You would have to sift a long way back through the club’s AIL records to come across the last time Lansdowne shipped over 40 points in a League match.
While the score-line would suggest a largely one-sided affair, in fact this match was a relatively even affair for the first hour, before Galwegians struck with three well-worked late tries to put clear water between themselves and the visitors.
Starting without Peter Dooley and Tadhg Byrne up front and Tom Daly and Cian Kelleher in the backs due to representative call-ups, Lansdowne were further disrupted by the loss of the abrasive Foster Horan around the half-way stage, and the backline in particular struggled to come to terms with their loss.
The home side opened well on a rather grassy pitch and took the lead after 4 minutes with a penalty kicked by out half Aidan Moynihan. This was countered by out half Scott Deasy with a fine effort 7 meters in from the touch line, the penalty having been awarded after Lansdowne drove the ‘Wegians pack back in the first scrum. After this bright start, the home side managed largely to come to terms the Lansdowne scrum and the visitors’ advantage in this area dissipated the longer the match progressed.
After 15 minutes and following good play by the Lansdowne backs from a penalty turn-over won at a ruck by prop Ian Prendiville to set up an attack, Skipper Deasy had an excellent chance to put the Headquarters side ahead from just to the right of the posts. The kick struck the upright, however, and the points went a-begging. Shortly afterwards Moynihan restored Galwegians lead with a penalty in the 19th minute.
Centre Simon Morrissey shipped a knock and was temporarily replaced by Tom Kiersey on the wing, with Mark Roche moving to centre. Although he returned to the fray, Morrissey wasn’t the same influence as heretofore, and he eventually made way for Kiersey.
Lansdowne were matching their opponents in most phases of play, although the lineout was a source of difficulty for the visitors throughout. With centre Tom Farrell put away down the left, Lansdowne won a scrum outside the home ’22 which saw Deasy feed full back Eamonn Mills, who sent Roche scampering over in the corner after 33 minutes for an 8-3 lead.
Further good play moments later saw Roche claim a loose ball and Morrissey kick ahead only for Lansdowne to be penalised by referee Frank Murphy, the former Munster, Connacht and Leicester scrum half, who joined the AIL referees panel this season.
Lansdowne were competitive, with good tackles going in from second rowers Brian Moylett and Josh O’Rourke, but they were caught cold in the first minute of added time when the line out malfunctioned and some unconvincing defence saw lively Galwegians prop Jason East pop to centre Brian Murphy, who crossed wide out. The kick was missed, but Lansdowne went in 13-8 down where a lead at the break had looked on the cards.
From the kick off Mills took the ball up and was supported by scrum half Padjo O’Driscoll, but a scrum was conceded on the ’22. Flanker Joe O’Brien showed great anticipation to block the subsequent clearing kick, gather and cross the line to level affairs at 13-13; Deasy added the extras to restore Lansdowne’s lead at 15-13.
Galwegians came back onto the attack and half time sub, Connacht player Darragh Leader, began to stamp his authority from full back. He was aided by former Ireland Under 20 full back Ciaran Gaffney, who moved to the centre with telling effect. Out half Moynihan kicked a penalty in the 49th minute to put Galwegians ahead, and it was a lead that they never subsequently relinquished.
Moments later, a poor Lansdowne clearance was punished by quick hands by the home backs which sent left winger Ed O’Keeffe away on the left to cross in the corner after 53 minutes. Lansdowne were now on the back foot, and were penalised for wheeling a scrum. Confusion in the visitors defence saw the sparkling Leader send O’Keeffe in for his second try, which was not converted for 26-15 and the bonus point.
Leader added a drop goal after pressure on the Lansdowne defence for a 29-15 lead just after the hour.
The try of the match followed, and once again it was Leader who shone, gathering a kick on the home 10 metre line and cutting through the Lansdowne defence for Moynihan to send Gaffey in at the right corner for a fine score.
Lansdowne recovered from these set-backs to score a try of their own, sub scrum half D’Arcy feeding Tom Farrell who crossed wide out for an unconverted try to reduce the margin to 34-20. The home side, however, had the last say in a second half which they had pretty much controlled for Gaffey and tight head Curtis Coyne to put flanker Josh Pimm over wide out.
So, a tough day at the office for Lansdowne at a ground where they have found results hard to come by over the years; there’s now a two week break in the League to restore the batteries before we visit the Lodge on Friday the 16th of October for a D4 derby.
Match report: Michael Daly
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