Dolphin 24 Cork Constitution 27
Dolphin were left kicking themselves last night as a late, late try from Munster rookie John Ryan earned Constitution an unlikely victory at Musgrave Park.
It was a remarkable encounter with a pulsating finish as Constitution snatched the win against a home side reduced to 13 men in the last couple of minutes.
That injury-time try shattered Dolphin’s dreams and Con have pulled seven clear in fourth place of a league that will most likely be won by Lansdowne in Dublin this afternoon.
After a bad start — Dolphin conceded a penalty to Johnny Holland after just two minutes — the home side went on to produce the goods. Barry Keeshan kicked an equalising score after seven minutes and Chris Rowe got in for a 14th-minute try that Keeshan converted for a 10-3 lead.
Barring isolated spells, Dolphin proved to be the more forceful of the teams in the opening half, although Constitution posed a danger in a couple of breakaway moves that ultimately proved of no more than slight scare value.
In fact, a minute from the break Dolphin pounced for a second try, this time from Miah Cronin and Keeshan converted from the right touchline to push the lead out to 17-3.
Even though it had been a very competitive first half, that wasn’t an outlandish advantage given the amount of field position and general forward dominance enjoyed by the home side.
Holland gave Constitution hope early in the second half with another penalty but Dave O’Callaghan was sent in for a fantastic 51st-minute try with a huge assist from flanker Rob O’Herlihy and winger Danny Barnes. Keeshan’s conversion gave Dolphin a 24-6 advantage they would have paid for at the start of the game.
Brian Hayes responded with a try for Con four minutes later and Holland added the conversion to pull back seven points and it was all to play for again with Dolphin ahead by 11, particularly given Constitution’s penchant for playing their best rugby coming from behind.
What had always been a good game became a better one as the minutes ticked on, both sides hell bent on attack and prone to the occasional handling error — and inevitable turnover — just to add to the excitement.
Constitution upped the pace, their pack coming to grips with earlier problems and from nine out they moved with considerably more pace than they had at any stage of the opening half.
Consequently, much of the game was played in Dolphin territory, although it should be said the visitors were met with dogged determination in defence as Dolphin sought to regain bragging rights within the city.
That determination didn’t stop Brian Cagney getting another score for Constitution in the corner and when Holland knocked over the difficult conversion there was just four points between the teams with three minutes of normal time remaining.
It was sweating time from there to the end and Dolphin lost two men to the sin bin, then they conceded another try too, this time to Ryan, with the conversion coming from Holland to send Constitution into orbit.
DOLPHIN: E Mills, J Gleeson, R Scannell, C Bohane, D Barnes, B Keeshan, B Slater, J Cronin, N Scannell (captain), C Condon, C Rowe, D O’Shea, R O’Herlihy, R Murphy, M Cronin
Rolling replacements: W Foley, D Hartnett, D O’Callaghan, C Bannon, J Kiernan.
CORK CONSTITUTION: D Lyons, N O’Driscoll, S Deasy, J McMcSweeney,C Healy, J Holland, G Hurley (captain), J Ryan, A O’Driscoll, C Corkery, I Nagle, P Donnellan, B Hayes, C O’Flaherty, J Ryan.
Rolling replacements: B Cagney, A Cudmore, G Lawlor, J Rochford, R Clune.
Referee: O Hodges (M.A.R).
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