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J4’s Prevail with Last Minute Penalty in Sparkling Contest at Monkstown FC

Monkstown “Doggos”  22 – 24 Lansdowne

 

If there were any doubts about the wisdom of entering a Lansdowne J4 team into a Leinster League 10 after last week’s one-sided opener against Barnhall – and there were – they were banished by this electric encounter with Monkstown on Saturday.  Both sides comprised a veritable United Nations with an exotic range of nationalities and indeed talents on display, but whatever the ingredients, it was a heady cocktail of champagne rugby and great sportsmanship that emerged.  Lansdowne ended up the winners, but the real winner was … yes, you guessed it … sport!

Playing in the first half with the advantage of the wind, the sun, the slope of the pitch and the nap of the lavish grass, Captain Ludovic “Ludo” Amblard’s charges played with all the élan and panache you’d expect from a team with such a Gallic influence. But for all our possession and apparent dominance, our Monkstown “Doggo” hosts – themselves a D4 outpost of the Foreign Legion, by the look of things – quietly absorbed all our pressure for much of the early stages.  Though we opened our account early when strong-running centre, Guillaume Plé crashed over for a try around five minutes in, we would have to wait until the ‘alf hour mark until Capitaine Ludo himself went over again. Bionic-booted Ethan Bradley did the conversion honours on both occasions giving us a seemingly comfortable margin of 0 – 14.

The spectators on both sides of the sunny Saturday pitch were enjoying the spectacle immensely, but it was the Lansdowne ones that were quietly brooding at half time whether the 14 point margin would be comfortable enough.

Well at least they didn’t have to brood too long. Their fears were soon realized: within minutes of the restart, the Doggos went over for a try, their kicker converting from long range. And within another five minutes, they were over again, this time the conversion went wide and we held our wafer thin lead 12 – 14.

Things looked pretty grim as now it was we who we struggled with the elements (and discipline) and it was an uphill climb to get out of our own half. But with a few calming words from Ludo we regained our composure and clawed our way back up the pitch. The whole team played like they’d trained together for years – or even at all – but special mention for attacking number 8 Tadhg Campbell and great defence from openside flanker Matthew O’Neill, matched tackle for tackle by all round impressive scrum-half, Michael Mulligan.

As we entered the final quarter and we seemed to have established some sort of entente cordiale with the ref, we returned fully to our old form of the first half. On a lineout at halfway, our impossibly handsome second row pairing of Jacques “The Hat” Chapeau and Michael “Yes Relation” Whelan combined to steal yet another of their throws (their fourth or fifth), winning the ball back to a pleasantly surprised backline. And no one was more pleasantly surprised than substitute winger and just back from a long absence, than “Cool Hand” Luke Dunlea. He took the last pass from centre/flanker/prop Luis Castro, but still had a lot of work to do to get outside his opposite number and run the last 20 metres over the line. But not content with the five points, from his wing, he cut in to go under the posts to eliminate any doubt that Ethan would convert. And so he did.  Now 12 – 21 with just over ten minutes to go and the once nervous Lansdowne supporters began to breathe again.

But what folly to relax in a game like this!

Monkstown recovered the ball from the restart and kicked into space to get into our 22. Their speedy support won the ensuing maul and one of their centres followed up his own excellent grubber kick to over in the corner. 17 – 21.

No one on or off the pitch begrudged the hosts that quality try, but when they repeated their attack immediately on the restart and an oh-so-rare defensive lapse let their winger through for a fist-pumping 20 meter run over the line … well, something inside Ludo snapped.  22 – 21 with less than five minutes to play.

Those of us on the sideline couldn’t hear exactly what Ludo said to his lads under the posts, but we could see mothers diving to cover their children’s ears and elderly neighbours shuffling hurriedly back to the shelter of their cars.  Whatever he said, it worked.

From the kick out we bossed the rucks and mauls, forcing the Doggos to concede penalty after penalty. Such was visiting coach Ross Barry’s confidence in Ethan’s kicking that he had to be tackled to prevent him from running onto the pitch with the kicking tee when we were still in our own half!  But sense prevailed and Ethan popped the ball into the corner for a 10 meter line out.  There our dashing duo of jumpers, Jacques and Michael made short work of the hosts’ attempts to contest the lineout and they delivered another pristine ball to scrum-half Michael Mully. Soon the centres had it, but there was another infringement in the centre.  With the game entering injury time, we won another penalty and up stepped that man Ethan again. Keeping up his 100% hit rate for the day, his kick was the last of the match and we collapsed, exhausted but victorious … Monkstown 22 – 24 Lansdowne.

Talk about value for money, as Ross put it later! The ref said it was one of the most enjoyable games he’d reffed in years and the ever-sporting Monkstown captain (and possibly coach) came into the dressing room afterwards to congratulate us, adding that if you told anyone watching that game what league it was, they wouldn’t believe you!

Such sport.

 

Match Report: Brian Whelan

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