Metro League Division 5

Lansdowne J3s v Maynooth University Barnhall

8 October 2021, Lansdowne Back pitch.

Lansdowne FC 29 – 21 MU Barnhall

It’s hard to imagine a better place to be on an unseasonably balmy October night than watching open, “heads up” rugby played with such enthusiasm by both sides at HQ last Friday night. Captain Conor Byrne’s squad took to the pitch eager to match their performance of the week before and they did just that.

From the kick out, it was clear that it was going to be an eagerly contested match. Territorial advantage ebbed and flowed and neither side could penetrate beyond the other’s 22 for long. When we did, it was Alex Dillon at centre who had already been tackling like a man possessed, that showed he could attack as well and finished off an excellent series of phases with a try on 10 minutes.  Outhalf Cormac O’Mahony converted and we were off to a good start.

Barnhall had their own ideas and almost from the restart they worked their way back into our territory and finished off a series of moves with a blind side break, finishing under the posts. 7 – 7.

As the game settled, however, it was clear that the home side had the edge, more composed in defence and showing more variety in attack. Stand out defensive performances came from Matt Groves at number 8, returning after injury to mark a man roughly three times his size, he never let him pass once. Another was Frenchman Thibault “T-Bone” Fravel who had a now signture watertight night at centre and special mention too for returning legend, Ross Smith.  Back for his first game on the pitch (as distinct from his heroic support from the sidelines) some said he wouldn’t last a quarter, at best a half. In fact, he worked his back off all the way to the end, with a try saving tackle (and yellow card “took one for the team”) in the closing minutes.

In attack our dominance eventually started to show on the score board.  Visiting hooker from the U20s, Donnacha Cooke made some excellent ground with short darting yards, but it was another returning player, second row Conor Horan that made some seriously hard yards in this second quarter and was rewarded eventually with a try. 12 – 7 was the half time score.

Our second half started as our first had ended. Controlled urgency brought us, phase by phase, to within 10 metres of the Barnhall line and it was Ruadhan Pitts that crashed over for his first ever try on a rugby pitch. 17 – 7.

It was at this stage that outhalf and kicker Cormac O’Mahoney thought it would be best to keep the game interesting and not to have us pull away too far. With eerie precision, he hit the upright with one penalty attempt and to show that that was no fluke, he followed it quickly by hitting the bar with another.

But some elder lemons decided enough was enough and two excellent tries followed from Lansdowne to put the game out of reach. The first came when substitute Rory O’Donnell made an excellent break from a ruck on the Barnhall 22. Breaking a couple of tackles, he might have made it all the way but saw the run of winger Robert Manning cutting inside him.  The two experienced teammates gelled perfectly as Rory broke partly through the last tackle, enough to allow him offload the ball to where he knew, or hoped Rob would be. And he was.  Rob took the pass at full pelt and the returning defenders never stood a chance.  22- 14

The second try came after another ten minutes spent in the Barnhall 22. Credit to their persistence in defence, they held us out for wave after wave and eventually it was our full back, Jonny “Peter Pan” Hill that took a short ball from his centre and scythed through the gap to go under the posts. 29 -14 and a bonus point to boot.

But the visitors didn’t give up. They worked back into our half and with the help of a couple of strong solo line breaks they crossed our line under the posts. Their outhalf rushed out and converted with a drop goal to make it 29 – 21, but time was on our side and the referee blew the whistle.

Another great Friday night and the hosts and their visitors from Barhnall enjoyed a couple of pints and a pizza in the clubhouse afterwards.

And sure, where else would you want to be on a Friday night?

Match Report: Brian Whelan