Dolphin 6 Cork Constitution 6
Derby honours even in the Ulster Bank League last night, but this won’t be a clash remembered on Leeside for long.
This draw does little for either Cork side’s hopes of making an impact at the business end of the Division 1A table, particularly for Dolphin who are still moored at the foot of the table without a win.
Some late drama could have seen this tie go either way, but it didn’t have much else going for it aside from some full-blooded defence from both sides. That was despite superb conditions for Friday night lights rugby in November, with the Musgrave Park pitch immaculate, on a dry evening with little wind.
Dolphin coach Steve Ford seemed the happiest afterwards after ensuring his side haven’t lost to Con in two seasons: “I’m somewhat satisfied; I feel we created more opportunities but weren’t clinical enough to put them away. We have made great progress despite many injuries. We had two draws in two weeks, so it’s progress.”
His Con counterpart Tom Tierney sang from a similar hymn sheet, saying his side probably didn’t deserve to take the spoils, in front of a crowd in excess of 2,500.
“Both sides had chances but I don’t think we took what we could have,” said Tierney. “Likewise, Dolphin didn’t take their chances in the first half with some missed kicks. Overall, would we have deserved a win with that level of performance? I don’t think so.”
The opening quarter showed why both teams are occupying slots at the wrong end of the table; there was plenty of endeavour but little cutting edge. Con made most of the running, with full-back Darren Sweetnam showing a few touches of class from full-back, while captain Darragh Lyons mixed and matched well from out-half.
The visitors earned a pair of promising penalties from their dominant scrum and breakdown work, but twice kicked to the corner without getting any tangible reward. Eamonn Mills’ intelligent kick-chase finally gave Dolphin some territorial foothold and a Con lineout offence gave the hosts a first penalty chance on 24 minutes.
Out-half Stuart Lee slotted the kick for a 3-0 lead against the run of play.
That roused Con somewhat and some quick feet in heavy traffic from Sweetnam got Niall Kenneally away, and when Dolphin killed the ball on the deck, Lyons levelled it with a kick on 30 minutes.
Lee had three chances to put Dolphin back in front either side of the interval but spurned all three as the hosts introduced Munster back row Dave O’Callaghan — on the mend from a long-term injury — to supercharge their forward efforts.
Sensing they had got out of jail, Con upped the ante and finally put together some phases to earn a pair of penalty shots for Lyons — one dinged the post but the other was successful for a 6-3 advantage.
With neither side able to offload effectively, line-breaks were at a premium and with Dolphin’s back row doing their best Richie McCaw impressions, Con’s frustration at the slow ball boiled over, with Kenneally yellow-carded for use of the knee at a ruck 14 minutes from time.
It failed to stem Con’s momentum, however. They instead used No.8 Luke Cahill as the midfield battering ram, while James Ryan continued to provided slick lineout ball at the tail, giving Lyons a drop goal opportunity which he scuffed wide.
Dolphin, however, saved their best until last and suddenly had Con scrambling after Cian McGovern’s line-break. Replacement Rob Reardon ignored an overlap that might have won it for them but Dolphin had earned a penalty, which Lee slotted it from 25 metres out to tie it up at 6-6.
Con quickly worked Lyons into position for another drop goal to win it, but Gerry Hurley’s pass was high and wild and although Lyons got the kick away, it missed again.
Jermyn had a chance to steal it for Con but the retreating Shane McAuliffe did well to get to a poked grubber kick first, under his own posts. Con were subsequently penalised for going off their feet to ensure Dolphin recorded a second successive draw.
DOLPHIN: E Mills; S McAuliffe, C McGovern, D Horgan, E O’Shaughnessy; S Lee, D Foley; J Leahy, N Scannell (capt), J Rochford; C Rowe, B Quill; R O’Herlihy, K Allen, R Murphy.
Replacements: D O’Callaghan for Allen (h/t), R Reardon for Lee (66), Lee for Horgan (72).
CORK CONSTITUTION: D Sweetnam; L Duffy, I Dineen, N Kenneally, R Jermyn; D Lyons (capt), G Hurley; G Duffy, M Abbott, R Burke; C O’Flaherty, D O’Brien; J Murphy, J Ryan, L Cahill.
Replacements: A Slattery for G Duffy (48 mins), G Sweeney for Burke (49 mins, inj).
Referee: G Conway (IRFU)
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