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Sunday 17 February – J2 V Wanderers at Merrion Road

Wanderers 30 – 45 Lansdowne

This was a fixture which went from curious to bizarre, but the result and performance of this steadily improving J2 side made it well worth the trouble.

First the change of venue from HQ to Merrion Road, then a change of kick off time to 2.30 from 3.00 which, it seems, nobody in Wanderers or the Leinster Branch told the late arriving ref about.  All this lent an ominous look to this fixture.  Then Wanderers, unable to field a front row, asked for unopposed scrums and that they play with 14 men, adding helpfully that they had thrashed St Mary’s the week before with the same arrangement! And then there was the mysterious disappearance of Captain Reilly after 20 minutes, and it looked like this could be a real banana skin of a fixture.

Henry Lynch owns the lineout

Our worst fears seemed to be confirmed when the apparently depleted Wanderers replied to a good opening Lansdowne try from Capt Reilly, with a penalty and converted try of their own.  10 – 5 in the first ten minutes. Hmmm.  The ref, clearly put out by the implied criticism of his late arrival, seemed to punish the wrong club, dishing out six penalties against us to their two to them in the next ten minutes, leading to another penalty to Wanderers. 13 – 5. Jack Moore reduced the deficit with a great break through the middle of a ruck and a 30 metre run, leaving Oran James a relatively easy conversion. 13 – 12.

Binding is optional v Wanderers

But the Wanderers chaps made the best of their lower numbers (and a remarkably mobile front row!) and they also took full advantage of the wind and sun advantage in the first half to run in two more tries. It has to be said that their handling was excellent with their back three in particular seeming to have glue on the tips of their fingers. Half time 23 – 12. That banana skin was looking very slippy…

But Dr Phil was never overly concerned, and his half time talk was not to panic, keep doing what we’re doing, with perhaps a tiny bit more composure and let the elements play their part in the second half.

Magic team talk by Dr. Phil

And we didn’t have to wait too long for this inspiring speech to take effect. Five minutes into the second half and Jack Moore scores again with another conversion from Oran. 23 – 19 and it’s a one score game again.  Then Wanderers ran another move with elaborate passes which seem miraculously to stay to hand – do these guys EVER drop the ball? – and they run in another with their out half converting a difficult kick to edge their lead out further.  30 – 19 with just 15 minutes to go.

But, with this side more and more as the season progresses, there was no panic. Just the quiet, steely confidence that there was a job to do and they were well capable of doing it.  As water came on the pitch, second row Conor Byrne was heard to ask the score what time was left. He looked into the middle distance, calculating the variables, then came up with his prognosis … “That’s grand”…

And he was right.  That was the end of Wanderers’ valiant performance for the day, as the last 15 minutes belonged entirely to us.

First came a great finish by Luis Castro from several “Munster” moves and conversion. 30 – 26.  Soon after that, we saw probably the best try of the season from this side, with a commanding series of phases, back moves, loops, soft hands and powering hard line runs from centres Alex Caslin and Kevin O’Connor, culminating in an excellent finish from winger, Pierre Poulard. Pierre had a lot to do to finish and deserves special mention also as he was one of those present on Sunday that had also endured the grim events of Friday’s encounter with Greystones with the J3s.

Now Lansdowne were rampant and we spent the last five minutes running phase after phase putting the Wanderers line under siege. Finally, it was sub scrum-half, John Delany who slipped over for the coup de grace!  Oran slotted over his fifth conversion of the day and the ref blew full time 30 – 45.

The second half and in particular the last quarter revealed qualities that have so far lain dormant in this team and indeed the whole J2 and J3 group all season – composure, patience and a very welcome ruthless streak!

This team is hitting form at just the right time and we’ll need to be at our very best for next week’s cup clash against Clontarf on Saturday at HQ.

Support appreciated and entertainment guaranteed!

JD a true scrum-half

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