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Metro League – Division 2

Lansdowne 17 – 20 Old Belvedere

There was none of the usual horizontal rain on Friday night in Ballycorus, but balmy and perfect conditions for fast, open and competitive rugby. And that is just what the handsome crowd of Lansdowne supporters received as their reward for attending.

Metro League 2 co-leaders Belvo came with a strong reputation and a few impressive wins behind them, but in the opening stages, their set pieces in particular struggled to contain the energy of Rob Kelly’s lads. The opening minutes saw swift movement of the ball and shuddering tackles going in on both sides with our boys getting the best of the early scrums as props Paddy Butler and Ronan Shaw dominated their opposite numbers.  Belvedere’s backs had showed some of the formidable strength and speed that would define the night, but it was against the run of early play that the visitors made a breakthrough midfield and scored near the corner in less than ten minutes. 0 – 5.

For the next period, however, territory and possession reflected which team had the upper hand and Lansdowne peppered the Belvedere line with short crash balls mixed with wide running. After a penalty opportunity was missed, we were soon back in their danger zone and eventually the relentless pressure bore fruit as Aaron Daly (playing at blindside flanker and having his best game of the season so far) went over for our first try.  Winger, Max Moore converted to make it 7 – 5.

The pressure continued from the Lansdowne team as we kept their dangerous backs contained like caged animals and soon another penalty was conceded. Max again did the honours and it was 10 – 5 as the half time approached.  But just on the break, those dangerous Belvo backs slipped their nooses again, getting through our defences and scoring in the corner. The sides were all square at the break, 10 – 10 and those handsome Lansdowne supporters would come to rue the missed opportunities in attack and the two lapses in defence of the first half that kept the visitors so close.

Unfortunately, there was another lapse in our defence as the second half was just five minutes old, the Belvo backs starting to grow in confidence. This time their breakthrough ended close to our posts and they converted making the score 10 – 17.  There followed an extended period of stalemate in the middle of the pitch, no side getting the upper hand but with brave battles being fought. Robert Hughes, playing at number 8, was particularly hard working, gaining hard yards and halting them in their tracks when they tried. And second rows, Charlie McSweeney and Jacques Chapeau also fought long and hard to give us the upper hand. We seemed to be on the back foot defending on our 22 when our centre, Andrew McEvoy showed our backs had “game” too and broke their gain line, linking with full back Daragh Dennehy and from him back outside to flying winger Stephen Morris who broke one tackle and got around another defender in his 30 meter run for the try.  Again, Max completed the picture with another crucial conversion and the sides were level again 17 – 17.

The final 20 minutes of the match were a fascinating arm wrestle between two well matched sides vying for an edge. Sadly, if there was an edge it was Belvo’s and it wasn’t in their style or strength, as we showed we had these in abundance, but rather in composure and eventually stamina.  When both of these started to fade from us, so the penalty count against us increased. As if the contest wasn’t tight enough, we continually conceded penalty after penalty, our defence over eager to snuff out the visitors’ attack. In the last 5 minutes that overeagerness was compounded by fatigue and the frequent penalties were now inevitably accompanied by not one but two yellow cards. (That’s four in two games, lads!!)

So, we ended this titanic struggle with just 13 men on the pitch, but it’s a credit to the tenacity and grit of those who survived till the end, that try as they might, Belvedere couldn’t get over our line again and had to settle for a last minute penalty to clinch the match. 17 – 20 Full time.

Deflated briefly, but far from dejected, the lads knew this was a good day at the office.  Plenty of areas to improve on, of course, but overall a great team performance, justifiably rewarded with a few pints afterwards in the Merry Cobbler.

Match Report – Brian Whelan

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