Lansdowne v. Dolphin
Ulster Bank AIL Division 1A
Aviva Stadium, 12th September 2014
Lansdowne kicked off the 2014-15 season in the best possible manner, with a bonus-point home win against Cork visitors, Dolphin RFC, on the Aviva Stadium main pitch.
On a warm afternoon, perfect for rugby and on an immaculate surface which is a credit to the IRFU ground staff, Mike Ruddock’s men laid down a marker that they will be serious contenders for the re-introduced end-of-season play-offs.
With four new faces in the backline from last week, Lansdowne were disrupted as early as the second minute by a blood injury to centre Tom Daly, who went off for approximately fifteen minutes. This led to a major reshuffle in the backs, and curbed what had been a bright start to the game by the home side.
Out half Scott Deasy stroked Lansdowne into an early lead with a penalty in the 8th minute. This was equalised by the visitor’s Barry Keeshan in the 13th minute in Dolphin’s first foray into the Lansdowne half.
The home side established early tight dominance in the scrum, in particular, and gave the opposition tight five an uncomfortable afternoon. Lansdowne’s turn-over of a Dolphin scrum led to the first try of the afternoon after 16 minutes, with the speedy Ian Fitzpatrick rounding off a quickly moved ball. Deasy effortlessly pinned on the extras. Keeshan kicked a further penalty to reduce the gap, but Deasy again split the posts in the 23rd minute with another fine effort to make it 13-6. The Dolphin hooker, Dave Byrne was yellow carded in the 30th minute, but Lansdowne only had a first-half injury-time penalty from Deasy to show for the man- advantage.
16-6 at the interval scarcely reflected the home side’s dominance, but frequent turn-overs and penalties disrupted promising attacking play. Prop Peter Dooley, 2nd Row Brian Moylett and back-rowers Aaron Conneely and Captain Ron Boucher were showing up well in open play, while the tactic of using big centre Daly up the middle began to pay dividends as the game went on.
The home side didn’t take long to get on the score board after the break, with Rhodri Jones capitalising on yet another scrum turn-over to establish the platform for debutant scrum half, Kiwi Adam Griggs, to dive over in the 43rd minute. Deasy completed the formalities with another sweetly struck kick, and overall had a fine match, orchestrating the Lansdowne backline and dictating play. Lansdowne’s third, and best try, came in the 56th minute, once again off a scrum take against the head. Backs coach Mark McHugh can take much of the credit for a lovely Sexton-esque loop by Deasy which was carried on by Daly to set full back Kelleher on course for the line as he outpaced the struggling Dolphin defence. Deasy knocked over his 6th successful kick from six, mirroring his performance the last time the sides met in the final match of last season, for a 30 points to 6 lead.
The course seemed set for Lansdowne to press home their advantage and quickly claim a bonus point try, but Dolphin, to their credit, came back at Lansdowne and enjoyed their best period of the match, at one stage driving the home side back 20 metres in a driving maul.
With Ron Boucher leading by example in defence, Lansdowne had to endure a sustained period of pressure on their own line. Dolphin were, however, unable to breach an excellent 14-man home defence, with winger Fitzpatrick in the bin for killing the ball.
It was this gritty defence which perhaps pleased coach Mike Ruddock most, as it would have been easy enough to concede a score with the match effectively won. Lansdowne weathered the storm, but also lost back row replacement Jack Dilger to an unlucky yellow card, having just come on in the 76th minute.
Lansdowne continued to press, and an injury-time attack into the right-hand corner almost resulted in centre Tom Farrell scoring. Great reactions by Boucher saw him take a quick lineout, and the ball was rapidly transferred to sub-hooker Dylan Donnellan, who bulldozed his way over for the bonus point try. Sub Conor McKeown rounded-off the scoring with an excellent kick from wide out to complete a satisfactory 37-6 victory.
Lansdowne will undoubtedly come up against tougher opposition during the course of the season, and the coaching team will, no doubt, have a lot to ponder over in the coming week. Given Lansdowne’s long periods of control in the game, the penalty count was surprisingly high against the home side, in particular as many of the awards against them were on going-forward ball. Puzzling, that. A work in progress, then, but much to look forward to from a good Lansdowne side in the coming weeks and months in the Ulster Bank AIB League.
See you in Cork Con next Saturday!
Report by: Michael Daly
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