Lansdowne dominated a tight, rain- affected match against hosts, Dolphin RFC, but had to wait until the 74th minute to finally reflect their undoubted dominance on the scoreboard.
Shorn of several key players by Leinster, Munster and Connacht “A” fixtures, the squad revealed great strength in depth in overcoming a home side that are fighting for their Division 1A lives. Scrum half Paddy O’Driscoll started on the wing, and was later replaced there by another scrum half, Ian Burke, when O’Driscoll took over the No. 9 duties.
A misty rain before and intermittently during the match made for greasy conditions and difficulties in handling. As a result, the match failed to ignite at any stage as both sides made a lot of handling errors, leading to numerous turnovers and an overall lack of continuity. A penalty count of 16 and 2 free kicks conceded also stifled many promising visitors’ attacks, and was a cause of frustration for the Lansdowne players.
As was the case in the season- opening match between these sides in the Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne established early dominance in the scrum, and the visitor’s front row of Leinster “A” player Ian Prendiville, Tyrone Moran and Adam Boland once again gave their opposite numbers a torrid afternoon. Dolphin changed two of their front row after 20 minutes, but it had little impact on the powerful Lansdowne set- piece. Dominance in the scrum has been a key feature in Lansdowne’s success so far this season, and the tight forwards can take great credit for this.
Lansdowne went on the attack from the outset, and won a penalty in the first scrum. This led to a fine cut by scrum half Adam Griggs, who was lively on the break until his replacement, but Lansdowne conceded a penalty in a good attacking position after 6 minutes. A similar concession halted another promising move after 10 minutes.
Indiscipline led to a reversed penalty in the Dolphin “22, and a further chance went a- begging. After Scott Deasy missed a penalty in the 23rd minute, Dolphin rubbed salt in the Lansdowne wounds when out half Barry Keeshan kicked a penalty on virtually their first visit to the Lansdowne half.
Deasy made amends with a difficult effort after 32 minutes from 40 metres, but mistakes continued to hamper Lansdowne’s progress as they failed to capitalise on the pressure they were exerting on the home defence. The line out was functioning well, but inexperience in the backline meant that the cutting edge needed to break down a determined and dogged Dolphin defence was lacking.
Keeshan struck again from distance to make it 6-3 to the home side in the 35th minute and this remained the score at half time.
Lansdowne went on the attack immediately on the resumption, and a driving maul was again frustrated in the 47th minute when they were penalised for holding on inches from the line. The visitors kept up the pressure, however, and were rewarded with an equalising penalty converted by Deasy after 48 minutes.
Lansdowne began to turn the screw on the home side, but once again were frustrated after 55 minutes when the touch judge intervened on the Dolphin line and they were penalised. Captain Ron Boucher, who was always prominent and ably supported by Brian Moylett and Aaron Conneely, in particular, went off injured after 63 minutes and was replaced by original starter Joe O’Brien, who came back on at No. 6.
To their credit, the loss of their captain and talisman did not diminish Lansdowne’s efforts, and between the 68th and 74th minutes a series of dropped scrums eventually led to the referee realising that he should award a penalty try. This powerful effort on the part of the pack was converted from in front by Deasy to apply the coup de grace to a brave, if limited, Dolphin side.
A 13-6 margin in no way reflected Lansdowne’s dominance on the park. Results elsewhere on Saturday worked in Lansdowne’s favour and, now trailing leaders Terenure by just one point, the side is nine clear of Cork Con, who are in third place. With one match left before the Christmas break – home to St. Mary’s on the 20th of December – there is every prospect of a Very Happy Christmas for Mike Ruddock’s men.
The coaching team will not be carried away, however, as the New Year sees Lansdowne with a very difficult run-in. Nonetheless, with no less than 17 players unavailable due to injury and representative call-ups last weekend, it is a tribute to the squad’s strength in depth and the players’ character and application that they were able to extend their winning run to four matches in a row and seven out of nine overall.
Match Report: Michael Daly
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