On a perfect night for rugby, Lansdowne overcame the stubborn challenge thrown down by a competitive Clontarf side. This was a ding-dong encounter that was both exciting and highly entertaining. In winning, Lansdowne extended their unbeaten run against their Northside visitors to eight matches, stretching back to April 2014.
In a battle between fierce Dublin rivals and the last two winners of the national title, there was always going to be a competitive edge to this encounter. That Lansdowne managed to see off the champion’s challenge, scoring five tries in the process and gaining a try bonus point, was an excellent return for the team’s night’s work. Clontarf’s reward for a dogged, never-say-die performance was two bonus points.
Nine tries and high-octane performances from both sides provided many thrills for a good-sized crowd, and Lansdowne managed to keep their noses ahead for most of the evening.
Their performance had a touch of the Jekyll and Hyde about it, however, and they conceded several tries that will have the coaching staff pulling their hair out. Several times their hard work was rewarded by well-crafted tries, only for defensive lapses to allow the visitors back into the match when it appeared that they were about to pull clear.
Lansdowne opened the scoring with only five minutes on the clock when flanker Joe McSwiney, who put in a tremendous shift, was on the end of a move down the left to cross the Clontarf line. Out half Scott Deasy, celebrating the arrival of his first child during the week, and who put in an authoritative performance throughout, converted from wide out for 7-0.
Lansdowne immediately responded, and their excellent hooker, Brian Byrne, opened his side’s account in the ninth minute with a try that was just a little too easy as the Lansdowne defence suffered a lapse in concentration. Full back Rob Keogh levelled matters at 7-all with the conversion from in front of the posts.
Lansdowne lost 2nd row Josh O’Rourke after 13 minutes with a knee injury, and he was replaced by Under 20 Paul Boyle, who put in a decent shift in his second appearance for the First XV.
Deasy found an excellent touch close to the Clontarf line in the 17th minute and a much-improved Lansdowne line-out set up a strong driving maul from which Ireland Under 20 hooker Tadgh McElroy plunged over for a well-worked effort which was again converted by Deasy for a 14-7 lead.
Once again, however, Lansdowne’s excellent work was undone when Tarf centre Matt cut straight through the middle for a fine individual try after 29 minutes and Keogh levelled matters at 14-apiece.
The match continued in an open, flowing fashion, but it was evident that the home side were gaining the upper hand in the scrum, particularly, and young lose-head prop Jacob Walsh can feel justly proud of his performance as he gave Leinster tight-head Royce Burke Flynn a distinctly uncomfortable night. A penalty won in the scrum set up a good attacking position and from a further scrum drive Scott Deasy made a great break, linking up with the Wigan Wonder, centre John O’Donnell, who romped over for a third try on 28 minutes. Deasy again slotted the kick and Lansdowne went in at the break 21-14 ahead.
Keogh narrowed the gap to four points, 21-17, with an early penalty, but the Headquarters side came roaring back. Winger Daniel McEvoy claimed the restart kick, and this set up a series of attacks as Lansdowne pummelled the visitor’s line. Unfortunately, a penalty was conceded and an excellent chance to turn the screw was lost.
Lansdowne returned to the attack, and their increasing scrum dominance led to a strike against the head from which the industrious Charlie Butterworth snapped up an opportunist try on 52 minutes and a 28-17 lead. The pin-ball nature of the match continued, and Darcy once again breached the home defence for his second try in the 55th minute and the lead was reduced to 4 points, 28-24 as Keogh once again added the extras.
With the pack providing good front-foot possession, the Lansdowne backs were looking increasingly dangerous. This was confirmed after 61 minutes, when left winger Foster Horan, on his seasonal debut after injury, came in off a scrum, took an inside pass from Deasy and scorched through the Clontarf defence from 40 metres out for the try of the night. It was great to see this fine player, who has been so unlucky with injuries, return with a bang, and his overall performance on the night earned him the “Man of the Match” award.
Clontarf were not to be denied, however, and scrum half Sam Cronin has the last say with a try in the 65th minute that, with the conversion, saw the home lead reduced to two points, 33-31. After that, the Lansdowne forwards, with Willie Earl to the fore, put a stranglehold on the match and were, indeed, unfortunate not to score again. ‘Tarf were pinned in their own ’22, however, and never looked like breaking out of defence as Lansdowne ran out deserved winners.
Match Report: Michael Daly
Next Match: Trinity v. Lansdowne: Saturday the 5th of November, College Park. Kick off 2:30pm before the Ireland v. New Zealand match from Soldier Field, Chicago (8:00pm).
Article related to 1st XV team.
Article related to 1st XV v Clontarf fixture.