It may have bucketed out of the heavens for the entire match, but the weather did little to dampen the spirits of the large attendance at the Aviva Stadium back pitch last Friday night, as we were treated to a tense, gripping match between the first- and second- placed sides in the top division the Ulster Bank AIL League.
Even the “Balcony Boys” (who had half an eye to the televised Scotland v. Ireland soccer match in the pavilion behind them) got in on the act, with several choruses of “Olé, Olé” ringing out to encourage the players to even greater efforts.
Given the torrential conditions, both sides adapted extremely well and tried to play an expansive game. That only one try was scored was largely due to the sterling defensive efforts of both sides.
Once again, Lansdowne had to thank the trusty boots of kickers Scott Deasy and Conor McKeon for a narrow victory over their Dublin 6W rivals. Incredibly, on the night, Terenure were going for a 30th successive win across three divisions of the AIL over the last three seasons. In the bowels of injury time, however, Ireland Under 20 and Connacht “A” out half McKeon struck the killer blow with his second, difficult penalty which he struck gloriously into the wind and rain from 43 metres to send the home support into raptures. Scott Deasy had earlier struck with three fine efforts to keep Lansdowne in touch with the League leaders.
Deasy had been unsuccessful with a challenging effort as early as the 1st minute, but Lansdowne were then rocked by the sin-binning of centre Tom Daly in the 4th minute. Undismayed, Deasy converted an excellent penalty from 40 metres after 10 minutes to establish an early lead for the home side.
Lansdowne had a lucky escape on the quarter-hour when Terenure winger Harry Moore knocked on after a clever chip through from his opposite winger, James O’Donoghue. Following the resultant scrum, however, Lansdowne were turned over in possession and ‘Nure hooker Robbie Smyth, who had an excellent match, was well placed to surge over for a try which was converted by former UCD out half James Thornton for a 7-5 lead.
McKeon narrowed the gap to 7-6 with a penalty for off-side after 25 minutes, which was cancelled out by a similar effort by Thornton shortly afterwards. Scott Deasy then took advantage of good work by centre Tom Farrell which resulted in a penalty and sin-binning for Terenure captain, James O’Neill, to leave the scores 9-10 to the visitors at half time.
Earlier, Lansdowne were distinctly unlucky not to go ahead when the ball was slapped out of scrum half Adam Griggs’s hands by a Terenure defender on the visitor’s five meter line, which went unpunished.
The Lansdowne scrum, as in every league match so far this season, was dominant, and the stalwart front row of Ian Prendiville, Dylan Donnellan and Adam “Teddy” Boland caused major problems for their ‘Nure counterparts. Terenure’s response was to wheel their own scrum ball to counteract the Lansdowne drive, and it paid dividends when the referee penalised Lansdowne for wheeling. Why a dominant scrummaging unit would need to wheel the scrum in the first place was an unanswered question posed to the officials on this occasion.
Possession out of touch has not been Lansdowne’s greatest strength this season and, in Terenure, they were up against a very effective and well-organised defensive unit who caused them significant problems throughout. Lansdowne countered this by a fine display in the loose, and the overall effect in the second half was for both sides’ strengths to neutralise each other. Tackling on both sides was tigerish, and, when the difficult handling conditions were added in, scoring in the second half was at a premium until the match entered its final minute.
Earlier, Lansdowne’s luck appeared to be out when, on the hour, McKeon’s sweetly struck drop goal effort from distance hit the upright and came back into play, only to be scrambled clear for a 22” by a much- relieved ‘Nure defence. In the last minute of regular time, however, Lansdowne pressure saw Terenure penalised for not releasing in the tackle, and Deasy coolly stroked over the resultant penalty to snatch what appeared to be the winning score.
In the fourth minute of injury time, an error by the home full back led to a penalty to the visitors which Thornton converted to again restore Terenure’s one point advantage - 12-13. It looked like the game was over, but Lansdowne refused to panic and surged forward on the attack yet again. The result was cool Conor’s delightful penalty strike which gave a deserved, if hard-earned success to coach Mike Ruddock’s side and simultaneously inflicted a first league loss on Terenure in almost three seasons.
All told, this was a marvellous effort by a battling, spirited squad in the best traditions of the Lansdowne Club in what was a never-say-die effort in awful conditions that has re-ignited the Ulster Bank Division IA league.
Match Report: Michael Daly
Article related to 1st XV team.
Article related to 1stXV v Terenure fixture.