The Lansdowne J1’s battled their way to a ferociously tight, tense and hard earned 9 - 6 victory to reclaim the J1 League trophy for the first time since 2010 against an extremely tough and well organised Old Belvedere side in the final of the J1 League in Ballycorus on Sunday.
With the weather playing its part, this was not a game for the faint hearted, as both sides crashed in to each other with unrelenting power and pace in windy conditions at the Ballycorus ground. Lansdowne struck first with steely-eyed winger Killian Barden nailing a 3 pointer from 25 metres out following some great build up play by the Lansdowne pack. Lansdowne continued to press but following a couple of soft penalties conceded by the home side, Old Belvedere were able to gain field position and were rewarded with two penalties in quick succession to take a 6 – 3 lead with 30 minutes on the clock. Lansdowne struck back immediately and after some good interplay between backs and forwards, Lansdowne earned another penalty which Barden coolly slotted from 40 metres out to bring the sides level at 6 – 6 going in at the break.
Old Belvedere started the second half the quickest and laid siege to the Lansdowne line with some concerted pressure. However a fantastic turnover following some excellent and disciplined defence from the Lansdowne players led to a relieving penalty. It was edge of the seat stuff from here on in, with both sets of players colliding in to each other with total abandonment for their own welfare, with each defence refusing to crack knowing that a league title was on the line following 9 months of trojan commitment in pursuit of an elusive and coveted league title.
Led from the front by their captain Dan Mannion, Lansdowne lifted their game as the game entered the final period. Following multiple phases of controlled, accurate and high tempo rugby, Lansdowne probed deep into the Old Belvedere half and were awarded a penalty for their patient and sterling efforts. Marksman Barden, who is not the usual Lansdowne place kicker, stepped up to drill a well struck penalty between the posts which proved to be the decisive match winning score for Lansdowne. The remainder of the game was played out in the Old Belvedere half before the referee blew his whistle to grant victory to Lansdowne with a score of 9 - 6 in what was a truly absorbing encounter between two very evenly matched teams.
Credit has to go to both clubs and their supporters who, despite the weather conditions, turned up in great numbers and roared on their respective teams in a very sportsmanlike manner. The Lansdowne J1 squad and management would like to take this opportunity to thank the President, club members, supporters and all who work so tirelessly behind the scenes for all their continued support throughout the season. The focus for the J1’s now quickly moves on to the semi-final of the Metro Cup where they will again face OId Belvedere in what promises to be another mouth-watering and bruising encounter. The game is scheduled for this Easter Sunday 5 April in St. Mary’s RFC at 3pm.
See you all in Templeville.
Match Report: Justin Meagher
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