A tightly-fought and competitive Ulster Bank Division 1A match saw visitors Cork Constitution come away with the spoils from the Aviva back pitch last Saturday.
The match had a 1:30pm start due to the Leinster v. Munster game later on that afternoon on the Aviva main pitch.
Started in wet and windy conditions, the rain finally relented mid-way through the second half. Both teams tried to best the conditions, however, and produced an entertaining match that only had one kick in it at the end.
Lansdowne, strengthened by the return of Cian Kelleher and Tom Daly in the backs and Leinster “A” cap Tadgh Beirne, Under 20 internationals James Ryan and Max Deegan up front, with the powerful Peter Dooley starting from the bench, gave a vastly improved performance from that against Terenure in their last League outing.
Indeed, in terms of commitment, there was nothing between the teams as the home side, with little to play for, matched every effort of the Leesiders, who were striving for a home venue in the play-offs.
The game was a slow burner, not helped by the difficult handling conditions. Lansdowne were on the attack early following good work by their athletic blind-side, Tadgh Byrne, who had a fine match. Two five-metre scrums followed, but the second of these was botched and Con used the breakdown to bring play to the half-way line and the chance was lost.
The scrums, indeed, proved to be a source of contention all afternoon, and was not helped by referee George Clancy’s interpretation of the Laws, with the visiting front row allowed to turn in sideways and wheel far too often. With a penalty count of 16-6 in favour of the visitors in what was an evenly-contested match, Mr. Clancy will have better days.
Lansdowne relied a lot on kicks to the corner during the first half, but were unable to capitalise on several good positions. The deadlock was finally broken after 27 minutes when, following a powerful surge by the visitors from a penalty line-out, Con opted for a five metre scrum beside the posts. Despite strong defence, burly winger Aaron Spring took a good line and powered his way over under the sticks. The try was converted by full back, Thomas Quinlan, who caught the eye on several occasions in open play.
Lansdowne captain Scott Deasy capitalised on a scrum penalty, which marked the entrance of loose head prop Peter Dooley, to narrow affairs to 7-3 in favour of the visitors at the break.
Conditions slowly improved during the second half as the rain and wind finally relented. The half was only 90 seconds old when speedy full back Cian Kelleher made a lovely break down the right before releasing winger Eoghan Quinn for a neatly-worked try in the corner. The difficult conversion was missed, but Lansdowne had their noses in front, 8-7.
The lead was short-lived, however, as Quinlan availed of a penalty for off-side conceded after line-out possession was coughed up in the home ’22 after 47th minutes. Worse was to follow for Lansdowne when, 5 minutes later, Constitution produced perhaps the best phase of the match for a well-taken score. It began with their highly-effective no. 6, Graeme Lawlor, breaking the line before off-loading to centre Ned Hodson. Hodson in turn fed No. 8 Luke Cahill, and the ball was recycled left for Quinlan to score easily with the Lansdowne defence broken.
Quinlan was unable to add the extras, but his side was now 15-8 ahead. If they thought they has established a commanding lead, the visitors were quickly disabused of any such notion. Left winger Ian Fitzpatrick immediately hit the line off the blind side and cut through as the game opened up. He was supported by the ever-present Beirne, who fed Mark Roche as the support runner and the centre plunged over for a fine effort. Scott Deasy was unable to convert, a miss that was to prove costly in the end.
Just on the hour Lansdowne were denied what many present took to be a legitimate try when sub-scrum half Matt D’Arcy was called back for a knock-on after it appeared the ball had been knocked backwards by a Constitution player.
Con continued to press for tries and a valuable bonus point, and opted for two five yard scrums from penalties as the count against the home side continued to mount. Dooley and Ian Prendiville anchored the home eight firmly, however, and eventually a relieving penalty was awarded to the home side.
Despite their best efforts however, Lansdowne were unable to mount any real, sustained pressure on the visitors during the remaining minutes, and ultimately had to be satisfied with a losing bonus point as the match wound down.
Match Report: Michael Daly
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