Burly young hooker Tyrone Moran was the toast of Lansdowne Rugby Club on Saturday after his dramatic, last-gasp try snatched victory in extra time against a battling and committed Young Munster side.
While Lansdowne may consider themselves a little fortunate to have won what was always a tough and compelling encounter, their excellent conditioning and refusal to panic saw them triumph in the end and advance to a final on the Aviva Stadium main pitch against Dublin Northside rivals, Clontarf, on Saturday the 9th of May.
A wet morning and steady drizzle ensured that handling was difficult for the players, although the rain relented during the match and the second half and extra time were played on a drying pitch that was in excellent condition.
Lansdowne opened brightly, but were unable to capitalise on early territorial control. Indeed, the first chance of the match fell to Young Munster centre, Gearoid Lyons, but he was wide from 32 metres out from in front after 6 minutes.
The first scrum of the match in the 12th minute saw a Lansdowne penalty which was knocked over by out-half Scott Deasy from a similar position to the Munster’s effort for a 3-0 lead to the home side.
Young Munster lost their influential No. 8, Sean Rennison to a concussion injury after 16 minutes and, given the nature of the injury, it was good to see the referee refuse to let the player come back on late in the second half.
Lansdowne continued to exert pressure on the Cookie’s, but the Limerickmen were well organised and presented a rock-solid defence from set-piece play. Following a late tackle on winger Cian Aherne, who was later forced to retire, Deasy uncharacteristically missed a relatively easy penalty chance inside the 22 in the 20th minute.
Young Munster out half Willie Staunton took advantage of a brief foray into the Lansdowne half to land a well-struck drop goal and level matters at 3-apiece on 24 minutes. Lansdowne launched an immediate attack from the restart and, following a series of penalties where the home side opted for scrums, Young Munster loose head Dave Begley was sent to the sin bin. He was followed shortly afterwards by centre Dan Goggin, who was yellow-carded for going over the top at a ruck. Deasy made no mistake this time and slotted the three points for a 6-3 advantage after 31 minutes.
Down to 13 men, the expectation was that Lansdowne would make the Cookies pay and exploit their numerical advantage. Instead, it was the visitors who raised their game and, following a kick deep into the Lansdowne 22, the home defence spilt the ball and allowed Staunton to convert a snap drop goal to draw the visitors level at 6-all.
Play was evenly balance until two minutes into injury time when Lansdowne finally shook off their shackles. A counter-attack from a kick deep into their half was led by the speedy full back Cian Kelleher, who split the Young Munster defence before passing to supporting winger Ian Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick made further ground before passing inside to centre Tom Daly, who crashed over for a great try. Scott Deasy added the extras and things were suddenly looking good for Lansdowne at half time, 13-6 ahead.
However, the visitors struck back shortly after half time when speedy winger Diarmaid Carthy latched on to a deft grubber kick put through by Staunton to cross close to the posts. With the out half adding the conversion, it was all level again at 13-all.
The game was evenly contested for a considerable period after that; Young Munster stuck to their game plan of pick and go and judicious tactical kicking, while Lansdowne looked the more creative and threatening side but were unable to unlock a determined and committed visitors defence. The Lansdowne line-out was under pressure however, and this resulted in several lost opportunities and relief to the Limerickmen.
The visitors took the lead for the first time in the 52nd minute through a well-struck penalty by Lyons from wide out. Ironically, the penalty was conceded at a scrum, where Lansdowne were the stronger unit. Conor McKeon came on for Scott Deasy, and he slotted over another scrum penalty in the 62nd minute to again level affairs at 16-all.
Lansdowne had a few further opportunities, and blocked down two kicks in the Cookies 22, but nothing came of it and the whistle at the end of the 80 minutes saw the sides level and facing into 20 minutes extra time.
The vociferous support from the Limerick supporters appeared to galvanise their players, and a break by their scrum half, Rob Guerin was carried on by full back Kolio Hifo to bring play deep into the Lansdowne half after four minutes of extra time. Lansdowne conceded a penalty, and Lyons again obliged his side to put them ahead for the first time in the game.
The pivotal moment in the match came in the 16th minute of overtime, when the Young Munster sub scrum-half batted down a pass by Lansdowne’s sub scrum half, Paddy O’Driscoll, and received his side’s third yellow card of the afternoon. McKeon used the kick to plant the ball deep into the Cookie’s 22. From there, Lansdowne were able to set up an effective attacking platform and win a five-metre scrum.
Several battering assaults followed on the visitor’s defence, which eventually crumbled to enable Moran to finally apply the coup de gras. The stunned silence which fell on the Young Munster supporters following McKeon’s addition of the extras, which was followed immediately by the final whistle gave testimony to how close run the outcome had been, but to Captain Ron Boucher and his never-say-die teammates came victory and the spoils.
Well down to a resilient Lansdowne team and the very best of Luck against Clontarf on the 9th of May!
Article related to 1st XV team.
Article related to 1st XV v Young Munster fixture.