Skip to main content

Lansdowne FC v City of Armagh RFC

Energia AIL Division 1 A

Saturday 30th  March 2024

Lansdowne Road

Lansdowne 64 – 31 City of Armagh

 

It was like releasing a tiger from a cage.  After weeks of being locked in by other teams’ cast iron defences, someone in City of Armagh left the cage door open and the try-scoring beast buried inside Fassie’s Lansdowne men was unleashed, sending them on a rampage of eight unanswered tries.  But Armagh were happy travelers too.  They sustained remarkable punishment in the first half, but worked their way back into the game to win a four-try bonus point with another one for good measure. Both sets of teams and supporters were delighted with the day and celebrated in the clubhouse in a manner befitting the last home game of the AIL season and in the best, friendly traditions of the game.

With only three points separating these sides (26 – 29) when we travelled to Armagh in October and a heavy rain shower just on the kickoff making the ball slippery, even the most expert of score predictors (!) would have been unlikely to forecast the 95-point game that was in store.  The early encounters were balanced enough, but a penalty kick by returning out half, Charlie Tector on five minutes got the score board moving and seemed to settle us into a dominant groove.  The set pieces were assured and masterful, with hooker Tom Barry and jumpers Jack Cooke and Ruari Clarke linking up meticulously. The scrums too were all ours, with props George Morris and Greg McGrath looking completely at home (which, of course, they were).

But it was outside the pack where the gap between the two sides started to fully reveal itself.  Getting fast and go-forward ball from his scrum half, Jack Matthews, Charlie Tector was able to manage the game like a symphony conductor, opening up the back line with well timed releases and also finding gaps behind the oncoming defenders with dinky chips over the top. But commanding as he was, his impact might have been negligible if he’d had less quality players outside him. The first to draw blood was captain and fullback Cillian Redmond. Cillian was the last man to take a pass following a dizzying interplay of short and wide plays down the middle of the pitch, scoring near the corner on the ten minute mark. Charlie topped it off and it looked like the rampage was well and truly underway.  It took nearly ten minutes for the next try to come, but the Lansdowne lads were simply playing with their food before devouring it. In complete control now, the speed and variety of our attack brought out a valiant defence from the City of Armagh, but the end was inevitable. Next on the scoreboard was Andy “The Assassin” Marks, coming from a strong scrum in the middle of the pitch, Andy switched to the left side at the last minute and sliced through one of the many gaps now emerging.  15 – 0.

Next, it was the lineout maul that asserted its superiority with Tom Barry gathering the ball back from back row jumper Barry Fitzpatrick to go over in the corner. Charlie converted again from the sideline to make it 22 – 0 with the bonus point try now looking like a racing certainty.  Our exuberance was now causing the visitors to make mistakes and we were ruthless in how we exploited each one. From the restart, they hesitate in the centre of the park and Barry Fitz boots the ball through, with winger Peter Sullivan on his shoulder eager to have a piece of the action. Peter kicks on, but an awkward bounce leads to a knock on and a scrum inside their 10 meter line.  They dig deep and execute a good exit and enter their first phase of solid play of the half, bringing them back into our territory for the first time. But another unforced error and we get a penalty and an attacking opportunity back inside their 22.  Another razor sharp lineout quickly distributed to the backs, and the ruck in the center is recycled as full back, Cathal Eddy, catches a long and awkward ball, stabilizing just long enough to send another long pass to the wing where Peter Sullivan is waiting unmarked.  His touchline score is our fourth and so the bonus point is secured on the half hour mark, as Charlie twists the knife just a little more with an excellent conversion from the touchline.  29 – 0

The rampage continued unabated and in the ten minutes before half time, we would run in two more tries: the first from a forward charge ending up with Harry Van Eeden finishing in the corner, Charlie adding the extras again; and the second another stampede of forwards, with Liam Forster tapping down under the posts.  Charlie nudged over the conversion, and we went into the half time break a staggering 43 – 0 to the good.

Nor did the orange segments (do we still give them out?) at half time, slow us down one bit.  Straight from the restart, the onslaught resumed. The second half was less than five minutes old when Jack Matthews finished off a breathtaking back move, with Tector releasing “Marksman” Marks who took a 20 meter break down the middle of the pitch, delaying his pass to Jack just enough to open a gap which he gratefully took, Charlie converting. The score board wasn’t long on the half century mark before Peter Sullivan scored his second and our eighth to bring it to 57 – 0. The forwards had been doing powerful work assaulting their line, forcing Armagh to bring in reinforcements from out wide. Seeing this, Tector skips a pass to reach centre Rory Parata, who skips another to pass it out to Sullivan and he romps home.

A less courageous side than City of Armagh might have completely capitulated at this point, but they never did.  Just as one revered Lansdowne elder statesman commented brightly, “Lansdowne can do no wrong”, we did.  An unlikely gap appeared in the centre of the pitch and it was their out half’s turn to go through it, sending their electric left wing over for a try. And the electricity went through the visiting supporters like 5,000 volts. They came alive.

Under the circumstances, it’s hard to fault our lads for letting their concentration slip a little, but the gusto with which the Northerners took advantage was a treat to behold. Within less than ten minutes of their first try, they scored a second, and then a third, opening up their backs with wild abandon.  Now their eager supporters could smell the chance of a fourth try and a losing bonus point and they gave full voice to their hopes and dreams as we entered the last quarter.   They continued their barrage of our line and, clearly the hungrier of the two sides now, their persistence was rewarded with a try and that all important bonus point.  57 – 26

If the result had been in any doubt, this might have been a period of some worry for the plentiful and cheerful Lansdowne supporters. But when one of the Armagh supporters shouted “C’mon lads, let’s go for the draw!”, our lads seemed to take umbrage and wake from their slumber.  The Armagh supporters’ enthusiasm was matched on the pitch and one of their players was sin binned for repeated infringements, opening the door for one last score from us.  Sub back row, Donough Lawlor, always an impactful addition, brought great energy back to the side and went over a well taken try off the back of a ruck. 64 – 26

Whether they thought the prospect of a draw was realistic, or they were just playing for pride, or even fun, the visitors dominated the last ten minutes and though our defence was solid again, we couldn’t hold them out for one last try on the stroke of full time.

The full-time score was 64 – 31 and everyone connected to both sides went to the bar in great spirits.  The game had been played with panache and courage by both teams, delivering points and bonus points in abundance, the last home game of the AIL season ending in a great spirit of fellowship and fun.

Until the final.

 

Match Report – Brian Whelan 

Leave a Reply