Lansdowne extended their winning run to seven matches with a hard-earned, spirited performance in difficult conditions that proved too much in the end for an under-strength Clontarf side which only capitulated in the later stages of what was, despite what the score line might suggest, a tough match.
Played on a soft surface which at times caused players to lose their footing, Clontarf won the toss and elected to play into the stiff breeze and up the slope on the Castle Avenue ground.
The home side suffered the double misfortune of losing both their open side, Adrian Darcy and right wing, Ariel Robles to injury after only two minutes play. The conditions determined that ‘Tarf would be on the defensive in the first half; they tackled well, but a propensity to give away penalties – 4 in the space of the first 13 minutes – led to out half and acting captain Scott Deasy converting two kicks for a 6-0 lead to the visitors.
‘Tarf centre Matt D’Arcy led a break-out in the 18th minute which saw the home side hit the Lansdowne ’22 for the first time; the relief was short-lived, however, as Deasy and scrum half Adam Griggs used the elements to pin the home side back in their own 22. Clontarf’s strategy was to keep the ball in hand and allow forward carries to eat up the clock. The regular cry of “Northampton” saw the home side go through multiple phases which were not particularly intended to go anywhere but which did eat up time.
Lansdowne’s first try came in the 28th minute when the home defence failed to deal with a box kick. The loose ball broke over the line for the alert Deasy to touch down for what has to be said was a somewhat fortuitous try which he was unable to convert.
Following a further, isolated Clontarf foray into the Lansdowne ’22, a scrum to the visitors 30 metres from their own line led to the try of the match after 36 minutes.
Quick ball off an advancing scrum was transferred to the rampaging Tom Daly, who made 40 metres before transferring to his centre partner, Tom Farrell. Farrell linked with left winger, Ian Fitzpatrick before gratefully receiving an inside pass to cross for what was an excellent effort. Once again the elements defied Deasy’s conversion attempt, but the lead was stretched to 16-0.
Lansdowne’s advantage was beginning to look good with the elements to be faced in the second half. Better was to come however, when, following a good hit by Deasy in midfield, a turnover scrum was awarded to the visitors. This time it was Farrell who did the damage, his excellent break setting up full back Cian Kelleher to score a well-worked try deep into first half injury time. Deasy made no mistake with the kick this time, and the visitors greeted half time with a cushion of 23 points to nil.
Clontarf needed to hit the ground running on the restart if they were to stand any chance of overhauling Lansdowne’s formidable lead; their efforts were immediately hampered by the yellow carding of their half-time sub front row, Ian Hirst, after only one minute’s play for a tip-tackle. This time, it was Lansdowne’s turn to play “keep ball”, and they did so successfully to hold the home side at bay. A quick attack almost saw Fitzpatrick clear, but his pass inside to busy flanker Aaron Conneely was just too difficult to grasp and the ball was lost forward.
Clontarf again used the breeze to establish field position and Lansdowne had a narrow escape in the 50th minute when right winger Foster Horan, who made a welcome and industrious return to the side, pulled off an excellent tackle on his opposite number in the corner.
Restored to full numbers, Clontarf began to turn the screw and, for a fifteen minute period between the 50th and 65th minutes, it was all hands to the pump as Lansdowne defended resolutely and with discipline, not conceding penalties and nailing the home players who were pummelling their line. Two key turn-overs and finally a penalty saw the visitors clear their lines and the resolve of the home side began to wane.
Their cause was not helped by the sin-binning of second row Tom Byrne for throwing a punch in the 67th minute, which finally took the wind out of the ‘Tarf sails.
Lansdowne scored from the subsequent penalty line-out, with hooker Tyrone Moran, who enjoyed an excellent match, making serious headway before setting up a kick through which was seized upon by the ever-alert Farrell to cross for his second try of the match, his fifth of the campaign and the precious bonus point. Scott Deasy landed the difficult conversion and Lansdowne were home and hosed at 30 points to nil.
Lansdowne continued to dominate affairs until the end, and were rewarded with a fifth try scored off a quickly taken tap penalty which saw the alert Brian Moylett surge over the line to apply the coup de gras for a final score line of 35-0 to the visitors.
The Lansdowne management can take great credit for what was a sterling performance by their charges in what were difficult playing conditions. The backline played extremely well as a unit, and always threatened the gain line, while the strength and conditioning work paid dividends in the durability of the pack in absorbing some heavy punishment - they still retained the fitness to come again at the end and secure the winning bonus point.
A three week break now in the Ulster Bank AIL Division 1A programme until we entertain an in-form Ballynahinch side on Saturday the 31st of January. Make sure you are there to support your team!
Match Report: Michael Daly
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