When these two sides met at the end of November in Templeville Road in the Ulster Bank League, the score line was 45-21 in favour of the visitors in a bonus point win.
That the score line in the return fixture almost mirrored the previous result will be of great satisfaction to Head Coach Mike Ruddock, and was a great bounce-back from the disappointment suffered after the trip to Young Munster last weekend.
While the score lines in the two matches were very similar, in truth the pattern of the games were quite different. On this occasion, Lansdowne hit the boards early on with a vengeance, and had a gallant, but ultimately out-played, St. Mary’s side on the ropes from the outset.
The rain that had fallen relentlessly all day having cleared, the scene was set for a pre-international weekend contest to whet the appetite. Out half Scott Deasy, who had kicked 8 out of 9 in the Templeville match, opened the scoring with a penalty in the second minute. The advantage was quickly erased as Mary’s out half Conor Gilsenan levelled matters with a well struck effort in the 6th minute.
Lansdowne’s repost was immediate. Centre Mark Roche, who was once again at the heart of
the home side’s attacking play, was the creator from the restart with an excellent break and carry which saw him put right winger Daniel McEvoy over in the corner for the first try of the evening. Scott Deasy planted the kick from the widest of angles to put his side 10-3 ahead after only 7 minutes’ play.
Lansdowne continued to take the game to the visitors, who couldn’t handle the power and strength of the Headquarters side. With captain Ian Prendiville and hooker Tyrone Moran to the fore, they capitalised on a penalty line-out to set up a series of close-in attacks on the Mary’s line. The pressure eventually told, and second rower Josh O’Rourke crashed over close to the posts to register his first try for the club. Deash made no mistake with the convert from half way out to push his side into a 17-3 lead after 13 minutes.
With Willie Earl, O’Rourke, Charlie Butterworth and Max Deegan, in particular, working tirelessly up front, Lansdowne’s pressure on the visitor’s forwards was relentless. The Mary’s scrum was penalised several times and Deasy used the opportunities presented to put Lansdowne on the front foot.
The lineout showed a significant improvement on the previous week, and the backs were full of running. A lovely move involving Max Deegan, left winger Foster Horan and Mark Roche almost led to a further breakthrough in the 18th minute.
They didn’t have to wait much longer, however, as Deegan stole a line out on 22 minutes, transferred to Butterworth who in turn passed to Roche. The outside centre broke the line from 40 metres out, turned on the afterburners and outpaced the defence to cross for a great individual effort. Deasy once again added the extras for a 24-3 lead.
To their credit, St. Mary’s didn’t buckle, and began to play their way back into the match. Led by loose head O’Reilly and second rower Cathal O’Flaherty, they enjoyed a period of pressure on the home defence, without ever really looking like breaching it. On 30 minutes Gilsenan reduced the margin with his second penalty from close in, but this was to be his side’s only reward for their first half efforts.
Instead, it was Lansdowne who struck again, this time further great work by Deegan setting up Daniel McEvoy to cross under the posts for his sixth try of the campaign after 24 minutes. Deasy converted easily and the home side were out of sight, 31-6 ahead and with a try bonus point in the bag.
St. Mary’s battled manfully up front throughout, but it was in the backs that the real difference showed. Lansdowne were sharper and quicker than their opponents, and were quick to switch defence into attack at every opportunity.
Nowhere was this more apparent than in the 46th minute when Foster Horan blazed out of his own half. The right winger cut diagonally back to the left before offloading to the – as ever - supporting Roche. Roche took the ball into the tackle, the quick recycle was shifted left again and, fittingly, it was Horan on the end of it to dive over in the corner for a try-of-the-season contender and a 36-6 lead.
St. Mary’s prop Brian McGovern was yellow carded after 53 minutes, and Lansdowne took advantage of his absence five minutes later to win a scrum turnover, from which No. 8 Deegan capped a fine display to wrestle his way over for his team’s sixth try. Deasy’s conversion for a 43-6 lead was his last part in the action, as young Charlie McMickan came on as a replacement shortly after.
St. Mary’s began to come more into the match late on, as Lansdowne visibly put up the “gone fishin’” signs and took their foot off the pedal. This allowed the visitors to cross for two late consolation tries through winger Ryan O’Loughlin and former Lansdowne scrum half Padjo ODriscoll, both of which were converted by the hard-working Gilsenan.
All in all, a satisfactory bonus-point return against a game St. Mary’s side. If there are concerns for the Lansdowne coaching team, they will focus on disciplinary issues - to concede 14 penalties in a match where they were so clearly on top must be addressed if the club’s home play-off position ambitions are to be realised. Similarly, if they are to be title contenders, the team can’t afford to ease up in any match, no matter what the score. Lansdowne lost the last quarter of the match 14-0, in this regard.
Mark Roche’s brilliant performance justly earned him the “Man of the Match” accolade, while Max Deegan was the pick of the forwards. Jacob Walshe continues to improve at loose head and sub prop Tinga Mpiko won a valuable scrum turnover to relieve pressure late on.
Onwards to Belfield next Friday night, where a student’s side with their Leinster “A” posse restored will present a stiff examination of Lansdowne’s play-off credentials.
P.S. This is prose. If you want to read a poet’s version of the Lansdowne v. St. Mary’s match, visit the Mary’s website and read D. O’Brien’s version of events when it’s posted. Always a joy, D!
This Lansdowne Home Ulster Bank AIL League Match was kindly sponsored by Leddin Finance
Match Report: Michael Daly
Lansdowne FC 43 St. Mary’s College RFC 20
Ulster Bank AIL Division 1A 2016-17
Aviva Stadium Back Pitch, Fri. 3rd February 2017 k.o. 7:30pmReferee: Nigel Correll
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