Lansdowne's J1s side were crowned Metro Cup champions on Sunday, defeating last season's beaten finalists Barnhall and avenging two crushing defeats to the Kildare club last season. With conditions perfect for Will Matthews side's expansive style, Lansdowne weren't to be denied coming away 27-3 winners of a physical and furious contest.
Lansdowne opened the scoring with a penalty from winger Cillian Barden. The first 20 minutes of the match proved tight and physical, though Lansdowne's pack gained an early advantage in the scrum. An ever present weapon all season, props Peter Reilly, Ntinga Mpiko and early substitute Jack Barry drove home the premier club's advantage. The pressure told with Lansdowne's first try scored by Gareth Molloy off the back of a strong Lansdowne drive at the scrum.
After this initial breakthrough, Barnhall turned up the pressure with Lansdowne's back row of Damian Egan, Conor O'Donnell and Leon Downer tackling furiously as the über-physical Barnhall pack continued to search for a foothold in the game.
The crucial score of the game though proved to be Niall Delahunt's just before half time in front of the Wesley end of Donnybrook. The score, against the run of the play, was crucial and sent the men from The Aviva into half time 14-3 up.
As expected Barnhall upped the intensity again and battered the Lansdowne line early in the second stanza. Again though, the Lansdowne pack continued to repel Barnhall's attack. As the game went on, the Gareth Molloy marshalled pack grew into the game with Conor O'Donnell a hand full with and without the football. Second rows Jim O'Shea and Robbie Collins weren't too far behind O'Donnell, working tirelessly throughout in another mature performance from the former Clongowes duo.
Down to 14 men, the resolute Lansdowne defence continued to stifle the Barnhall attack and Lansdowne, exhibiting classic flair on the ball, turned over Barnhall inside their own half and after passing through five sets of hands, backs and forwards combined to send Delahunt over for his second.
With the pack setting the platform, Daragh Henry at 10 with centres Jake Howlett and Ferdia Doherty were able to apply pressure and cutting precision mid way through the second period saw Ed Torrie dot down.
With Lansdowne now 27-3 and the clock ticking down, Barnhall made a last ditch attempt to salvage something from the match. It was a testament to this Lansdowne group and the strong squad fielded that Barnhall were reduced to a single penalty over the 80 minutes with substitutes Brendan O'Connell, Jamie Barton, Brian Condon and Ciarán Mylod all entering the fray to see the J1s home and defend the final salvo from Barnhall. Lansdowne's defence had matured over the season like a fine wine and the final ten minutes of the game proved a masterclass.
This allowed full-back and captain Ed Torrie, flanked by lieutenant Peter Reilly to lift the Metro Cup over Donnybrook and give Lansdowne their first Metro Cup since 2010 and go some way to avenging 2015's loss at the same venue.
To all the players, coaches, admin and supporters, we'd like to thank you all for a great season. A big thanks goes to Will Matthews who's single handedly coached the group this season and John Kilroy, enjoying his first season as team manager. Both deserve immense praise for their dedication and patience over the season's entirety. The players also deserve much praise and as a young side, have matured much and greatly over the season with many graduates of the club's u20 program as well as solid additions to the squad from elsewhere contributing to our success. Other members of the group are putting the boots away for a while, though whether as players or fans they'll always be warmly welcomed back to Lansdowne Road.
Match report by Ciaran Mylod. You can see pictures of the game HERE