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Lansdowne Eek Out Victory in Close Contest at College Park

By December 5, 2023No Comments

Dublin University FC v Lansdowne FC

Energia AIL Division 1 A

Saturday 2nd December 2023

College Park

Dublin University 3  – 17 Lansdowne

 

If a team close to the bottom of the league is supposed to be easy opposition, no one told the scholars of Trinity College last Saturday. The students dominated possession and territory throughout the game, but just couldn’t translate their advantage into points.  But credit where it’s due, the Lansdowne defence was tireless and when opportunity presented itself, we struck. We may have been “widely regarded as ‘Trinity Second String’ in 1872”, according to the home match programme, but we were deserving winners on the day.

Shrouded in wintery mist, College Park looked more like Hogwarts than ever, as the teams took to that hallowed pitch.  Old friends, the two clubs share a great history and also a few players in the present.  Trinity outhalf, Harry Colbert, wingforward David Walsh, winger Calum O’Reilly, and utility back Hugh O’Kennedy all learned their craft with Lansdowne minis and youths (under the watchful eye of Michael O’Brien), while our own hooker Tom Barry is still a student in Trinity.  Such overlaps didn’t lead to a let-up in the competition, which was fast and fierce from the kick-off.

Trinity drew first blood on the five minute mark when Harry Colbert slotted over a penalty from the middle of the park.  And though they spent most of the next period in our half, a brief foray into theirs yielded a penalty which Stephan Madigan converted, his first of many important kicks on the day.  The students continued to camp in our half for the remainder of the first quarter, their attack relentless, but our defence was agile and aggressive in equal measure.  We didn’t sit back and absorb what they threw at us, rather we had to defend actively and this led to a few offsides and related infringements, eventually resulting in a Lansdowne yellow card just after the half hour mark.

If we were composed in defence, sadly the same couldn’t be said of us when we had possession. We seemed determined to gift our hosts with the ball at every opportunity, none more so than on our own line outs. Those wizardly scholars must have broken our lineout codes and contested each throw, robbing us of many, many of our own balls.  But for all their craftiness, they couldn’t breach our line and it was in one of many of their thwarted attacks that they spilled the ball forward on our 22 and we burst back in counterattack.  From the breakdown ruck ball, number eight Harry Van Eeden burst away on the poorly defended Trinity blindside. Breaking through the first tackle he offloaded to centre Andy Marks, who made another 20 metres to bring us for a rare visit into their half. There he was joined by speedy winger Sean Galvin and though he had a lot of ground to cover, he wasn’t ever going to be caught before scoring in the corner.  Stephen struck the ball beautifully, drawing it in to secure an excellent and important conversion.  3 – 10 with five minutes left of the half.

Trinity piled on the pressure for the remaining five minutes, but excellent defensive scrumming and mauling (particularly with only seven forwards on the pitch) helped us keep them at bay until the break.

The second half started with us regaining some measure of control of the game and running a few phases, but again, mistakes and unreliable set pieces (hint: not the scrum) undid any momentum we might build up.  Though we were back to 15 men again, we were also back on the ropes. If students were supposed to tire in the later segments of a game, it was yet another memo this Trinity team didn’t receive. Their pressure continued and we struggled to escape from our own 22. Good scrums, mauls and even excellent defensive clearances from Stephen would all be undone by a sloppy mistake and handover of possession and territory.

However, against the run of play perhaps, we did manage to cobble together a few chess moves that brought us swiftly up the pitch into their territory. An excellent clearance from Mads following a Trinity penalty on our 10 m line brought us to near the halfway. Mercifully, a great line out and following a break down the middle of the pitch from centre Rory Parata, Trinity were pinged for going off their feet in the ruck that followed. Stephen planted the kick perfectly on their 10m metre line and the lineout and maul that followed were things of beauty too.  Ever-present number 8 Harry Van Eaden was the man to touch it down and the visitors and their traveling entourage breathed a collective sigh of relief.  Another cracking conversion from Stephen Madigan made it 3 – 17 as we entered the final quarter.

Far too early to relax, we resumed our defensive camp inside our 22, with the students trying every spell in the book.  Eventually their pressure yielded a result and they crossed our line for the first time all day.  It was yet another lineout maul on our 10 meter line and unable to drive over, they moved the ball into the centre of the park.  They were first to the breakdown and their openside wing forward bounded over our line under the post. Surely the conversion would narrow the margin to a one score game, but the ref said No and reversed the try, saying it was a double movement.  Luckily for delicate ears on the sideline, most of the Trinity supporters were speaking Ancient Greek, so their comments will remain a mystery.

Our defence wasn’t quite desperate, but it was creative and so it led to another yellow card. With less than 10 minutes to play, we were back down to 14 men and we needed to draw on wise old heads like Clive Ross and Jack Cooke, to manage the ball and the clock intelligently.  And so they did and the whistle finally blew.   FT 3 – 17

Only the stoniest of hearts wouldn’t feel some sympathy for our hosts who played most of the rugby and never looked like tiring. But it is a very encouraging sign of a side that is settling well mid-season that we can still “win ugly” when not quite at our best.

 

See you all next week for our last home game this year versus our other old friends, Clontarf.  

Lansdowne expects …

 

Match Report – Brian Whelan

 

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