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20/02/2023

 Lansdowne 38 – 18 Greystones

Metro League Division 2

 

After suffering a humiliating defeat in Dr Hickey Park in November, Rob Kelly’s avenging angels continued to correct the record of their mirky pre-Christmas past, putting a twenty-point margin on the visiting Greystones J1’s at HQ last Sunday, 20 February.

Things didn’t get off to a dream start, however, as Greystones blocked down a slightly casual clearance kick in the opening moments of the game and touched down in the corner. 0 – 5.  Considering the low points in our earlier encounter with them included two intercept tries, this looked ominous. But this is a different team now, same personnel, different team.  Nobody panicked and though ‘Stones laid siege to our line for the next 20 minutes, we got into our defending groove and saw off each attack, wave after wave. Wingforwards Dave Kavanagh and Matt Whelehan were tireless as they felled much bigger men, over and over. Eventually, frustrated with their failure to cross our line, the visitors settled for a penalty kick on the half hour mark.  0 – 8.

Within moments of the restart, the attacking boot was on the other foot. Ours. We were on their line and even the much bigger ‘Stones pack couldn’t repel our persistent attack. All they could do was concede penalty after penalty and from one of those, number 8 Donal Liddy tapped and went to score ours and (spoiler alert) his first of the day.  Bill McNamara converted and it was 7 – 8.  We continued our relentless pressure on the visitors for the rest of the half, mostly with our forwards showing we could match their size with our strength and determination, taking them on down the middle. Stand outs during this period included, returning Scot, second row Andrew McInnes and the man who scored the next try,second row Aaron Daly. His five points were the least he deserved for his Herculean efforts all day. 14 – 8

Full marks also to our front row during the first half; they had a difficult task.  Charlie McSweeney and Conor Byrne, normally locks or back rows, had been called up to the coalface after long absences and when hooker Sean Grimley went off injured after five minutes, replaced by Donncha Cooke the entire front row could be described as “improvised”. But though shaky for the first quarter, they held their own heroically for the rest of the game, gaining the edge in the scrums when joined later by Shaun McDonald.

The second half was only minutes old, when we started to fully express ourselves around the field. Having proven we could front up to their big pack, Captain Rob and his ever-creative outhalf Stevie Morris, started to vary the play, spreading the ball wide, left and right and kicking behind the defenders into space.  From a ruck in the middle of the pitch, Stewie took one of his signature breaks finding a gap where none looked obvious and offloading to full back Andy McEvoy. Andy charged over 30 meters, winding his way through gaps in the defence like a downhill slalom skier, eventually offloading to supporting Andrew McInnes who touched down in the corner. What a cracking team try, bringing the bonus point into view. 19 – 8

The game was tighter than the score board suggested however, and Greystones came back with a well taken score ten minutes later. 19 – 13

As if stung by the insult, we were straight back at them, with another beautiful try, two minutes later. Like the last one, Rob took the ball from the middle of the pitch, with runners on each side to choose from and their defence now watching Stewie like hawks, he passed to Will McEvoy who like the brother Andy earlier, made great ground against a fractured defence before finding out half Stewie again with a great pass.  Bill finished and the bonus point was in the bag at 26 – 13.

But we had still more in the tank.  Even though the game had been very physical, we were now rampant, engineering another multi-player move with our attack swarming through the visitors as Bill McNamara finished excellently in the corner. 31 – 13.

It’s a credit to the fighting spirit of both sides that the last ten minutes of such a high energy game should yield two more tries. First, Stewie, replacing Rob Kelly at scrum half, reached for the ball at the back of a scrum on the half way, but first took a sneaky peak over the backs of his pack, like a meerkat in the desert poking his head out of his burrow looking for foxes.  None were close, so he was off like a light down the centre of the pitch, covering 30 meters before offloading to Dave Kavanagh who in turn found that man Liddy again with the final pass and Lids finished off the move, taking a nasty knock in the process. 38 – 13.

Greystones’ frustration was softened somewhat by a consolation try at the close, but our final winning score of 38 – 18 was almost exactly the same margin by which we had lost in November.  Order restored.

What a second half to the season!  With five undefeated games in a row (one draw) since December, we didn’t just turn narrow defeats into bonus point wins, we showed that with a brave and energetic defence and an open, fluid attacking style, a J2 Lansdowne team can compete and prevail in a league populated mostly by J1 teams.

Sadly, we discovered after the game that a conceded fixture elsewhere in the league made it mathematically impossible for us to reach the play-offs, so the final game of the league against leaders Belvedere in two weeks’ time will be for pride rather than silverware. But for this team, pride and courage is a given, so it looks like being a fantastic match.

So let’s have a big Lansdowne crowd to support them in Ollie Campbell Park on Saturday 4th at 12 noon.  God knows, they deserve it!

 

Match report – Brian Whelan

 

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