A late start following Ireland’s comprehensive opening victory in the RWC saw Lansdowne take on a Cork Constitution side still smarting after an opening day loss away to Galwegians.
It was the home side who hit the ground running, and early pressure saw an out-of-sorts Thomas Quinlan miss a third minute penalty – he was successful with only 3 from 8 with the placed ball – before the young out half was successful two minutes later with a good effort from 43 metres for a 3-0 lead to Con.
Lansdowne didn’t settle well, and concerted pressure on their pack led to two further penalties after 5 and 7 minutes which Quinlan was not able to improve on. The latter penalty was particularly disturbing, as the Lansdowne scrum, normally a strong feature, was driven back by the home eight.
The home side then swept into the attack and pressure on the Lansdowne line-out saw 2nd row Brian Hayes block down Padjo O’Driscoll’s clearance kick, gather and cross for an unconverted try and an 8-0 lead for his side.
A rare Lansdowne foray into the Con half in the 17th minute saw captain Scott Deasy convert a good penalty chance from the 22, 12 metres in from touch. This was to be a rare Lansdowne attack during the first period, however, as the home forwards dominated proceedings, with back rowers James Ryan and Luke Cahill, in particular, to the fore,
Lansdowne went further behind when Constitution capitalised on an over-thrown line-out in the visitor’s 22 to send Cahill over for what was a soft try 10 metres to the left of the posts. Quinlan miss-hit the relatively easy conversion, but his pack were in the driving seat.
The visitors strove to make progress and almost broke through in the 26th minute. Moments later a Lansdowne attack broke down, and only scrambling defence saw the ball grounded for a five metre scrum. It was all hands to the pumps for the visitors, and they defended well under pressure from a Con pack determined to press home its physical advantage. Deasy relieved the pressure with a hack out of defence and Foster Horan put in a splendid run, but these were isolated efforts.
Quinlan was again wide with a further penalty when Lansdowne were penalised for coming in at the side after 36 minutes, but he was more sure-footed when, in first half injury time, Lansdowne were again pinged at the scrum.
Half time couldn’t come quickly enough for the Headquarters side, trailing 16 points to 3 and struggling to come to terms with the powerful Constitution forwards.
Whatever Coach Mike Ruddock put in the half time oranges, Lansdowne came out a different side after the break. Joe O’Brien came on board on the flank after 45 minutes, with Tadhg Beirne moving to the 2nd row in place of Josh O’Rourke. The move kick-started the spluttering Lansdowne engine, and the response was explosive. Talented full back Eamonn Mills gathered a defensive kick in the first minute and made ground before transferring to the hard-running Foster Horan, whose pace created room for former Cork Con man Deasy to sprint clear and cross in the left hand corner. The difficult conversion attempt was wide, but the marker had been thrown down.
Quinlan had another unsuccessful penalty attempt from 45 metres after 44 minutes, and this was followed by a Lansdowne attack which brought play deep into the Con 22. The home side conceded what looked like an easily kickable penalty for killing the ball under pressure, only for the usually reliable Deasy to miss. However, the ref order a re-take as a Con player had charged the kick, and this time Deasy made no mistake to close the gap to 16-11.
With the Lansdowne pack now gaining parity in what were robust forward exchanges, the talented visiting backs began to see more for the ball. A great backline move instigated by Cian Kelleher and carried on by Mills, Tom Daly and Tom Farrell saw lively scrum half sub Matt D’Arcy in support to finish off the attack with a try in the right hand-corner – his first for the club. Deasy was unable to land the kick, but Lansdowne had turned the match around and were now back level at 16-all.
Constitution were by no means a spent force, and they returned to the attack, with Quinlan taking advantage of good forward play by dropping into the pocket to land a sweetly-struck drop goal and restoring his side’s lead. After good work by the ever-dangerous Kelleher, Lansdowne were awarded a penalty after 55 minutes, which Deasy goaled to again bring the sides level at 19-19.
It was ding-dong stuff at this stage and, when Quinlan hooked a penalty wide after 65 minutes, the match was delicately poised and could have gone either way. Some tight exchanges took place in and around the Lansdowne 22, but the visitor’s defence stood firm and No. 8 Ross Deacon won a valuable relieving penalty to reduce the pressure.
The home side continued to press, however, and won a penalty 42 metres out in front which Quinlan struck well to re-establish a three point lead after 76 minutes. Lansdowne sides don’t let their heads drop when things are not going well and, on the stroke of full time, they were awarded a penalty some 8 metres in from touch just outside the Con 10 metre line.
Ireland Seven’s captain Tom Daly was elected to take the 50 metre kick, and he struck it sweet as a nut between the posts to level the scores again at 22-22. There was still time for Quinlan to set up a drop goal attempt which went wide before the referee blew for no side. In truth, a draw was a fitting result as both sides played with commendable spirit and skill in a game of what was the proverbial two halves.
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