(OTTAWA, ON) – The Ontario Blues fought to a tight 12-10 win over Irish tourists Cork Constitution FC on Monday night in front of an enthusiastic crowd at Twin Elm Rugby Park. The victory completes another successful season for the Blues, who won their fifth MacTier Cup in the last six years as Canadian Rugby Champions.
The match got off to a slow start as each team had trouble maintaining possession through multiple phases. Ontario repeatedly knocked the ball on during this early period of the game, giving Cork plenty of opportunities to attack from the set pieces. Ontario defended and contested each breakdown aggressively each time but ended up giving penalties away to Cork in their own half. Cork repeatedly chose to kick for touch instead of going for post, with Ontario clearing the pressure within their own 22 each time.
It wasn't until roughly 25 minutes into the half that Ontario settled into the Cork 22 and maintained multiple phases of attacking play. Cork defended their goal-line but Ontario inched closer to the try line with each pick-and-go. At the 32nd minute, Ontario scrum half Andrew Ferguson crashed over for a try to open the scoring. Ferguson also made the conversion in front of the posts to give Ontario a 7-0 lead heading into halftime.
The second half started slowly for Ontario. After being given a penalty and kicking for touch, they were back on the defensive as Cork put pressure on the Blues forcing them to defend inside their own half. At the 46th minute, Cork was given a penalty and chose to kick for points instead of choosing to go for touch like they had repeatedly done in the first half. Tomás Quinlan converted the kick and put Cork on the scoreboard. Ontario led 7-3.
Shortly after the restart, Ontario attacked and started putting pressure on Cork's defense. After a turnover at the breakdown, Cork responded with a long run. Cork winger Rob Jermyn broke through the Ontario defense by fending off multiple tacklers and touched down in the endzone. The conversion attempt by Quinlan was good and put Cork into the lead after roughly 52 minutes of play. Cork Con FC 10, Ontario Blues 7.
The Blues responded by quickly getting the ball into the Cork 22, but gave the ball away with another knock on near the Cork goal-line. Cork returned the favour shortly thereafter by committing another penalty and giving Ontario an opportunity to attack after a lineout. Cork repeatedly defended their goal-line and gave away penalties, leading to a series of 5m scrums for Ontario. At the 60m mark, Cork flanker Sonny Dywer was given a yellow card for killing the ball at the goal-line.
With Ontario up a man for the next ten minutes, they continued attacking off the base of each 5m scrum. Each time, Cork stopped the Ontario attack from scoring. After another series of penalties, Cork was given another yellow card. After holding the ball up in the endzone, Cork had defended during the entire 10 minutes of their original yellow card. Now back up to 14 men, Cork was forced to defend another uncontested 5m scrum. Ontario spun the ball out wide and got the ball into the hands of winger Josh Campbell, who touched down in the endzone for another Blues try. The conversion attempt by Ferguson was no good. Ontario 12, Cork Con FC 10.
Cork responded right away after the restart and got the ball into the Ontario half. After a series of phases, Ontario committed a penalty inside their own 22 to give Cork an attempt late in the game to kick for the win. After lining up the kick from the left side of the posts, the left footed Quinlan hooked the kick to the right and Ontario maintained their 12-10 lead. Shortly after, the final whistle blew and brought an end to a tightly contested match.
"I thought the guys adapted well," said Ontario captain Hank McQueen after the game. "Guys filled in and did their job against a pretty unpredictable team. We didn't know what they were going to throw at us, we really hadn't seen anything. We just kept to the plan. There were a ton of setbacks throughout the game but we stuck to it and I was really happy with new players stepping in and getting it and it ended up paying off."
Blues manager Mark Winuker also had plenty of praise for a squad with an influx of new talent. "We're in a new World Cup cycle and it's important to get new blood into the system. The new guys did well and put together a great effort."
After the match, the MacTier Cup was presented to the Blues by Rugby Canada chairman Tim Powers and Rugby Canada legend Al Charron. The Blues retained the cup as winners of the Canadian Rugby Championship with a decisive 50-21 win over the BC Bears on July 24.
1 Rob Brouwer 2 Brendan Black 3 Ryan Surgenor 4 Hank McQueen (capt.) 5 Mike Sheppard 6 Marcello Wainwright 7 Peter Milazzo 8 Lucas Rumball 9 Andrew Ferguson 10 Mitch Richardson 11 Josh Campbell 12 Derek Daypuck 13 Jon West 14 Justin Tota 15 Will Kelly
Subs: 16 John Shaw 17 Tyler Doran 18 Pat Lynott 19 Gabriel Brocardi 20 Jason Hubbell 21 Jesse Lofthouse 22 Ibrahim Bouiahadi 23 Cathal Quinn
CORK CONSTITUTION FC
1 Greg Roche 2 Jack McHenry 3 Ger Sweeney 4 Darragh Moloney 5 Conor Kindregan 6 Cian Barry 7 Sonny Dwyer 8 Evan Mintern 9 Jason Higgins 10 Tomás Quinlan 11 Rob Jermyn 12 Niall Kenneally (capt.) 13 JJ O’Neill 14 Sean Gray 15 Liam O’Connell
Subs: Liam O’Connor, Daniel Coughlan, David Fitzgerald, James Murphy, Robbie Walsh, Alex Ryan, Michael Clune, Michael Keyes, Billy Pope, Gavin Duffy
Tries: Andrew Ferguson (32'), Josh Campbell (68’)
Conv: Ferguson (32')
Cork Con FC 10
Try: Rob Jermyn (51')
Conv: Tomás Quinlan (51’)
Pen: Tomás Quinlan (46’)
Halftime: Ontario 7, Cork Con FC 0