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Lansdowne 13 – 20 Clontarf

This fixture had been deferred when the referee scheduled for the original game failed to turn up. He made his presence felt when he did turn up on Saturday, sadly with a controversial red card early in the game, tilting the balance significantly in the visitors’ favour.

The early stages of the game had all the trappings of a tense cup fixture, with both teams playing tight careful rugby for most of the early period, the first points coming from a penalty kick for Clontarf on 20 minutes.  ‘Tarf’s large pack were managed well in the set pieces, with Lansdowne holding firm in the scrums and dominating the lineouts, aided by Rory O’Donnell’s pin point accurate throwing.  However, it was a back move that first broke the Lansdowne line as Clontarf scored and converted a try after 25 minutes.

But there was still nothing between the sides, if anything Lansdowne looked the more controlled, mobile and menacing, as they worked short ruck after ruck to get over the line a few minutes after the Clontarf score.  And that’s when the controversial (to put it mildly) decision came.  Rian O’Flaherty, having grounded the ball over the line for what this observer believed to be a certain try, exhorted the referee to award it, using language that fell a bit short of “parliamentary”. The ref had warned him already apparently and followed through, sending him to the touchline for the rest of the game. The decision was a double blow: depriving us of a vital prop against their giant front pack after only 30 minutes, but also disallowing a try.

Half time came and for the second time in two days, Dr Phil’s request of his charges was simply to keep doing what they were doing.  Indeed, it was easy to forget that we were down a man as play resumed after the break.  Another sequence of excellently managed rucks, committing the minimum to the breakdowns and with Jack Moore taking breaks to keep the slower ‘Tarf team on the move, led eventually to gaps forming in their defence. And it was one of those gaps that out half Oran James spotted and darted through after a lightening fast delivery from Rob Kelly at nine.  Oran went over and converted his own try, bringing the score to 7 – 10.

Five minutes later, our persistence and better mobility yielded a penalty, bringing us to parity with 20 minutes to go.

Clontarf trundled their way back up the pitch, securing their second try, but  they didn’t convert, so when Oran got another penalty five minutes later, it was still just two point game at 13 – 15.

But the extra man advantage started to take its toll in the last 15 minutes. Exhausted by their efforts and with players like Pete Reilly, Gavan Murray and Rory O’Donnell shipping knocks but carrying on bravely, there was a dark sense of foreboding on the side-line. So, after series of scrums crumbled under the weight of the Clontarf pack, it wasn’t too surprising when they finally went over for another try in the corner.

The Lansdowne lads fought bravely for the closing minutes of the game seeking to break through to get within scoring range, but the visitors effectively closed the game down and with it our cup campaign. Final score 13 – 20.

The season isn’t over for these lads who have consistently become better, stronger and more cohesive as the season progressed. No doubt, they’ll relish the opportunity to finish out their last two league games in manner that demonstrates their true quality clearly.

Report by: Brian Whelan

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