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Metro League Div 2

23rd of September 2022

Lansdowne FC 20 – 20 Blackrock RFC

There were no celebrations on either side as the 20 – 20 draw was a fair outcome in this sometimes-ragged game in the Metro League Division 2.  But coaches John Sparks and Ross Barry (the “Green Dream Team”) will take consolation from gaining two points and in particular from their team’s spirited come-back in the last quarter.

The opening clashes were encouraging on a few fronts, with the Lansdowne scrum dominating the visitors’ one and our midfield showing great resilience in defence.  After withstanding a barrage of attacks which yielded just a long-distance penalty by Blackrock (0 – 3), we had a period of sustained pressure, going over their line three times but failing to deliver any points. Our attack was somewhat one dimensional and easily matched by a robust ‘Rock defence.  Eventually, our pressure bore fruit and second row Conor Byrne finished off a forward drive to score in the corner. At the half hour mark it was 5 – 3.

Throughout this period, penalties were raining on the play like confetti at a wedding, with Lansdowne being by far the worst offenders. Indeed, far from having any complaints about the ref (as if!), we could have been pinged even more.  As the messy first half wore on, Blackrock made their way back to our half and secured another penalty, bringing the score to 5 – 6 at the half-time mark.

When play recommenced in the second half, so too did our infringements. The referee issued the inevitable yellow card to Lansdowne when the half was less than ten minutes old and soon we found ourselves on our line defending hard again.  It was all hands to the pumps and everywhere else it seems, as after another period of repeated offences, the referee understandably awarded a penalty try to the visitors. 5 – 13.

The versatile and hard-working centre/out-half Bill MacNamara kept us in touch with another penalty (8 – 13), following a vigorous attack from our backs, notably by centre, Thibault Fravel’s defiant resistance to the Blackrock midfield attempted tackle. But Blackrock took full advantage of their numerical edge and scored again just before our binned sinner returned to the field. 5 – 20

As we entered the final quarter with our full team restored, it was as if the lights suddenly went on and we seemed to shed the inhibition that had hampered us to this point. We started to play with a fluidity and panache that is so good to watch and play. Phase after phase – using the whole width of the pitch and indeed the whole team – led first to a fantastic finish and debut try for our new arrival from Galwegians, full back, Rory Dempsey.  Rory had used his formidable boot to get us up the pitch in the first place and finished a sparkling sequence that had commenced with a powerful line break from Conor Horan.  Bill did the honours with the conversion and it was 13 – 20 with less than ten minutes left to play.

Our pressure continued and as the ‘Rock started to crumble, they were the ones conceding penalties and eventually a yellow card too.  But was there enough time to clinch the victory?  Oh, so nearly.  Another multi-phase attack from us started with a line break from Donal Liddy culminating in an excellent off-load to powerful support running Andrew McEvoy who went over under the posts. 20 – 20 as the seconds ticked away.

Straight after the restart, we were back at the visitors’ throats, and they conceded a penalty roughly 50m from the posts.  In what seemed to be the last play of the match, we opted to kick for victory, but Bill’s attempt skinned the upright and our chance for all the points and an epic come-back slipped away. In fact, the last play of the match lasted another six minutes and though we didn’t manage to score, we did finish by far the strongest of the two teams.

So close, but still a creditable performance … eventually!

Match Report:

Brian Whelan

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