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Lansdowne FC v Shannon RFC

Energia AIL Division 1 A

Saturday 18th November 2023

Lansdowne Road


Lansdowne 42 – 12 Shannon


Nobody taking the field against the mighty Shannon does so lightly; nine AIL titles and a 60% to 36% win ratio against Lansdowne means this club deserves all the respect it gets.  So, Declan Fassbender and his coaching team needed a big performance to overcome these visitors and a big performance is just what they got.  Six tries and a ruthlessly effective defensive display brought us firmly back to winning ways.

Lansdowne had the wind at their backs and opted to use it to kick for territory for a lot of the opening period, Shannon obliging us by returning many of them which led to a particularly open and entertaining first quarter. “It’s like a schools’ Seven-a-side out there,” said one particularly handsome supporter and he wasn’t far wrong as the man doing most of the positional kicking was full back Hugo McLoughlin who was indeed playing schools rugby last year.

It might have been open, but it wasn’t uncontrolled. In reality, Lansdowne were just probing and prodding looking for their chance to pounce, which is exactly what centre Andy Marks did on the 20 minute mark.  Just inside their half,  a ruck ball comes left to outhalf Stephen Madigan, he loops the pass wide to left wing Sean Galvin. Sean covers 15 meters at warp speed before jinking inside and linking up with Andy Marks who powered through the back peddling defence and covered the final 15 meters to score under the post. Stephen Madigan converted and we were finally off the blocks. 7 – 0.

The game continued to be very evenly matched from the restart and for those dangerous few minutes after scoring the visitors were all attack.  We held them back well, but an unfortunate (code for harsh) penalty allowed them to put a ball in the corner for a 10 meter touch.  Teams like Shannon don’t squander positions like that and though we held out for a while they went over on the half hour mark 7 – 7.

The same tit for tat resumed with this restart, but now we had found our rhythm and were playing slightly less loosely with less mistakes and beginning to take control of the game.  After another ten minutes when we had most of the possession and stifled any threat Shannon could muster, our second try came from scrum half James Kenny.  The move started again from the middle of the pitch and winger Sean Galvin came in for a short ball from Madigan. Sean sped through at his usual Warp 3 and, perhaps excited with the fun of it all, shot an Exocet Missile pass back outside to Andy Marks. It bounced off Andy’s chest and flew up and forward about 10 meters, but Andy, now also at interstellar velocity, gathered the ball as it re-entered the earth’s atmosphere and passed it inside to James who finished off the move and the half under the posts. 14 – 7

If the shift of control to the home side was subtle before the half time break, it was hard to miss it as the second period commenced. The lads came out inspired. The wind was now behind Shannon and had grown a lot more blustery, playing merry havoc with our lineouts for a while, but we settled and went through a phase of elegant but emphatic superiority.

The pack (yes, we had forwards playing too!) were winning all the breakdowns with number eight Harry Van Eeden devouring loose and high balls with his customary ferocity.  In the tight too we were at least an even match for the visitors in this the strongest part of their game. This author isn’t qualified to say what happens in the dark recesses of the front row, but props Ben Popplewell and Temi Lasisi put in mighty shifts.  Lock and captain for the day, Jack Cooke was also ever present.  Contesting lineouts and rucks, he also played a big part in some of our best sequences of open play.

No surprise then that our next try started with a break from a maul by Jack just inside their half.  Pinning back his ears and with his tongue flapping like Shergar’s used to, he set off down the touchline with Shannon half backs hanging from each leg.  Andy Marks was on his inside, but a defender was blocking the offload to him. Jack wisely goes to the deck and James Kenny shifts the ball quickly from the ruck that follows to the supporting backline.  First Madigan, then full back Hugo McLoughlin joins the fray.  He has men outside too, but there may be a gap opening in front of him.  Will he back himself?  Damn right he will. He drops his shoulder and powers the last 10m meters for the line and crowning our best run of play in the game so far. 21 – 7 after Stephen’s afters.

And we weren’t finished.  With our tails well and truly up now and the bonus point in sight, we resumed our attack from the restart. We edge up the pitch with fast but well controlled phases, wingforward Barry Fitzpatrick recycling at will. From one of the rucks, that man Hugo Mc bursts out again – what was he doing there? – and peels down the touchline, once more backing himself with the confidence of a man twice his age. Options close down for him as he approaches their 10-meter line and he lets rip a sweet pass inland at full pelt to supporting James Kenny who touches down for his second of the day. 28 – 7 and the bonus point in the bag on the 50 minute mark.

They’re only human and the last half hour started with a slight drop in the tempo of the game. The wind picked up some more and Shannon took full advantage, pinning us back inside our own half for long periods.  But while we didn’t have much territory, we never looked very uncomfortable.  Biding our time, the chance to strike from deep inside our half came after 15 minutes.  Shannon had a penalty and opted to take it quickly, but our defence was wide awake and they lost the ball to us.  We countered quickly as Jack Matthews who had come on to replace James Kenny, shot out from the side of a ruck and passed outside to Sean Galvin. Sean took it for 20 meters before letting off an excellent pass to Hugo Mc, and he passed it back inside to Jack Matthews so he could finish the move that he had started.  These boys can play. 35 – 7

But character and class will out, and the Shannon lads never stopped fighting.  They soon returned to the camp they had established on our 22. And after another sustained period of attack, their tenacity paid off with a try on the 70 minute mark.  35 – 12.

And, it must be said, our lads don’t want for character either and they kept probing and testing the visitors’ defences in the closing minutes, even though the points were in the bag.  Fresh legged subs, hooker Henry Godson and flanker Liam Forster had an electric impact and they helped to keep the tempo up right to the end when a series of rucks and mauls eventually carried us over the line, captain and quiet leader Jack Cooke emerging with the ball and the plaudits for our final try.

Sub out half, Sean McMahon converted on the final whistle his first AIL points too marking the end of an excellent performance. 42 – 12.

Best of all, this brings the statistics of matches between these two great clubs closer to 50/50!


Match Report – Brian Whelan


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