Back in mid-November, Mike Ruddock's men ended Terenure's highly impressive 29-match AIL winning streak through a late penalty from Conor McKeon. The former Ireland Under-20 international again played a significant role in the outcome of this match, kicking four crisply-struck penalties, one of them an enormous, wind-assisted effort from 8 metres inside his own half which scorched the crossbar as it went over.
On Saturday, McKeon struck in the 3rd, 19th and 27th minutes as Lansdowne sought to use the strong gale to establish a sufficient lead to enable them to withstand the elements and the predicted assault by the home side after the break.
Their cause was not helped by a spluttering line-out that impeded their efforts to establish continuity and build sufficient momentum to mount concerted pressure on their opponents. As has been the pattern this season, the Lansdowne front row was dominant in the tight and the force exerted by Peter Dooley, Tyrone Moran and Ian Prendiville led to several penalties being conceded by a retreating Terenure unit that could find no answer to Lansdowne power and technique. Peter Dooley also made a significant impact in the loose throughout the game, nor were his fellow front-rowers found wanting in this department.
Lansdowne conceded a soft try in the 10th minute, when the impressive Harrison Brewer in the home centre went in for an unconverted try. Terenure went 5-3 ahead at this stage, and the general view on the sideline was that any points against the wind would be worth their weight in gold. Terenure used the choke tackle throughout the match, and this led to a considerable number of turnovers which only served to frustrate the Lansdowne side.
Lansdowne inched their way ahead, 9-5, thanks to McKeon’s trusty boot, and refused to panic, waiting for the points to come. They were aided considerably in this regard by ill-discipline on the part of the Terenure pack, as first their No. 8, South African Kyle McCoy (back-chat to the ref.) and then hooker Robbie Smyth (taking down line-out jumper) were sent to the naughty chair, reducing the home side to 13 men for a period. Lansdowne duly exploited this just before half time when strong-running centre Tom Farrell muscled his way over for his 11th try of the campaign to give the visitors a 14-5 lead at the break.
Taking advantage of Terenure’s ongoing numerical deficiency after the resumption – no sooner was McCoy back on the pitch before blind side Robert Duke was also yellow-carded for knocking the ball from scrum-half Alan Grigg’s hands at a ruck - to again reduce ‘Nure to 13 men.
McKeon had kicked his fourth penalty from in front of the posts moments before the latest carding. Lansdowne then turned up the home side’s pain by exploiting their numerical advantage for a well-worked score by lively second-row Tadgh Byrne, who showed a fine turn of foot to capitalise on good work by Farrell and a clever off-load by the ever-present Dooley after 43 minutes. Byrne must surely be in the thinking of the new Irish Sevens coaches, combining, as he does, power, pace and athleticism.
Lansdowne’s early smash and grab raids after the resumption against the strong wind established a 22-5 lead, and threw down the challenge to the home side. To their credit, Terenure responded and this led to their best period of the match as they kicked intelligently for position and began to exert pressure on the visitors. Restored to full numbers, ‘Nure were only stopped short by some last-ditch defence in the 48th minute, following which winger Cian Aherne almost broke away for what would have been a certain try.
If this match was a “dead rubber”, then no one told the two teams, as they tore into each other. The two Joes in the back row, McSwiney and O’Brien, were tough and abrasive, and both made several timely interventions to keep the Terenure forwards at bay. Captain Ron Boucher made a welcome return after a long injury absence until he was replaced by Brian Moylett.
Despite Lansdowne’s best efforts, Terenure returned to the attack and, during their best spell of the match, quickly reduced the margin to 22-20 through tries from centres Stephen O'Neill and Harrison Brewer, who crossed for his second of the match following several phases of concerted pressure on the Lansdowne try-line. Out half James Thornton also kicked a penalty and a convert, and was unlucky to strike the upright with his conversion attempt of O’Neill’s touch-down.
Their lead reduced to two points and with 18 minutes plus injury time to come, this time it was Lansdowne’s turn to feel the referee’s wrath when Ian Prendiville was sent to the bin. These were indeed searching moments for the visitors. As both sides fronted up to each other, a pivotal moment arrived when Thornton kicked over the visitor’s dead ball line from well inside his own ’22 to concede a Lansdowne scrum. The visitor’s eight duly obliged, tying the home defence in, which allowed scrum half Griggs to slip away on the narrow side and release winger Ian Fitzpatrick to score unopposed in the corner after 68 minutes.
Replacement Scott Deasy kicked a superb conversion across the wind to put Lansdowne two crucial scores ahead facing into the last ten minutes. The visitors almost scored again two minutes later, but managed to knock-on just short of the Terenure line, while at the other end ‘Nure’s McCoy intercepted and was clear, only to be called back for a scrum advantage to Lansdowne.
There was still time for another sin-binning, as replacement Moylett became the fifth yellow card recipient in injury time for leading with his elbow into the tackle. But time had run out for the home side as Lansdowne recorded a league double over their nearest rivals and set themselves in good store for the visit to the Cookies next Saturday and the subsequent home semi-final against any one of five clubs. The League has indeed never been more competitive.
Congratulations to the Lansdowne Second XV on their success in the final of the JI League on Sunday – they were worthy winners, if only by a 9-6 margin over Old Belvedere on the day. A second trophy masterminded by Club President Frank Kenny!
Match Report: Michael Daly
Article related to 1st XV team.
Article related to 1stXV v Terenure fixture.