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Metro League Division 2

Lansdowne J2 v Old Belvedere, Lansdowne Road Saturday 7 March

Lansdowne J2’s Fire on all Cylinders with Emphatic Victory in Relegation Play off.

For the second year in a row, the J2s found themselves somewhat unjustly near the bottom of the league and forced into a play off to remain in Division 2 next season.  How we got here is a discussion for another day, but it can be said that when this group can field a side and subs that are fully fit and motivated there is no one in this league they couldn’t beat.

Unfortunately for Old Belvedere, it was clear from before the kick-off that they were struggling to field a fit side. It was lambs to the slaughter.

Will McEvoy opened our account after five minutes of blistering Lansdowne play with a penalty, but the true intent of the side was to be revealed three minutes later when Rory Cunningham finished off a powerful break by Ger (“just give me the ball”) O’Connor, returning from extended injury.  Will didn’t manage the conversion, but made amends with a penalty minutes later, bringing the score to 11 – 0 for the first 20 minutes.

The second quarter didn’t go much better for the visitors, who were already racked with injury and reduced to 14 men and uncontested scrums.  Prop, Rian O’Flaherty opened his personal hattrick for the day with a perfectly timed intercept from a lineout tap down, followed by a 40 metre sprint to the line, handing off two attempted tackles and repelling another with just a dirty look (see Brian Moran’s excellent photo sequence below). The onslaught on the beleaguered Belvedere line continued when a great break from Ross Bailey Kearney (“RBK”) was temporarily stalled, but the defence fumbled the ball and it was gratefully pounced on by hooker Rory O’Donnell. And Belvo’s misery was to be compounded one more time before the temporary respite of half time, as winger Joao Vierra was this time the beneficiary of an offload following another blistering break from Ger O’Connor. Will did the honours with a conversion from the corner to bring us into the break on 28 – 0.

Though Belvo never looked like posing a serious threat, it was a credit to the men still standing on the pitch that they never gave up and they started the second half with a well worked try and conversion.  But in their efforts to construct another attack a few minutes later, they left themselves open and seasoned opportunist Gareth Malloy seized his chance, ripping a ball from an attacking centre and romping the 20 metres to the line unhampered. Another conversion and the tally was now 35 – 7.

Next it was the turn of the forwards and Jack Moore finished off a forensically executed lineout maul, added to with typical enthusiasm by winger Oscar O’Cleirigh.  Then Rian got his second with a move similar to Slugger’s earlier one, robbing an attacker of the ball and running unhindered 30 meters to the line. It was a statement of the home side’s supremacy (and hopefully no disrespect to the visitors) that praise for Rian’s try was tempered by the comment, “his dive needs a bit of work!”.

Now our subs’ bench was emptied and their impact was felt immediately when utility back and keen stamp collector, Aaron Grogan went over for a try finishing off an elegant sequence of back play. And the loyal supporters (made up largely of J3s marshaled by Rob Timlin and the promise of “cans and pizzas”) didn’t have to wait long for Slugger’s pint-sized understudy, Grogan to rinse and repeat with his second of the day in the same corner.  55 – 7.

There was one more treat before the finish, as Rian completed his hat-trick for the day finishing off forward move in the corner.  60 – 7 Full time.

A powerful performance to be sure, but credit again to the visitors. We too have been those soldiers when we struggled to field full side and were reduced to 14 men and uncontested scrums (who can forget our hammering at the hands of Marys early last season?).  So, commiserations to them, but congratulations for the courage and sportsmanship of those who did take to the pitch. They were faced with a Lansdowne J2 team at its very best.

Or close to it… who knows how good these guys can get?

Match report: Brian Whelan

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