Lansdowne emerged from a hard-fought encounter in Limerick last Saturday having shared the spoils with a Garryowen side riding high in the League table.
In a strange coincidence, the scoring pattern mirrored that in the drawn international in the Aviva Stadium on Sunday – the sides were level 13-all at half time, and still could not be separated at no side with the scores still even at 16 apiece.
A raw, biting wind scudded across the pitch, and most of the play took place on the road-side of the Dooradoyle grounds.
Lansdowne opened brightly, with Foster Horan in the centre (who troubled the home defence throughout), making a line break in the first minute. This resulted in the first penalty of the match to the visitors, 33 metres out. Scott Deasy was narrowly wide with a well-struck effort.
Both sides were feeling each other out, and early nervousness led to several handling errors on both sides. Indeed, the game was quite error-strewn overall, as firm and committed tackling on both sides had a destabilising effect on the general standard of play.
It was left to Garryowen scrum half, Neil Cronin, to score the first points when he kicked a penalty from in front after 7 minutes, Lansdowne having strayed off-side in defence. The home side struck again after 12 minutes, when an attack down the left saw Garryowen recover possession after a grubber kick and some nice inter-passing resulted in winger Ronan O’Halloran crossing for an unconverted try and an 8-0 lead to the home side.
Lansdowne attacked from the restart, and worked their way into the Garryowen half. The home side were then penalised at the scrum, and this time Captain Deasy made no mistake from 32 metres out to reduce the margin to 8-3.
Garryowen made good use of their line-out maul, with No. 8 and home Captain Josh Hrstich prominent in most phases of play. On 25 minutes he made a good break from the base of a scrum from the visitor’s ten metre line; the ball was knocked backwards by a Lansdowne hand, but then fell kindly for flanker and Munster Academy player Conor Oliver to score a somewhat fortuitous try and a 13-3 lead.
Lansdowne brought on second rower Tadhg Byrne, and his physical and athletic input made a significant impact as the game progressed. In the 29th minute a great clearance from full back Eamonn Mills saw play into the home ’22. Lansdowne won the subsequent line-out, but the ball was knocked on and the opportunity passed. Similarly, when the Lansdowne eight took a ball against the head after the half hour, the chance went a begging as the ball was lost forward.
Deasy narrowed the lead to 13-6 with his second successful penalty from a scrum in front as the Lansdowne front row had the better of their rivals. Both packs struggled to establish ascendancy in the loose, and this resulted in a very evenly fought contest. Lansdowne’s scrum continued to be on top, however, and this was translated into a penalty try in first half injury time and the yellow-carding of the Garryowen sub-loose head. Scott Deasy added the extras and the sides were level 13-all at the interval.
Horan was once again to the fore with an early break, and took some stopping every time he was in possession. Sub scrum half Matt D’Arcy came on at half time for Adam Griggs, who had picked up a slight injury, but only lasted for 4 minutes before shipping a knock himself. Griggs came back on with a heavily strapped boot, and did very well in the circumstances.
Lansdowne’s scrum advantage was strangely undermined as the second half progressed, and they were penalised in the first two scrums as Garryowen appeared to resolve their first half problems in this area. Referee Gary Conway issued two further yellow cards to flanker Charlie Butterworth and Garryowen sub JP Cooney for a minor scuffle after 20 minutes of the second half.
After 63 minutes scrum half Neil Cronin made a good break which brought play to the Lansdowne 22, where the visitors were penalised in the ruck. Cronin made no mistake from close in to establish a three point lead as the match entered its final stages.
Lansdowne have specialised this season in coming from behind to rescue situations, and again this proved to be the case. They launched a series of attacks into the Garryowen ’22, with winger Ian Fitzpatrick hitting the line at pace and linking up with Mills and then his opposite winger, Cian Kelleher, in what was Lansdowne’s best back move of the match.
Hrstich was very fortunate to remain on the pitch when he batted down a Lansdowne pass in his own ‘22, the referee deciding to go back for an earlier penalty to Lansdowne for off-side. Deasy once again proved to be the man of the moment, and he calmly knocked over the equalising kick from a wide angle to ensure that Lansdowne retain their unbeaten record in 2016 and remain in contention for a place in the play-offs.
Match Report: Michael Daly
Article related to 1st XV team.
Article related to 1stXV v Garryowen fixture.