There is a key moment in many matches where one player seizes the initiative and determines the outcome of the game.
There was such a moment in this exciting and closely- fought encounter against our near neighbours and local rivals, Old Belvedere in Anglesea Road last Friday night. It happened in the 70th minute, when full back Cian Ahern, probably the smallest man on the pitch, slammed into experienced Old Belvedere centre Aidan Wynne as he was about to cross the line for what surely would have been the decisive score. Ahern hit the Belvedere player with such force he dislodged the ball and earned his side a five meter scrum and a massive reprieve.
Lansdowne needed no second chance and, inspired by Ahern’s commitment, defended resolutely for the remainder of the match to frustrate the home side’s late rally.
Belvo lost their influential Irish Club’s full back, Danny Riordan, before the start and he was undoubtedly a loss to them. Nonetheless, the home side had the better of the opening exchanges and threatened early following a line break by flanker Michael Oyuga.
Right winger Josh Glynn kicked a penalty in the 7th minute to open the scoring, but that was to be his only kicking success on the night, as he went on to miss a further five attempts with the placed ball.
Lansdowne began to assert themselves more, but their efforts were frustrated by poor discipline during a first half which saw no less than three players yellow carded, two of them for high tackles. Winger Ian Fitzpatrick can feel particularly aggrieved, as his binning was the result of mistaken identity – by no means the only error made by the officials on the night.
Down to 13 men at one stage, the yellow cards affected the visitors as they sought to build up momentum during what was at times a scrappy first period, played with a stiff cross-wind which did not help accurate passing. Our out-half Scott Deasy levelled affairs with a good penalty effort from 35 metres before the visitors took the lead with an excellent try from the impressive Aaron Conneely, who took the ball at an angle in the backline, broke the home defence and took a wonderful arcing line to outstrip the Belvedere full back for a great individual effort. Deasy coolly tacked on the extras for a 10-3 lead.
Flanker Joe McSwiney was making his presence felt, but a determined burst which brought him close to the line went unrewarded. The Lodge took advantage of Lansdowne’s player shortages to launch a series of attacks which resulted in an unconverted try by their captain, Jonathan Slattery after 33 minutes. Worse was to come for Lansdowne as the home side capitalised on a mix-up at the base of the scrum to launch winger Glynn for a second try which he again failed to goal.
13-10 down at the interval, but finally restored to full numbers, Lansdowne dominated the third quarter and scored the try of the match in the 54th minute. Tom Daly took the ball short of his own ten meter line and made huge headway before releasing his fellow centre Tom Farrell on his inside for a try that was a tribute to pace, power and perceptive running that was simply a joy to watch. The sure-footed Deasy made no mistake with the conversion for a 17-13 lead.
This was to be the final score of the match, as Lansdowne failed to take further advantage of their territorial dominance and Ahern’s dangerous counter-attacking runs. The visitors had to withstand an Old Belvedere revival in the final 10 minutes but defended stoutly, using their powerful scrum - well played Adam Boland – to disrupt the assaults on their line. Sub out-half Conor McKeon also played his part, with two wonderful clearance kicks which sent Old Belvedere back 50 metres each time. Strong defence, as exemplified by Cian Ahern’s decisive try-saving tackle, was the order of the day as Lansdowne started off the international weekend in the best possible way with a hard-fought but, ultimately, worthy win.
It is unfortunate to end this report on a slightly discordant note, but the absence of a team sheet for the supporters who paid in to watch the game did not reflect well. One trusts that this was a temporary failure on the night, as the spectators who come along to support their teams really deserve better.
Article related to 1st XV team.
Article related to 1stXV v Old Belvedere fixture.