Lansdowne 35 – 8 Naas
Mero League Division 2
What a joy to behold! Sparkling, champagne rugby from a premier crew, showing their true class for the first time this season, if not more. A great way to celebrate the festival of junior rugby.
If Naas arrived with a depleted side, they certainly didn’t look it, pinning us inside our 22 for much of the early stages of the encounter. But gruelling work in training on defence meant we were ready, and calmly we soaked up whatever they threw at us, hitting hard and regrouping quickly to repel each advance. It was from one such robust defence, early on that we turned around the ball in mid field and ran from our 22, full back, Andy McEvoy dissecting their defence with a great line and running 30 meters before his perfectly timed pass sent winger Tadhg Brennan over their line in the corner. Center and kicker Bill MacNamara gave a further clue of what was in store by slotting an excellent conversion from the touchline. 7 – 0 and the home supporters were starting to lick their lips.
But Naas weren’t long in regrouping and within moments they were back in our half, forcing a penalty in the ruck. 7 – 3.
But if our defence was robust, our open attacking play in this first half hour was nothing short of glorious. Backs and forwards melded into a swarm of attacking runners, their crisscrossing lines baffling the back pedaling visitors. From a ruck in the center of the pitch, captain Rob Kelly recycled the ball quickly to outhalf Steve “Stewie” Morris who somehow found a chink in the defence – as he does – and broke through just enough to release centre Josh Healy, barreling towards the line. Josh was held up ten metres short but Rob was back calling for the ball on his inside shoulder and finished off the move under the posts. Bill converted again and it was 14 – 3 just short of the half hour mark.
But Naas are a strong side and the remainder of the first half belonged to them, as we were forced to defend for extended periods. Occasionally we broke out of our half, with Stewie cleverly placing the ball into the wind over the visitors’ backs, only for them to use the wind and work back to our danger zone. It’s a credit to the ever growing resilience of this Lansdowne side (and hard work in training) that they didn’t relent and we went into the break with our lead intact. 14 – 3
The second half resumed with Naas still applying pressure and though they limited the scope of our attack, they never really looked like piercing or defences. We now had an increasing wind at our backs and our increasingly joyful J3 supporters were emerging from the dressing room to add to the visitors’ woes. It was all starting to take its toll on Naas and as they took on some injuries, their threat began to peter out.
Just as in the first half, we pulled off a great exit from our own danger zone with some particularly surgical defence from wingforwards Rob Hughes and Matt Whelehan and ruck turnovers from Aaron Daly. From the attacking scrum back that followed on their 22 line, Andy McEvoy joined the line for a text book try under the posts. Naas’ spirits were reduced further by another clinical finish from Bill. 21 – 3.
Now more Naas injuries meant that we had to play with uncontested scrums, and as we entered the last quarter, it looked like their race was run. But Naas had other ideas. They turned the tables and recovered the ball while defending against one of our attacks with their centre finishing well under our posts. 21 – 8.
In truth, however, that was their last sting. We soon recovered dominance and played out the last 15 minutes with the same exuberance and style that we’d done in the opening phases, putting another two converted tries on the opposition for good measure.
The first came from another of the swarming attacks down the middle of the pitch, our forwards breaking through like a hoard of marauding Vikings, none more terrifying than sub second row Conor Horan, who took a pass following a break from prop Ronan Shaw. Conor ran the last distance (the actual distance is disputed; somewhere between 5m and 50m) with “three defenders hanging off me all the way”. 28 – 8.
But as our fitness and sheer enjoyment of the game seemed to build, the sidelines now bursting with home support, it isn’t too surprising that the best champagne was saved till last. We had a scrum near the touchline just inside their half and Rob popped it to the blindside where Andy McEvoy had joined the attack again from full back, sprinting to the corner, but offloading to winger Shane Donnelly running the inside line. Shane ran 20 meters (undisputed!) towards the posts, before passing inside again to number 8, Donal Liddy who sealed the deal with the best try in the best game of the season, or several seasons, for this group!
Full time 35 – 8
Match Report – Brian Whelan