumption.
Moynihan converted but he was forced to wait until the clock ticked into the red to kick some more points as Con spent ten minutes defending their line before substitute winger Barry Galvin made a vital break-out to ease the pressure.
Cahill galloped clear and Con struck with the fourth try from Ned Hodson to allow Moynihan tack on those extra points.
Lansdowne gave another significant warning to their title challengers with a brilliant 38-8 bonus point victory over Clontarf on the Aviva Stadium’s back pitch. Mike Ruddock’s men kicked off the New Year by extending their lead at the top of Division 1A to 13 points. The ever-impressive Scott Deasy ran in an intercept try to put the seal on their 11th straight league win and complete his own 18-point haul.
The hosts’ other tries were shared out between Adam Leavy, who also caught the eye in the Lansdowne back-line, Daniel McEvoy, Alan Bennie and Aaron Conneely, with out-half Deasy providing the assists for the first two inside 19 minutes. Leinster-capped centre Conor O’Brien crossed for Clontarf who have slipped from second to fourth in the table.
Dublin University have climbed out of the bottom two thanks to a 25-10 defeat of close rivals St. Mary’s at College Park. Returning out-half Jack McDermott played a leading role, kicking 10 points for the students and scoring a try from a Mary’s error.
Sam Coghlan Murray came back to haunt his former club UCD as he scored two tries in a tremendous 31-26 comeback victory for Terenure College at Belfield. ‘Nure trailed 26-7 at the break but Coghlan Murray’s brace, a penalty try and Mark O’Neill’s closing effort, coupled with a closing penalty from James Thornton, saw the visitors prevail and move up to third.
Meanwhile, brothers Stephen and Conor Fitzgerald combined for 15 points as Division 1B pacesetters Shannon swept past Naas on a 25-3 scoreline. Winger Richard Reaney weighed in with a try and 13 points from the tee as Ballynahinch beat Ballymena 28-13 to stay four points behind the leaders. Out-half Tim Foley was Old Belvedere’s match winner with a coolly-struck 76th-minute drop goal in their 18-15 win over Banbridge.
Belvo have moved back into the top four, while Munster’s Jame Hart converted Noel Kinnane’s late try to complete a stirring fight-back from UL Bohemians who came away from Donnybrook as 17-15 victors over Old Wesley.
J White; L O’Connell, M Clune, N Hodson, R Jermyn; A Moynihan, G Hurley (captain); B Quinlan, M Abbott, G Sweeney; B Hayes, S Duffy; J McSwiney, R O’Neill, L Cahill.
V O’Brien, D Murphy, S Dwyer, G Bradley, B Galvin.
A Gaughan; D Corbett, S Layden (captain), B Carty, R O’Connor; L Carty, C McKeon; M Staunton, E Meagher, C Kenny; C Romaine, S Meagher; J Sutton, E Galvin, R O’Meara.
J Foley, N Farrelly, B Diffley, G Lynch, F Hopkins.
J Erskine (IRFU)