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18/02/2024

Lansdowne v Dublin University

J1 League Match fixture

22 – 7.

 

The season is reaching its business end with just two league games remaining. This game was the leaders versus the third-place team and not only was a win required but a bonus point needed to be chased down. That is what the task the J1’s were facing at the outset of this fixture and by the end of the game they came away with huge credit in achieving their goal and limiting Trinity from taking anything away from the match. Further, in so doing they drew level on points with them in what is a very close-run affair at the top of the table in this division.

The game opened with a Lansdowne try and a very soft one at that after just four minutes. The Trinity line out malfunctioned close to their own try line allowing from a fumble the ball to be gathered by J1 stalwart prop Sean Dunne to touch down from close in. The conversion however from Oisin Devitt was missed having been pulled just to the left of the posts.

From the restart and for a lot of the following twenty-five minutes, it was the away team who had a lot of possession and territory despite playing into a tricky cross wind. This they used to good effect in gaining field position but for me their back line lacked penetration mainly due to a fine defensive display from the J1’s which was throughout the game what separated both teams in terms of their play.

The standard of defence close to the try line was of a high quality in a bruising encounter with a lot of big defensive hits yielding turn overs. Trinity deserved a lot of credit for their persistence but were unable to draw level during this period. Instead, they say that every match has a wonder moment and in this game, it came after 33 minutes. It followed a clean line out take finding its way to the slick Dan McEvoy who threw a lovely pass to inside centre Brian Barron who broke through a tackle and freed his arms to throw a deft pass to outside centre Tom Roche who is a real speedster.

He jinked left first and then right to go round the Trinity full back and under the posts to rapturous applause from the watching spectators. This was a sublime moment of quality from the J1 back line the converted try being a reward from such skillful play and for me you won’t see a better try scored all season. With the conversion from Devitt the score had now moved out to 12 – 0 with half time approaching and both teams had their moments in the remaining minutes of the half only for the score line to say the same as the teams turned round.

The second half began with Trinity on the offensive and trying to narrow the gap on the score board but were soon down to 14 men following an indiscretion by their loose head prop who was shown a yellow card by the referee. However, it has to be said that they managed this period reasonably well and with the elements slightly in their favour shaded what was proving to be a tight game.

As the half moved on both teams jostled for position and there were some good performances in the forwards by Conor McMenamin and Darragh Murphy. The half had nearly reached its mid-point when the Lansdowne backline clicked into gear following a half break by Dan McEvoy. He throw a long pass to Tom Roche who had a fine game and always looked dangerous with ball in hand who in turn drew the defender and passed out to wing Matt Hodgkinson who outran the defence and touched down close to the right-hand corner flag leaving the score at 17 – 0 with the conversion missed.

Trinity who have led this division for most of the season to their credit showed real grit and determination to fight their way back into the game thereafter and they enjoyed a period of dominance with some very good interaction between their forwards and backline.

For the J1’s, their defence was outstanding and set them apart with the level of tackling to the highest standard. However, although the scrum for Lansdowne yielded some penalties this phase of play was generally level. The Lansdowne line out failed to operate effectively throughout the game and led to a lot of turnovers which is no doubt something that needs to be improved upon in coming games.

Trinity exerted continual pressure and again forced the referee into giving a yellow card to flanker Darragh Murphy after repeated infringements and in particular a last-ditch attempt to prevent a try. However, from the ensuing penalty and possession gained eventually the ball was thrown out long left to the Trinity full back who touched down with the conversion added and they were on the board at 17 – 7.

There were still just over 10 minutes to play, and it was three tries to one at this stage with the elusive bonus point still needing to be achieved. Both teams tried very hard and the toughness of the game started to take its toll with a lot of changes made on both sides.

Trinity remained on the offensive and it took a bit of opportunism by substitute scrum half Cian Moloney to engineer a fine turnover offloading the ball quickly to Liam Forster who made a lovely break from inside the Lansdowne half right up to the Trinity 22. Then the ball was quickly recycled a couple of times before McEvoy had possession and threw a long pass to Roche. He again showed clever intention by drawing the defender and then offloading the ball to full back Matt Grogan who looped around and with only seconds to go in the game, he managed to score in the right-hand corner. The conversion was missed but the full time whistle sounded thereafter and to their huge credit the J1’s had crossed for their 4th try and the bonus point and in so doing got the maximum hall of points from this game.

There was celebration after the game as the J1’s remain in contention to defend their league title and after all the results were in they still lied third in the table on the same points as Trinity and two points behind leaders Clontarf. There are two remaining fixtures to go and who knows what will happen in this topsy turvy season.

The J1’s deserve huge credit today not only in achieving the bonus point, but in the high degree of quality shown in their defensive display for a lot of the game, where Trinity the visitors had really pushed them all the way. It was a most enjoyable game to watch for the home supporters and also featured a good referee who was fair to both sides.
Next week is a break week and the penultimate game of the league campaign will then take place in Donnybrook against Old Wesley with all still to play for and you will hear more from me after that fixture has concluded.

 

Match report – John Kilroy

Lansdowne J1 v Trinity Saturday 18th February 2024

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