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Lansdowne 13 – 17 Garda

They say a good start is half the journey, but what do “they” know?  Scoring a text book try under the post in the very first minute seemed, if anything, to be our undoing.

From John Delany (JD)’s inch-perfect drop kick off, we gathered and recycled our own ball and spun it across the pitch stretching the Garda opposition in exactly the way we had planned. The crisp last pass from Rob Manning to Ger O’Connor on the right wing unleashed this speed machine and nothing was going to stop him as he ran the 30 meters to the corner flag, cutting inside to go under post and make JD’s conversion a formality.  Seven nil in one minute.

It was pretty-well downhill after that.

The Garda team looked ragged at first and struggled to keep ball in hand and yet they managed to hold on to possession, cannily keeping it tight among their bulkier forwards. They played the short game well, effectively pounding our mid field defences for an extended period after our try and it slowly dawned on us that we weren’t going to have it our way all night after all.  Their first try came on the 20 minute mark and when their out-half converted it from the corner, we realised they too had a 10 with magic boots.

Stung by professional rivalry perhaps, JD sent over a long penalty from beyond the 10 meter line on the 25 minute mark, and another, not much nearer, on 35 minutes.  Order seemed to have been restored and we were starting to get our rhythm again, building phase after phase and nearly putting Ger “The Exocet” O’Connor over once or twice.  Then disaster struck.  Ger took another, not quite so crisp pass this time, but sped off again, only to hit the deck suddenly, as if shot by a sniper from the top of Aviva Stadium. Hamstring. His game was over and with him, it seemed, our running ambitions evaporated.  At half time, we were still at 13 – 7, but all was not well.

The fog built up steadily in the second half and it was impossible to see what was going on at the far side of the pitch. The visibility on the pitch was adequate to continue, said the ref, and the Gardai kept the ball tight, their relentless pounding leading to another try 20 minutes into the second half. Again, their out-half nudged over a long conversion, giving them a one point lead and a boost of energy that our lads just couldn’t find. Five minutes later, another long-range penalty and their slim one-point lead was extended to four. 13 – 17.  Now we needed a try.

The last ten minutes, we finally regained our mojo, but perhaps it was the now “pea-souper” fog, or still feeling the loss of our talisman Ger, but we couldn’t convert it to points, spilling the ball on their line on more than one occasion.

Credit to the Garda Club. They refused to let us play the expansive game we wanted to and so they ground it out till the bitter end.

This team showed yet again its range and depth of talent, but also its unfortunate inability to make it pay when needed.

Cheer up, we still have a couple of league games left and a great chance for these lads to show how good they really are and finish the season on a high note.

 Ger O’Connor receives paramedic treatment after sniper attack

 Rueful JD – What might have been?

JD’s Alter Ego – also rueful…

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