A Sunday Ulster Bank AIL League match on the back pitch the day after a thrilling Irish win against Australia may well be considered by some to be somewhat after the Lord Mayor’s Show, but the faithful who turned up to support their clubs were treated to a rugged, gritty and hard-fought battle.
It was also mightily entertaining as Lansdowne, who threatened at one stage to pull away and win comfortably, had to suffer several anxious moments before the bonus-point win was secured. The match was, unfortunately, marred by a niggling undercurrent which threatened on several occasions to break out into more serious conflict.
The game was almost turned on its head between the 58th and 62nd minutes when, with Lansdowne leading by 28 points to 7, first sub back row Jack Dilger (not rolling away) and then prop Adam Boland (dropping scrum) were yellow-carded by referee Eddie Hogan O’Connell. This provided an enormous fillip for the visitors, and they capitalised with a penalty try for dropping a line-out maul and a second effort, again off a line-out maul, to narrow the gap to 28-21 before Lansdowne were restored to their full numbers.
Even then, the home side were made to fight hard to contain the Young Munster resurgence before victory was secured.
Earlier, Lansdowne got off to a flyer with a try in the 8th minute by blind- side Joe McSwiney, who gathered up his own block down on half way to scamper away for the first of his two tries on the day, Young Munster having failed to capitalise on a similar block down only moments earlier. Overall, McSwiney gave a Man of the Match performance, and is a great acquisition for the club.
Scott Deasy converted for a 7-0 lead, which was rapidly built upon by a second try from second rower Stephen Gardiner, who also put in an outstanding performance. Gardiner’s effort followed an excellent break by centre Mark Roche, who made a welcome and early return from injury and was instrumental in setting up two of Lansdowne’s four tries.
Deasy once again added the extras, and was unlucky when, after 27 minutes, his penalty goal attempt from distance came back off the crossbar. With Munster’s second row Tom Goggin in the sin bin, Lansdowne were left kicking themselves when their dominant scrum pushed the Cookies off their own put in and back over their line, only to fail to ground the ball. Worse was to follow as, from the quickly-taken 22, the visitors surged into the attack and scored a break-away try. So,14-7 up at half time when the home side could have been leading 21-0!
Lansdowne took out their frustration immediately after the break, when Roche linked up with a counter-attacking Deasy to set up centre Tom Farrell for his third AIL try of the campaign; Deasy again obliged with the extras for a 21-7 lead. Lansdowne were now dominant, and another attack was quickly set up by a McKeon break that was carried on by flanker Aaron Conneely. The ever-present McSwiney peeled off from the subsequent maul to plunge over for his second effort of the day.
Deasy struck a beautiful conversion for what appeared to be an unassailable 28-7 lead before the intervention of the officials turned the game on its head. Inconsistency marred the officials’ performance and, in particular, a dangerous tackle on a Lansdowne player in the air went unpunished except for a penalty when most observers were wondering what colour the anticipated card would be.
Lansdowne gave a much-improved line out performance and the scrum once again provided a potent platform for attack. A penalty count of 15 – 11against the team was high, however, and will no doubt be of concern to the coaching team.
This bonus-point win sees Lansdowne consolidate their position in second place in the table, and there is now clear water in the form of a seven point advantage over third-placed Clontarf half way through the scheduled league programme. Everything to play for then, with a trip to bottom-placed Dolphin on the 6th of December next up for Ron Boucher and his battling heroes.
Match Report: Michael Daly
Article related to 1st XV team.
Article related to 1stXV v Young Munster fixture.