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Energia AIL Division 1 A

Friday 15th December 2023

Belfield Bowl

UCD 44  – 40 Lansdowne

To paraphrase Lady Bracknell, “To lose one game, while getting two losing bonus points, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness.”

The impartial observer at The Belfield Bowl on Friday night was treated to an 11 try spectacle of open and adventurous rugby, but to the many Lansdowne supporters there it felt like an opportunity lost.  After leaving ourselves an Alpine hill to climb with a deficit of 27 points, we came all the way back and looked like the game was there for the taking in the last few minutes … but it wasn’t to be and we had to content ourselves with another brace of losing points.  The considerable consolation is that those two points keep us at number three in the league as we enter the Christmas break.

If the Collidge team that came to Lansdowne Road in September for the League Cup game looked a bit unsettled, these lads were anything but. They had strength and depth and even width. The full package.

It was a combination of their big hitting running forwards and fast recycled ball to wide runners that accounted for their first try on five minutes, the conversion making it 7 – 0. We tried to get back into the game and for the next ten minutes we enjoyed a healthy share of possession, but we just weren’t urgent enough and the students’ rush defence unsettled us.  Adventurous (code for wild) kicks and passes were eventually punished by the home side’s hungry defence and they got an intercept on their own 22, running the length of the pitch and doubling their lead as the first quarter drew to a close. 14 – 0.

A ray of hope came on 25 minutes as winger Sean Galvin finished a great move, taking a pass that was scooped up from the floor by centre Rory Parata. 14 – 7.  But the hosts were soon back in our half and now we had lost favour with the ref. A penalty stretched their lead to ten points on the half hour mark, 17 – 7, but it was clear they weren’t finished. Now UCD were back to their multi-skilled best and soon they were over our line again. Two former LFC Presidents (one who still, somewhat worryingly, likes to be known as “JFK”) were heard to describe the Collidge team as being “a Swiss Army Knife of a team!” They seemed to have a tool for every occasion and we didn’t have any answers. 24 – 7.

The carnage continued as the half time break came into view. UCD went over for another try in the corner, confounding our scrambling defences. 29-7

With five minutes left in the half, the Lansdowne management realized that desperate times called for desperate measures and in a purge that looked like the Bolshevik cull of the Romanov family in the Russian revolution of 1918, “Fassbender The Furious” called four players to the sideline (names withheld for legal reasons). And it seemed to work. Just on the stroke of 40 minutes, substitute scrum half Jack Matthews finished an excellent restart move which went through the experienced hands of winger Peter Sullivan and centre Andy Marks to let Jack go over in the corner. 29 – 12 and surely some respite. But no; as if to keep manners on us, Collidge went back to our half from the restart and slotted over the penalty they were awarded to go into the break 32 – 12 ahead.

No doubt there were some home truths shared during the break (well, it was probably one way traffic, truth be told) and though overall we did much better in the second half, things didn’t get off to a great restart.  The half was less than five minutes old when, against the run of play, the students won a penalty and placed the ball expertly on our 10 meter line. They showed they could do the heavy lifting and shoving as well as the wide and wild running, as they went over for a try from the lineout maul.  39 – 12.

One area of particular concern was our handling of the restarts, as the students competed much more aggressively for them. But our comeback did resume in earnest when second row, cull survivor, and captain Jack Cooke went over for a try near the posts, taking a late dig for his trouble.  The Collidge offender was given a yellow card, the home side’s first of three in the second half.  It was now 39 -19 and you knew it was a tough night for Lansdowne when another supporter commented, “Well at least we’re back to within 20 points!”  Out of earshot of the management team, obviously.

Another sub, Donough Lawlor was making his presence felt and it looked like we were coming back into the game now.  The ref seemed to agree as he turned his attention to the students’ repeated infringements. From one penalty we kicked for position and after another excellent lineout, we got fast ball from the ruck and sub outhalf Steve McMahon made a short but important break over the gainline before offloading to winger Sean Galvin running a great line at speed. It was now 39-26 and with the students’ curious “revolving door” policy with yellow cards (no sooner did one player return to the pitch than another was pinged!), we seemed to be on the ascendancy. Maybe the Great Christmas Comeback was on the cards!

But, oh no.  Those restarts were our undoing again.  As soon as the ball came to us from the drop kick, we fumbled it and the students played the advantage and won the ruck.  While we looked in one direction, a gap emerged in the other and their grateful scrum-half sliced through it, like a knife through butter, only there was no butter there at all.  The conversion attempt bounced off the upright, mercifully sparing us the ignominy of returning to a 20 point deficit. A mere 18 point one, now: 44 – 26.

Composure started to return to the Lansdowne side as the students, for most of the half down to 14, seemed understandably to tire. We returned to their 22 and started to play with our customary aplomb. The road back to glory looked to be close as hooker Tom Barry finished off the first of his two lineout maul tries that followed in quick succession, with Steve McMahon converting both.  44 – 40 with 10 minutes to go.  Could it be?

We were camped in their 22 for most of that last few minutes … but because it’s Christmas, we won’t dwell on how we managed not to convert our advantage to a try.

However, Lady Bracknell would definitely have had something to say about those last two lineouts!

Full time 44 – 40, but we’re still at number three!

Happy Christmas everyone!

 

Match Report – Brian Whelan

 

UCD 44 LANSDOWNE 40, UCD Bowl
Scorers: UCD: Tries: Ross Deegan 2, Harry Donnelly, Rory McGuire, Bobby Sheehan, Michael Moloney; Cons: Michael Moloney 4; Pens: Michael Moloney 2
Lansdowne: Tries: Sean Galvin 2, Jack Matthews, Jack Cooke, Tom Barry 2; Cons: Stephen Madigan, Steve McMahon 4
HT: UCD 32 Lansdowne 12

UCD: Niall Carroll; Harry Donnelly, Tim Corkery, Daragh Gilbourne, Ross Deegan; James Tarrant, Michael Moloney; Jack Boyle, Bobby Sheehan (capt), Rory McGuire, Alan Spicer, Gerry Hill, Matt Healy, Michael Colreavy, Sean O’Brien.
Replacements: Lucas Maguire, Hugo O’Malley, Evin Coyle, Rory Byrne, Rob Gilsenan, Tom Murtagh.

LANSDOWNE: Cathal Eddy; Peter Sullivan, Andy Marks, Rory Parata, Sean Galvin; Stephen Madigan, James Kenny; Ben Popplewell, Tom Barry, Greg McGrath, Steven Walshe, Ruairi Clarke, Jack Cooke (capt), Barry Fitzpatrick, Hardus van Eeden.
Replacements: Henry Godson, George Morris, Liam Forster, Donough Lawlor, Jack Matthews, Steve McMahon.

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