Two yellow card dismissals in the closing minutes of a tight and tense Ulster Bank League semi-final cost Young Munster dearly as Cork Constitution came from behind to snatch victory with a brace of injury-time tries.
This was another one-score result between two dogged teams who epitomised all that is good about Irish club rugby.
In the end, Constitution’s late surge keeps them in the race to bring the title back down south after five barren years for Munster clubs.
Young Munster had won both league encounters by a point and that margin looked set to be the difference again when the hosts had an 81st-minute penalty try to edge into a 17-16 lead.
That score came after referee Gary Conway intervened with Con driving towards the line against a Young Munster scrum that was disrupted by the absence of second row Sean Duggan and reserve hooker Peter Meyer. Con went on to score again through Niall Kenneally and they held on as Conway played eight minutes of injury time.
All that drama came after the visitors scored the classiest try of this competitive tie — full back Craig O’Hanlon dotting down after a remarkable break from defence by Gearoid Lyons. 10 minutes to go and it all looked rosy for Young Munster but Con refused to follow that script to the delight of coach Brian Hickey. He said: “We seemed to be on the back foot for long periods of the game, there was a very high penalty count against us and that’s something we will have to look at going forward. We have never been that far away in all of our games but on Saturday we had to go to a place where we haven’t even been close to this season. I was delighted with the response.
“They (Young Munster) got a very good try but there was still time left; I knew then that we had to go out and play.
“There were long periods when we were leaving men come at us and you can’t do that against a team that applies pressure like that.”
Young Munster coach David Corkery was bitterly disappointed at the outcome.
“I won’t blame anyone; if anyone needs to take a rap it’s me, the boys played under my scheme and direction and ultimately we didn’t finish it off.
“We had chances to finish it but those guys over there (Con) you can never write off.
“It’s unfortunate, I am proud of the guys but it’s tough to be in that dressing room after losing like that.
“What can you say? We were down to 13 at a crucial stage of the game and just couldn’t deal with that, especially when we were up against a powerful scrum like theirs. We had that game in the bag, we were probably one clearing of our lines away (of winning) but we just didn’t do it. They’re the fine margins that we have to put up with in sport.”
Scorers for Cork Con:
Tries: N Kenneally (two), penalty try; Pen: T Quinlan; Cons: T Quinlan (two).
Scorers for Young Munster:
Try: C O’Hanlon; Pens: G Lyons (three) Cons: G Lyons.
S Daly; A Spring, N Hodson, N Kenneally, R Jermyn; T Quinlan, R Foley; G Duffy, M Abbott, G Sweeney; C Kindregan, B Hayes; G Lawler, J Ryan (captain), L Cahill.
R Burke, J Murphy, J Poland, L O’Connor, C O’Flaherty.
C O’Hanlon; J Harrington, D Goggin, G Lyons, D O’Neil; R Guerin, A Griesel; D Begley, G Slattery (captain), E Ryan; T Goggin, S Duggan; A Kennedy, D Dee, B Kilkenny.
P Meyer, B Betts, S Rennison, M Madden, A Ross.
G Conway (IRFU).
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