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J2  Lansdowne V St Marys at Lansdowne HQ, Saturday 12 January 2019

Lansdowne 23 – 17 St Marys

The J2’s team started the first game of the year on Saturday in a blustery but dry HQ a bit depleted in numbers but not in spirit or determination to set the record straight against a strong St Marys J1 side that had beaten us so badly in October.  Oran James settled the nerves with a well taken penalty into the wind within five minutes of the kick off and Lansdowne were playing excellent and varied rugby, allowing us dominate for most of the first half. Persistent assaults on the Marys’ line paid off first when scrum half, Aaron Grogan sniped over for the first of his two tries of the day ten minutes later (a brace of snipes, maybe? … sorry).  Captain Jack Moore showed great leadership all day, with his tackle rate and tactful talking to the ref, but he also left his mark on the scoreboard with a brilliantly strong attack on the Marys’ line, yielding our second try just on the half hour mark.

Marys weren’t going to take this onslaught with no reply, and they worked their way up the pitch, taking up residence near our line for the last ten minutes of the first half.  Lansdowne defended well, but the visitors scored in the corner on 32 minutes.  They kept the pressure up and the home side conceded several penalties in a row at the breakdown, culminating in a yellow card for the innocent and quite unfortunate full back Cormac O’Donnell, who was told by the ref that his card “was for the whole team!”. Marys seized the opportunity went over for another try just before the break and the gap was narrowed to just five points.

In spite of having the wind at our backs, the second half was a much tighter affair than the first. Marys took control of the lineouts in the swirling wind and the Lansdowne scrum was struggling to gain the upper hand, leaving our hungry and skilled backs starved of clean possession.  But our defence was relentless and when Oran James stretched the lead again with a penalty on 57 minutes, making it 18 – 10, there was a sense that we weren’t going to give our lead away.  The game settled further when sub, Rian O’Flaherty came on into tight head, with Ross Barry moving from there into hooker. Together with Gavin Murray, this formidable front row regained complete control of the scrum and the home side slipped back into their stride.  Our recovered supremacy soon paid dividends when Aaron Grogan took his second try on the 65-minute mark.

The second half finished very much as the first half had done with sustained period of defence against the Marys’ attack giving up a yellow card and a try, but there was never a worry that this side would crumble.  Those days are gone.

St. Marys’ management, as always the excellent sports, said that our team and that performance was “almost unrecognisable” from the trouncing we took at Templeville in October.

Final score: 23 – 17.  Feeling of relief and satisfaction: Priceless!

Match report – Brian Whelan

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