What a cracker of a match! First versus Second in the table, this contest represented all that is good about the Ulster Bank All Ireland League as both teams contested fiercely over every scrap of possession and eventually fought each other to a virtual standstill.
In the end, Lansdowne came out on top by virtue of their ability to take their chances and a key scrum advantage which yielded several penalties – and vital territory.
Lansdowne lost Eamonn Mills after only 5 minutes and, even though he returned, the full back was eventually forced to retire and was replaced by Charlie McMickan. This coincided with the first scrum to Young Munster and resulted in a penalty to the home side which was converted by out half Scott Deasy from the 22 out on the right.
Mark Roche attempted an ambitious drop goal from 45 metres following a wayward clearance by the visitors, but was narrowly wide. Lansdowne were then forced to defend, but pressure was relieved with a penalty award. The home side used this as a springboard for an attack, and second row Stephen Gardiner, who was prominent throughout, made a fine break. He linked up with hooker Tyrone Moran and centre Ferdia Doherty was then set free for a sprint to the line which he finished off with aplomb for his first try for the Senior side.
The conversion went astray, and Lansdowne suffered a lapse in concentration on the restart, allowing the Cookies to regain possession and mount a series of close-in attacks from which they eventually moved the ball wide for right winger Craig O’Hanlon to plunge over after 18 minutes to bring the score line to 8-5.
Lansdowne surged back into attack, with captain Ian Prendiville and Joe McSwiney, making a welcome return, in the van. The ball was moved wide only for a penalty to offer release to the beleaguered visitors.
Scott Deasy then won a brilliant turn over after 23 minutes and, using the following wind, placed the subsequent penalty deep into the Young Munster ’22. The ball was then mauled from the lineout to within 5 metres of the visitor’s line, and the excellent Willie Earl was on hand to cross in the corner for a well-worked try to which Deasy added the extras for a 15-5 lead.
Lansdowne failed to take advantage of excellent approach work by Mills and centre Mark Roche in the 32nd minute and conceded a further penalty, to the relief of the Young Munster followers. The situation was then exacerbated when Cookie centre Jack Harrington broke through the middle to set up left wing Calvin Nash for a soft try. Full back David O’Mahony added the two points, and Lansdowne’s lead was reduced to just three, 15-12.
A further penalty in the scrum saw Lansdowne again mauling towards the visitor’s line; several attacks were held up, but the pressure eventually told when the ball was spun quickly wide for left winger Daniel McEvoy – how he has seized his opportunity this season – to cross for his fourth try of the campaign in first half injury time. The kick went astray, but Lansdowne turned to face the elements with an eight-point advantage, 20-12.
The second half, with the wind at the Young Munsters’ backs, was likely to prove a sound test of Lansdowne’s title credentials. The well-drilled Cookies have a simple, but solid game plan; ruck, recycle, drive and carry down the narrow channels before spreading it wide when the opposition have been sucked in. The did this effectively in the first half. Now, with the wind at their backs, they would have the chance to play their game deeper in Lansdowne territory.
After Lansdowne exerted some early pressure after the resumption, the visitors launched a series of attacks which pinned the home team deep in their ’22. The Lansdowne lineout also came under pressure, as subs. Fineen Wycherly and Dave Begley added height and drive to the Munsters’ efforts and Munster centre Dan Goggin, who was in Glasgow the previous evening, began to carry threateningly in the centre.
The breakthrough, when it came, followed a common enough pattern – after several minutes of sterling defence on the part of Lansdowne and a valuable turnover by nuggety hooker, Tyrone Moran, a simple missed tackle allowed the defence to be breached and O’Hanlon’s second effort of the afternoon in the corner again brought the visitors to within three points 20-17, after 56 minutes.
Lansdowne were now under the cosh, and found themselves pinned in their own ’22 for long periods. Back rowers Charlie Butterworth, McSwiney and No. 8 Paul Boyle were excellent in defence as “the Pack that Came Back” rolled up their sleeves and took on Limerick’s finest.
Nor were they found wanting. With the siege suddenly relieved, Lansdowne set about scoring their best try of the season so far with a brilliant move starting from within their own 10 metre line as right wing Marc O’Keeffe, who handled on several occasions during the move, was set free down the left for a try from out of the top drawer after 73 minutes. O’Keeffe’s effort earned him the “Man of the Match” accolade, and was his third try in only two AIL League matches.
Scott Deasy was unable to convert, but the home side had struck a telling blow and the visitors’ challenge, which appeared to be building up an irresistible momentum, was suddenly shattered. The Cookies did manage one further period of pressure which yielded a try for replacement centre Jack Harrington to reduce the gap to 3 points again, 27-24 but, fittingly, it was Scott Deasy who had the last laugh as he kicked a penalty from 32 metres in the 84th minute to seal a fine victory in what had proved a titanic contest between two fine sides.
Deasy thus became the first Lansdowne player to score 500 points in the All Ireland League, a new landmark that will truly take some beating. Well done, Scott!
The Lansdowne Christmas Party on Saturday followed the Young Munster’s match. The night was a great success, and raised €3,000 in support of the Peter McVerry Trust at a time when such aid is badly needed.
Match Report: Michael Daly
Next Match: Young Munster v. Lansdowne: Saturday the 28th of January 2017, Greenfields, Limerick. Kick off 2:30pm.
Congratulations to the Under 20’s, who rounded off a fantastic weekend with a narrow 23-21 victory over the UCD scholarship team, having recovered from a 0-13 deficit after half an hour’s play. It was a sterling performance by the Lansdowne pack that had the students in all sorts of bother and, following their even more heroic comeback victory over Trinity the previous Sunday – coming from 32-15 down to win 38-35 – our youngsters sit proudly on top of the JP Fanagan Leinster League. Fantastic stuff, and well done to all concerned!
Article related to 1st XV team.
Article related to 1st XV v Young Munster fixture.