Lansdowne Head Coach Mike Ruddock will be less than pleased with the outcome of a disjointed and error-strewn match on the Aviva all-weather pitch last Saturday.
The rain that had threatened to spoil matters had stopped an hour or so before kick-off, and the quickly drying surface offered the prospect of some entertaining rugby between two sides in need of the points.
Lansdowne’s cause could not have opened more brightly. The ball was returned from the kick-off by Lansdowne, and out half Scott Deasy suddenly set off from inside his own ten metre line on an arcing run that saw him split the Old Belvedere and cross to the left of the posts for a try with only 45 seconds on the clock.
Many of the supporters in attendance had still not taken their places when Deasy knocked over the conversion for a welcome 7-0 lead to the home side.
Lansdowne made a hash of the restart, however, and this was to be the first of several poorly dealt with restarts. From the subsequent scrum Lansdowne were penalised and Belvo centre Steve Crosbie took advantage with a straight-forward penalty to narrow matters to 7-3 in the fifth minute.
The visitors were lively and, two penalties to touch later, had the Lansdowne defence under pressure. A cross-field move saw the impressive Crosbie on a good line that breached the home defence for a well-worked try. He followed this up with a good conversion to put his side into a 10-7 lead after 14 minutes.
Lansdowne responded positively, and a strong thrust by the hard-running Foster Horan moments later saw his line break carried on by fellow centre Tom Daly before quick ball was recycled right. Mark Roche had work to do, but beat his man and grounded the ball in the right hand corner. Deasy was unable to add the bonus, but Lansdowne were back in the lead at 12-10 after 16 minutes’ play.
The home side took advantage of a penalty at the scrum – one of only two penalties awarded to them during the first half – to set up a driving maul from the subsequent line-out in the 19th minute. The ball was adjudged to be held up by the referee, however, and a good attacking position was lost in a turn-over.
Prop Jack Barry was injured in this attack, and was replaced by Ntinga Mpuko at loose head after 22 minutes. Shortly afterwards second row Tadhg Beirne, who had showed fantastic pace in chasing up a kick through from a counter-attack, was unable to ground an awkwardly bouncing ball over the line, and a great opportunity was lost.
From the resulting ’22 drop out Lansdowne failed to control the ball and Old Belvedere broke downfield into the Headquarters ’22. Lansdowne were penalised for off-side in front and Crosbie obliged his side to regain the lead at 13-12 after 25 minutes.
The penalty count continued to mount against Lansdowne as their revamped scrum came under pressure and Crosbie was guilty of two missed kicks at goal moments apart. Deasy took full advantage to restore Lansdowne’s lead at 15-13 in the 38th minute and this remained the score at half time.
Both sides played some entertaining rugby during a first period when the sides appeared evenly matched. There were reasonable grounds for optimism for Lansdowne supporters as they faced into the second half playing towards the City end with a slight breeze at their backs.
For a third time, however, the restart was not controlled, and Lansdowne were again penalised at the scrum. This time Crosbie made no mistake from 25 metres and Belvedere were 16-15 ahead after 43 minutes.
Lansdowne launched an attack after a great take by second row Phil Donnellan which saw the move carried on by Deasy and prop Ian Prendiville, but the attack petered out 30 metres from the visitor’s line. This was to be the last Lansdowne attack for some time, as the Belvedere forwards began to wrestle control in the loose and turn the screws on the home defence.
A blocked defensive kick in the 52nd minute saw Lansdowne again under pressure, as the third quarter belonged to the visitors. Belvedere appeared to have scored a try in the 53rd minute when their maul crossed the line, but the ball was adjudged to have been held up and Lansdowne survived.
The home side continued to defend, and the siege was eventually relieved by a penalty touch cleared to the half-way line. Captain Deasy was then unable to capitalise on a penalty opportunity in the 64th minute in what was a rare foray into the visitors half.
Lansdowne were struggling to match Belvedere up front, and were forced into too many errors in possession. Full back Eamonn Mills stood up to a formidable aerial bombardment all match, and his fielding of the high ball was exemplary all afternoon. However, Lansdowne’s ball continued to be scrappy and presented little opportunity to build pressure on the Belvedere side.
As the pressure on the home side mounted, Crosbie was wide with two further penalty attempts after 70 and 72 minutes. He took advantage of yet another opportunity in the 75th minute to extend the visitor’s lead to 19-15.
At this stage it looked as if Lansdowne would have to settle for a losing bonus point. This consolation was denied them in the third minute of injury time, however, when, seeking to run the ball in an effort to steal a victory, a Deasy pass went astray and Belvo out half Willie Staunton took full advantage to run in a try from half way, with sub scrum half Charlie Rock rubbing the salt into Lansdowne wounds with a 26-15 final score line.
Match Report: Michael Daly
Article related to 1st XV team.
Article related to 1stXV v Old Belvedere fixture.