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Lansdowne FC v University College Dublin RFC

Energia AIL Division 1 A

Friday 12th January 2024

Lansdowne Road

Lansdowne 30  – 26 UCD

 

Even though most of us were fortified by the wonderful meal in the clubhouse, the side-line and dead ball line of the back pitch on Lansdowne Road was not for the faint hearted on Friday night. Baltic, but fun.

The evening opened on a solemn note as players and supporters observed a minute’s silence for a much-loved member of both clubs, Eddie O’Connor, who passed away during the week.  And from the kick-off, both sides showed the flair, determination and courage for which Eddie was renowned.

Collidge had the edge in the opening skirmishes, though there wasn’t much in it.  The pace, ambition and accuracy was heart-warming, though it didn’t help much with the fingers and toes of supporters, now huddled together for warmth in clusters along the dead ball line.  A penalty to Collidge put a little space between the sides after seven minutes, but it was short-lived as Lansdowne also got a kickable penalty but opted to put it in the corner, hoping for a try from the maul. Their confidence was rewarded as Tom Barry went over in the corner from the maul that followed. 5 – 3 on 15 minutes.

It was almost like a Colours match, with two young, talented and adventurous sides running everything, except that one of the sides was Lansdowne.  Our first line of defence was a little porous in the middle of the park, but assured cover tackling from Jack Cooke and Barry Fitzpatrick, at six and seven (though in a good way) prevented the students from gaining much territory from their assaults. The College rush defence had a similarly stifling effect on us, and hard as he tried to outfox them with chips along the ground or over the top, out half Stephen Madigan couldn’t manage to gain much territorial advantage either.

For what seemed like an entire Siberian winter, this artistic stalemate persisted – a bit like a cross between the Siege of Stalingrad and the Kirov Ballet – until eventually the students again got a penalty. On the edge of most people’s definition of “kickable”, their excellent scrumhalf and kicker, Michael Maloney made short work of it, putting them back into a narrow lead. 5 – 6 on the half hour mark.  The UCD pressure continued from the restart and soon we were back on our line, withstanding wave after wave of attack. The pressure showed and our line was finally breached by their lofty second row, Alan Spicer, with that pesky scrum half topping it off with another well taken conversion from the corner. 5 – 13.

Now it was Lansdowne’s turn to exert the pressure and we threw every weapon in our arsenal at them, short hard running and wide passes, ultimately leading to a try by Cathal Eddy. It was 10 – 13 as the half time and a no doubt cosy fireside chat from Fassie approached.  However, the visitors hadn’t finished their half yet.  They resumed their varied attack and though our defence was tighter now and they didn’t win much territorial advantage, they did win another penalty just inside our half and well inside their lethal kicker’s range. So, well into injury time in the first half, Collidge stretched their lead further to 10 – 16.

As supporters rushed back inside for some half time warmth, the word in the loos was “don’t panic”.  Presumably they were talking about the game.

If possible, the intensity increased after the restart with both sides going at it toe to toe like Rocky Balboa and that Russian lad from Rocky IV. Our defence was impenetrable and at times robust with the penalty count against us reflecting as much.  Collidge got another penalty bringing it to a worrying looking 10 – 19, but the wisdom of the loos was right: the score didn’t reflect a shift in control from the visitors to the home side.  We had contained the best they had to offer and now it was our turn.  The next phase of the game belonged to us.

Our first blood came from a many-phased advance well into their half, culminating in a rare penalty for us. Stephen put it in the corner and we soaked up as much of their defence as we could in the ensuing maul. Enough of their defence was absorbed to leave a small but significant crack in their cover out wide and allow winger, Cathal Eddy make the first break, offloading to his comrade from the other wing, Sean Galvin who went over in the corner.  15 – 19.

Our set pieces were faultless now, scrums and lineouts providing a rock solid platform for the better-looking players in the backs to ply their trade. And so they did.  Oblivious to how cold we all were on the sideline – some people had set fire to the tackle bags now and were warming themselves beside the toxic flames – Lansdowne played like they were at a sunny seven’s tournament. We camped inside their 22 and launched assault after assault on the students. But for a few well contested lineouts and good Collidge exits, we would have caught them sooner, but catch them eventually we did as we entered the final quarter of the game.  The College defence was scrambling now and they conceded a yellow card for some over exuberance in a ruck, adding to their woes.  We emptied our bench and the fresh legs of sub scrum half James Kenny finished off a series of rucks as he made an excellent break to finish in the corner.  The equally excellent conversion by Stephen Madigan gave the scoreboard its first healthy look of the night 22 – 19.

And we weren’t finished. The visitors’ set pieces and defences were starting to unravel a little and we won some of their lineouts and even got scrum penalties. Eventually our pressure paid dividends and led to possibly the best try of the night. Centre Andy Marks took a pass on the blind side of a ruck just inside their 22m line and burst into space with alarming speed for a big lad. Stretching their defence and drawing two tacklers, Andy offloaded to Sean Galvin who shot over for his second in the corner. 27 – 19 .  UCD looked like a spent force when hooker Tom Barry intercepted a pass and offloaded to James Kenny, setting him off on a sprint to the corner. But fair play to the Collidge backrow, Matt Healy, for covering the ground and catching James just on the line.

The pressure continued and we stretched our lead with another well taken penalty by Madigan bringing us to 30 – 19 with five minutes left on the clock.  Though we never let up our work rate, it was a credit to the Collidge courage that saw them claw their way back into our half and in the closing embers of the game – the tackle bags had all gone out by now too – they scored an excellent try under the post to secure a losing bonus point.  Collidge sub scrum-half, Rob Gilsenan, even in only a cameo role, almost definitely had a hand in the try.

Full time 30 – 26.

A great game and a worthy tribute to two great past members of two great clubs in whose memory it was played: Billy Sutherland and Eddie O’Connor.

 

LANSDOWNE 30 UCD 26, Aviva Stadium back pitch

Scorers: Lansdowne: Tries: Cathal Eddy, Sean Galvin 2, Tom Barry, James Kenny; Con: Stephen Madigan; Pen: Stephen Madigan

UCD: Tries: Alan Spicer, Dan Campbell; Cons: Michael Moloney 2; Pens: Michael Moloney 3

HT: Lansdowne 10 UCD 16

 

LANSDOWNE: Hugo McLaughlin; Cathal Eddy, Andy Marks, Rory Parata, Sean Galvin; Stephen Madigan, Jack Matthews; George Morris, Tom Barry, Greg McGrath, Steven Walshe, Ruairi Clarke, Jack Cooke (capt), Barry Fitzpatrick, Donough Lawlor.
Replacements: Mikey Yarr, Adam Boland, Hardus van Eeden, James Kenny, Steve McMahon, Tom Monaghan.

UCD: Tim Corkery; Harry Donnelly, David Ryan, Wilhelm de Klerk, Ross Deegan; Daragh Gilbourne, Michael Moloney; Hugo O’Malley, Bobby Sheehan (capt), Andrew Sparrow, Alan Spicer, Gerry Hill, Conor Tonge, Michael Colreavy, Matt Healy.
Replacements: Lucas Maguire, Tom O’Riordan, Evin Coyle, Dan Campbell, Rob Gilsenan, Niall Carroll.

Lansdowne 1st XV v UCD AIL Saturday 12th January 2024

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