Clontarf 28 Cork Constitution 25: Clontarf returned to Irish club rugby’s pinnacle as they regained the Ulster Bank League Division 1A title by holding off a second-half comeback from Cork Constitution at the Aviva Stadium.
The Dubliners had been first-time champions in 2013-14 but were beaten by capital rivals Lansdowne in last year’s final.
Another dominant season in the league followed as they topped Division 1A, eight points clear of runners-up Cork Con and the status quo was just about maintained in yesterday’s entertaining seven-try final.
Star of the show was Clontarf and Leinster academy fly-half Joey Carbery, tipped for a big future in the province. New Zealand-born with an Irish mother, Carbery, 20, was a class apart as he steered ‘Tarf into a 21-3 half-time lead.
Con, a week on from their Bateman Cup final victory at Galwegians — a fourth consecutive All-Ireland cup success — had started brightly but despite dominating possession and territory for the opening 10 minutes failed to land a blow with Tomás Quinlan missing a penalty into a swirling wind.
Clontarf, despite Carbery missing 14th and 21st-minute penalties from long range, would prove far more clinical.
The fly-half reached touch on the 22 with a penalty from inside his own half and from the line-out it was Carbery who made the difference, breaking to five metres out. His offload went to Con but the Cork side were turned over and Carbery popped up again to feed centre Matt Darcy, who scored the opening try.
Carbery converted and was quickly repeating the act for his own try, the Tarf midfield busting holes in the Con defence from deep, Darcy passing inside to wing Michael Brown who moved the ball on to his fly-half, who rounded Darren Sweetnam to score.
Quinlan finally got Con on the scoreboard with a penalty but it was Clontarf who ended the opening half on a high, Tony Ryan finishing off another superb move after more midfield demolition work.
Carbery’s conversion sent the Dubliners in 21-3 to the good and had Con head coach Brian Hickey trying to plot a way back into the match for his side.
“I just don’t think we can concede the tries we conceded,” Hickey said of the 18-point interval deficit. “We had defended very well all year, maybe it was just a slight hangover from the game against Galwegians.
The second half, though, saw Con quickly made inroads into their deficit, hooker Max Abbott touching down after a strong driving maul from 10 metres out and Quinlan adding the conversion.
The episode also saw Tarf try scorer Ryan sin-binned for his attempts at collapsing the Con maul and when Quinlan added a penalty to close the gap to 21-13, the contest seemed back on.
It was sufficient to re-ignite Clontarf, who despite being a man down rebounded with a smart try on 52 minutes from Mick McGrath, converted by Carbery. Yet Con were not about to lie down and within 10 minutes they had reduced the affair to a three-point game thanks to tries from wing Peter Jermyn and full-back Sweetnam, the Munster man running into space to collect Ryan Foley’s smart box kick. When Quinlan converted the second of the scores and with just over 15 minutes to go, Con were trailing 28-25. But that was as close as they got
E Ryan (R McGrath, 6); M Brown, C O’Brien, M Darcy, M McGrath; J Carbery, S Cronin (P Du Toit, 48); I Soroka, B Byrne (A Dundon, 48), I Hirst (V Abdaladze, 60); T Byrne (E Browne, 63-75), B Reilly – captain; M Noone (D Joyce, 80), K Moran (N Reilly, 19-26), A Ryan.
A Ryan 44-54
D Sweetnam; A Spring, S Daly, N Kenneally, R Jermyn; T Quinlan, R Foley (J Poland, 78); G Duffy (L O’Connor, h-t), M Abbott, G Sweeney (R Burke, h-t); B Hayes, C Kindregan; G Lawler (C O’Flaherty, 53-66), J Murphy (S Dwyer, 80), J Ryan - captain.
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