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UCD 42 – 22 Lansdowne

Moran Cup

 

Cup rugby could break your heart. After a triumphant league campaign chiseled out over months, Rob Troy’s valiant J3 squad had their hopes of a cup-league double dashed in just 90 minutes as they were beaten by an excellent UCD J2 side.  But they went out in style, battling from the kick off, right through to the final whistle, twenty brave and honest men doing the club proud.

A clue as to what was in store came within seconds of the kick off.  Collidge gathered the ball and rapidly spun it wide, their lightning fast full back showing us his heels as they went over for their first try near the corner. Another foreboding note was struck when their super-flexible number 8 converted from a distance, his first of many.

They may have caught us on the hop at the start, but we returned the favour straight from the restart as we used our best combination of hard running forwards like Ross Farrel and Luke Morrison to make some hard yards, before unleashing our backs to run wide. Winger Rob Manning beat men half his age for speed to go over in the corner. 7 – 5 and the game was less than five minutes old!

This pattern was repeated almost exactly in the following five minutes as the students’ ultra quick ruck ball released their fast and hard running backs for another converted try and we countered immediately with another full-fifteen effort finished off bravely by our other winger, Shane Donnelly, rolling his ankle in the process. 14 – 10 after ten minutes.

Yet again, this heady end-to-end game bore its fruit and UCD scored another try, this time their forwards going over.  But we resumed our attack relentlessly and they conceded several penalties in their attempts to keep us out.  No surprise then when they lost a man to the Sin Bin and even less of a surprise when we took advantage with our own score, this time our forwards finishing as hooker Donncha Cooke touched down. 19 – 17 on the half hour mark and we were very much still in the game.

But UCD were really only warming to their task.  The final ten minutes of the half were spent on our line and try as we might we couldn’t seem to break free.  The students’ used every tool in their extensive toolbox and they eventually touched down and converted on the half time whistle. 26 – 17.

The pace never let up as the second half started, but the students were now more clinical, getting into our danger zone and camping there while waiting for penalties to present themselves. And they duly did, twice, as that pesky number 8 chipped away again and again at our resolve with two well taken penalties. 32 – 17.

He would score a third penalty too, but not before his team scored another try, thus their lead was a seemingly insurmountable 42 – 17 as we went into the final ten minutes.  But we held the pass for the final ten minutes, full back Paddy Meenan fielding and counterattacking bravely, while substitutes like Ben Purnell-Mullick and Rory Durand added energy to our lads’ now aching limbs.

All twenty Lansdowne men that took to that bumpy pitch on Monday night were excellent, but it would be impossible not to mention a few truly exceptional performances. We’ve heard about Rob Manning’s try, but his defence and leadership all around the pitch for all 90 minutes were extraordinary. Giant performances come in all shapes and sizes but it was the big men Conor Horan, Jacques Chapeau and Shane Kennedy that put their bodies through hell, battling every ball and trying everything to defy these stylish students. Bien joué, mes amis!

Theirs and the team’s courage was rewarded finally, when we clawed our way, exhausted, back up the pitch and laid siege to the hosts’ line, eventually causing them to concede a penalty.  As the ref’s arm was out for our advantage, captain Rob Troy saw sub winger Rory Boyle at the opposite touchline and hoofed it over to him.  Rory had a lot to do still to field the ball and get around his speedy opposite number, but he did and so scored the final try of the match.

UCD were well deserving 42 – 22 winners, but Lansdowne showed a depth of character and courage that any of the club’s greats would have been proud to witness.  Somewhere in a perfect pitch in the sky, passed legends that played for both great clubs, like Eugene Davy and Peter Sutherland are singing your praises, while still here on earth (or Offaly anyway), Willie Burns will also raise a glass to you!

As the season concludes, it is time to reflect on the achievements of this group of both players and coaches. This group won the first league at this level in 10 years and to do it playing an excellent brand of flowing attacking rugby with a steely defence in the clubs 150th year is something to be proud of. The team was superbly led both on and off the pitch by captain Rob Troy. The coaching team of Mark Quinn & Shane Dalton formed a formidable duo and brought such enthusiasm to everything they did which was a key factor in this group’s growth over the course of the season. We look forward to seeing this group grow under this duo’s watchful eye next season as they move up to Metro Division 4. Joining Mark & Shane this year in a management role was James Caslin who learnt on the job week on week and made sure that the lads wanted for nothing on game day.

Finally, a sad note as this group sees the retirement of David Tunney this season. Dave steps away after a number of years involved in the Junior set up. Under his leadership, the J3s have turned from a mid-table collection of players to a competitive group of teammates who were willing to put their bodies on the line each and every week. Thanks to Dave’s enthusiasm for activities both on the pitch and in the bar, the group have developed bonds that will last a lifetime as they fondly remember winning silverware in the club’s 150th year. Dave had a huge hand in all things related to the Junior set up and his will be big boots to fill going forward.

Well done lads!

Match Report – Brian Whelan 

 

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