Lansdowne opened their 2016-2017 campaign with an away win against Garryowen at Dooradoyle on Saturday.
Never an easy venue to visit, the Headquarters side can feel justifiably pleased with their bonus-point winning performance that sets out their stall nicely for the season to come.
With no less than 10 former AIL medal winners in the squad, the pack, in particular, showed great power and strength. The front row of Peter Dooley, Tyrone Moran and captain Ian Prendiville set about their opponents from the outset, winning four penalties and a free kick from the first five scrums.
This set-piece dominance enabled Lansdowne to establish a strong platform, with out-half Scott Deasy kicking astutely deep into the home ’22 to set up a series of attacking positions. Lansdowne stole an early line-out ball from the first of these, which enabled lively scrum half, Alan Bennie, an Irish Sevens International, to snipe over for a debut try after only three minutes. A former UL Bohemian player of Scottish extraction with a crisp passing action, Bennie looks a real find.
Deasy converted neatly from half way out for 7-0. Better still was to come from another penalty-lineout after 13 minutes, when winger Daniel McEvoy, who had a fine match, came into the line off an inside pass and crossed for a try taken straight off the training ground. Deasy again converted from an easy angle.
Three minutes later, the penalty- line out routine was repeated; this time Deasy, with a penalty advantage in the locker, placed a sublime cross-kick for McEvoy to take the ball at full tilt and cross wide out for a wonderfully crafted score. Deasy again added the extras, this time from wide out.
21-0 nil up, and the home side were desperate for something to change – Lansdowne were totally dominant up front, and had established a commanding lead. Centres Tom Daly and Mark Roche were gelling well, and setting up chances for their wingers and the ever-reliable Eamonn Mills at full back. Home scrum half Neil Cronin kicked a penalty from the ten metre line and this was followed up by a somewhat fortuitous try from a hack through which spun away from the defenders and into the path of winger Hugh O’Brien-Cunningham. He pounced for a try against the run of play, which Cronin converted for 21-10.
The home side had already lost their tight head, Mike O’Donnell, to injury. After 29 minutes his replacement, Sean Seymour, also went off injured, to be replaced by a hooker. Garryowen, reduced to 14 men, also replaced their second rows to optimise their mobility as the sides faced into an hour of uncontested scrums. The Lansdowne management were clearly unhappy with this turn of events, but could do little about it.
On 33 minutes Lansdowne were mauled over the line, but were stopped illegally. Loose head Niall Horan took one for his team, the first of four yellow cards for the home side. From the subsequent penalty-line out, No. 8 Willie Earl made the initial thrust and debutant winger John O’Donnell crossed for a well-worked try and the bonus point.
Leading 26-10 at half time and with little to motivate them in the second half, Lansdowne took their eye off the ball as the game lost its shape – “more like rugby league” as one astute Lansdowne supporter commented. Lansdowne had several attacks – most notably as first Peter Dooley and then Tyrone Moran carried the ball for over 40 metres to within inches of the Garryowen line. This led to another yellow card for the home captain, Neil Cronin, who claimed mistaken identity… Deasy duly kicked the resultant penalty for 29-10.
Despite playing against 13 men, errors were creeping into the visitor’s game, as they found it increasingly difficult to keep their shape. Garryowen, to their credit, were fighting hard, but a midfield ball was intercepted by the hard-working O’Donnell. He made good ground, but was hauled down just short of the line, having injured his hamstring. Once again Garryowen infringed in their desperate efforts to protect their line, and were reduced to 12 men for a short period. Lansdowne took the penalty points to establish a 32-10 lead just short of the hour.
Young Charlie McMickan made his debut off the bench in place of the injured O’Donnell. Up front, an element of farce was creeping into proceedings. Johnny Keane, who worked tirelessly for Garryowen at blind side, crossed for a try in the corner on 65 minutes, while Tyrone Moran was yellow carded for a high tackle. Garryowen then scored again under the posts and Garryowen kicked the conversion and then a penalty as Lansdowne’s concentration faltered.
With a lead suddenly reduced to 7 points, 32-25, Lansdowne sought to plug the gaps. Joe McSwiney and Stephen Gardiner helped rally the troops, although captain Ian Prendiville also spent a period on the naughty chair for a ruck infringement before referee Sean Gallagher brought proceedings to an end.
There is little doubt that the introduction of uncontested scrums for such a lengthy period of the match had a significant impact on the way the game was played as well as on the final score line. In some ways, Garryowen may consider themselves lucky to have avoided a significantly greater defeat but, then again, some people say you make your own luck….
As for Lansdowne, an away bonus point is tucked safely away. The coaching team have much to work on but, if the experience of the battle-hardened pack can be harnessed, there is every prospect that this Lansdowne side will once again be around at the business end of the season.
Next Match: Lansdowne v. Terenure: Saturday the 24th of September, Aviva main pitch. Book early for the lunch!
Match Report: Michael Daly
Result: Garryowen FC 25 Lansdowne FC 32
Competition: Ulster Bank AIL Division 1A 2016-17
Where: Dooradoyle, Sat. 17th September 2016 k.o. 2:30pm
Referee: Sean Gallagher
Article related to 1st XV team.
Article related to 1st XV v Garryowen fixture.