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02/03/24

Lansdowne FC v Cork Constitution FC

Energia AIL Division 1 A

Lansdowne Road

Lansdowne 19 – 25 Cork Con

 

It was another chilly afternoon at Lansdowne Road on Saturday as Cork Con’s watertight defence proved the defining factor in a closely fought contest.

The first half an hour was all Lansdowne in possession and territory, but try as we might, we couldn’t turn our pressure into points. For phase after phase, we moved the ball, but fumbled last passes and a penalty hitting the upright combined to keep the score board unmolested until after the 30 minute mark. And then, completely against the run of play, it was the visitors that drew first blood.  In one of their few forays into Lansdowne territory, the men from south of the border took a lineout maul at half way and their nippy scrum half broke down the middle. He was tackled outside our 22, but they recycled the ball quickly and created an overlap on the stadium side, sending their winger over for a try in the corner.  They converted to make it 0- 7.

The visitors didn’t enjoy their seven-point lead for long as almost from the restart, we resumed residence inside their 22 and rejoined our assault on their Chinese Wall of a defensive line. This time, we were just a little more patient and a little more accurate and after what seemed like 50 phases, a tiny gap finally appeared, but it was enough for centre (“Always dangerous” – The Irish Times) Andy Marks to go through for our first try, just before half time.    HT 5 – 7

The start of the second half saw Con give their offensive line a run out and ask our defence a few tricky questions.  The half was only minutes old when, aided by a number of penalties, they worked up the pitch and attacked our line with short crash balls and occasionally moving it wide. It was after one such wide ball that their backs took up the charge and that winger again (Matthew Bowen) went over for the visitors’ and his second. 7 – 12

Con were on the front foot now and as well as enjoying advantage in territory and possession, they seemed to be coming off better in many of the close penalty calls (or so it seemed to the admittedly partial observers on the home sideline).  They converted one penalty to points and stretched their lead to 7 – 15, but straight from the restart, Lansdowne replied with one of the best moves of the day.

From an excellently weighted kick out by Stephen Madigan, sub number eight, Harry Van Eeden gathers the ball and it is rapidly recycled by sub scrumhalf, Jack Matthews and moved left. The Con defence scrambles back and reforms quickly, but not quite quickly enough as prop Greg McGrath makes further ground through the middle before offloading. The ball flicks through a number of hands before “Danger-Man” Marks takes it over for his and the home side’s second of the day. 14 -15 as we approach the last quarter.

But now it was all Con in attack and it was looking like a forcefield was locking us down inside our own 22. In spite of opportunities to exit, fate or a missed pass or kick (and occasionally another penalty decision) conspired to keep us on our line. And eventually the pressure told as Con went over for another try, this time starting with a lineout maul, but once again finished in the corner by their left winger, Matthew (the name rings a bell) Bowen for his hattrick.  Another excellent conversion from the corner, saw them stretch their lead to 14 – 25.

Having spent most of the second half camped inside our own 22 it was another highly effective restart from the penalty that saw us execute a lightening attack to narrow the gap. Again, a well gathered ball led to a quick recycle and move through many hands, with the final touch belonging to vice-captain, Jack Cooke, who went over in the corner.  19 – 25 as the game drew to a close.

Our attack looked a little more penetrating now, but somehow we still couldn’t regain the territory we enjoyed in the first half and with the game well into injury time we were pinged yet again in our own half, well within kickable range. Their kicker had been excellent all day, converting from the touchline at will, but as if cursed by the wind gods of the east stand, his good strike veered shy of the upright at the last moment, preserving our losing bonus point.

Con were deserving winners with their excellently marshaled defence and impressive winger proving decisive.  But credit to the full squad of Lansdowne – they never let up trying and with just a little more accuracy, we should see out the last few games of the league with more than just a losing bonus point.

 

Match Report – Brian Whelan

Lansdowne 1st XV v Cork Con AIL 2nd March 2024

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