A second defeat in a row was not what the doctor ordered, and the result is a tightening up of the pecking order at the top of the Ulster Bank AIL Division 1A table with three matches remaining to determine the play-off and relegation issues.
On a dry pitch with little or no wind, the scene was set for a top-of the table clash between first placed Lansdowne and perennial top four finishers, Cork Con.
Nor did the two sides disappoint, in what was a highly competitive game played at a cracking pace by two evenly-matched teams committed to attacking rugby.
Both sides started brightly, although there was an element of feeling the opposition out in the early stages. The Lansdowne scrum asserted itself after 8 minutes, but top League points scorer, out half Scott Deasy, was wide from 42 yards. A good turnover then saw Hooker Tyrone Moran provide quick ball for flanker Charlie Butterworth and Mark O’Keeffe, but the winger was forced into touch.
Cork Con asserted themselves for a period, with No. 8 Gavin Duffy and blindside Ger Sweeney prominent, but the sides remained level after 20 minutes. Lansdowne then enjoyed a period of sustained scrum pressure on the visitors 5 metre line. It took over five minutes, two reset scrums and three penalties before the referee, Leo Colgan from Limerick, eventually bowed to the inevitable and awarded Lansdowne a penalty try.
Why the penalty try award took so long to come about will remain a mystery known only to Mr. Colgan, but the net end-product was 7 points to the home side as Deasy added the extras for a 7-0 lead after 25 minutes.
Con went on the attack, and were rewarded with a penalty on the home ’22 after Lansdowne dropped a maul. This resulted in a series of attacks as Con sought to press home their advantage. Lansdowne defended resolutely, however, and a big tackle for right winger Daniel McEvoy helped stem the onslaught.
Con again pressurised the Lansdowne defence, and were assisted by the referee missing an obvious knock on in a move that resulted in left winger Rob Jermyn crossing out wide for a try, to the disbelief of the home support.
The try was not added to, and Lansdowne entered the break with a narrow 7-5 lead.
Good rugby ebbed and flowed as both clubs sought to seize the initiative. Scott Deasy was hit late and had to go off for treatment; temporary sub. Charlie McMickan was unable to convert the resultant penalty.
Alan Bennie, who always looked threatening, made a lovely break in the 44th minute and was supported by McEvoy, but a knock on frustrated their efforts.
Visiting out half Tomas Quinlan struck a penalty after 51 minutes to edge Con ahead 8-7. This was followed by a great Butterworth surge down the left which took play into the Corkmen’s ’22. From the resulting scrum, Con were penalised for an early push and Deasy made the penalty look easy as Lansdowne got their noses in front again, 10-8.
Quinlan having missed a further penalty, a great chase and tackle by centre Mark Roche saw a further home penalty as Deasy struck from 40 metres with a fine kick on the hour.
Lansdowne were beginning to assert themselves until disaster struck in the form of an intercepted pass gobbled up by centre Ned Hodson, who leveled matters at 13-all. Quinlan’s convert again edged the visitors in front after 63 minutes.
The ding dong nature of the play continued, as next Lansdowne centre John O’Donnell took advantage of a breakdown in the Con midfield to hack on, gather and cross for a fine individual try after 66 minutes. With Scott again adding the bonus, Lansdowne were 20-15 ahead and looking good.
The match then turned on a great piece of play by Con second rower and Man of the Match, Brian Hayes, who burst free from 40 metres out down the right and, taking advantage of some less than impressive Lansdowne tackling, rounded under the posts for a killer blow with his third try in successive matches.
With Quinlan adding the extras and kicking a further penalty awarded in the line out when the Con lifters appeared to lose their jumper, Con were ahead 25-20 as the match entered injury time. What followed was an intensive and sustained period of pressure on the visitor’s line as Lansdowne tried to rescue the match.
For ten minutes, punctuated by the award of several penalties which had to be tapped, Lansdowne valiantly laid siege to the Con line as the equally heroic defenders sought to repel them. Phase after phase was launched at the visitors, and the tension on the sidelines became almost unbearable.
After 10 minutes’ additional time and a Jermyn yellow card for taking McEvoy out in the air, Lansdowne finally cracked and a penalty was conceded, to the intense relief of the visitors and the despair of the home supporters.
In truth, a draw would have been the fairest result for two evenly matched sides but, for Lansdowne, the loss was not fatal, and they remain in first place with a home semi-final still in their own hands. Ironically, their last three games are against the bottom sides in the League – Old Belvedere (a), Terenure (a) and Garryowen at home. No easy matches there, as our opponents fight for their Division 1A lives!
Clontarf are in second place, 4 points behind Lansdowne, and play Young Munster (4th) at home, followed by St. Mary’s (a) and UCD (h).
Cork Con (3rd, also 4 points behind) play Garryowen (h), Young Munster (a) and St. Mary’s (h), while Young Munster, in 4th place, play their remaining match against Old Belvedere (a).
Lansdowne have the best points difference, but there are some key matches coming up in the League, so please be there to support Lansdowne in the coming weeks as the club seeks to win our third AIL League title!
Mick Quinn paid a wonderful tribute to former Highfield, UCC, Lansdowne, Munster, Ireland and Lions legend Moss Keane at the pre-match AIL Lunch. Con and Lansdowne Presidents, Jerry Holland and Simon Coyle, added their own contributions and presentations were made to Anne Marie and Sarah, Moss and Anne’s daughters, to mark the occasion.
The large attendance also saw President Simon present a fine engraved ship’s decanter to Jerry to mark the Cork Con club’s 125th anniversary and the long history of friendship between the two clubs.
After the England v. Scotland match, the Lansdowne Under 20’s rounded off their winning League campaign with an entertaining 22-20 victory over UCD, and were presented with their trophy and medals afterwards. Well done, Lads!
Match Report: Michael Daly
Match Details: Lansdowne FC 20 Cork Constitution RFC 25
Ulster Bank AIL Division 1A 2016-17
Aviva Stadium Back Pitch, Sat. 11th March 2017 k.o. 2:30pm
Referee: Leo Colgan
Article related to 1st XV team.
Article related to 1st XV v Cork Constitution fixture.