Arriving in Cork on the back of a nine-match winning streak, Lansdowne were the bookies favourites to complete the season double over the Leeside students, who were languishing second from bottom of the league.
Instead, it was the College side that made most of the running in what was a very entertaining match, albeit a most frustrating one if you were following the men from Dublin 4.
UCC made the early running and shrugged off the loss to injury of their fine No. 8, Ryan Murphy, after only 5 minutes and their hooker, Travis Coomey, after 20. Instead, they largely dictated the pace of the game against their, at times, strangely subdued opponents.
Some missed tackles by the Lansdowne defence gave the initiative to their opponents on vital occasions, although the Headquarters side eventually clawed their way into the match following an early penalty by the richly-talented College out-half, James Taylor on 7 minutes.
Wanted by the Munster Academy which is based in Limerick, Taylor chose instead to go to UCC. The Munster Academy’s loss is definitely UCC’s gain, as the gifted No. 10 was the dominant personality on the park and influenced events, including the match outcome, to a significant degree.
Lansdowne’s period of ascendancy in the first half was largely based on a dominant scrum, and 6 of the 11 penalties awarded to the visitors during the course of the game came from that source. The first try of the match, indeed, came from a penalty try awarded following three collapsed scrums close to the College line in the 12th minute.
Lansdowne’s was an uneasy lead, however, and a splendid cut up the middle by Taylor set up a series of attacks which saw Taylor cross-kick for his left-wing Matt Bowen to gather and cross unopposed as the Lansdowne defence was dragged in far to narrow.
Taylor converted to put UCC back in front 8-7. Lansdowne responded, and a penalty on 26 minutes saw a line-out 10 metres from the home line. A series of driving mauls followed, and second row Willie Earle emerged from the bottom of a pile of bodies to record the try.
Out half Scott Deasy missed the difficult conversion and didn’t enjoy his best afternoon from the kicking tee.
Lansdowne were enjoying their best spell and an inside pop to left wing Peter Sullivan on the 10-metre line saw him take an excellent line, cut back inside and outpace the cover for an excellent individual try in the corner to put his side 17-10 to the good in the 32nd minute.
A Lansdowne transgression in front of the sticks after 35 minutes saw Jack O’Sullivan rather harshly in the bin. Taylor reduce the margin to four points before the visitors coughed up a soft injury-time try to sub No. 8 Brian O’Mahony. This followed on from a break straight up the middle of the pitch by the UCC forwards which caught the Headquarters men napping.
Half time saw UCC ahead 20-17, having defended against the breeze blowing from the river end of this picturesque ground. It also saw Lansdowne on the back foot, having scored three tries but finding themselves behind, largely due to defensive lapses.
Lansdowne battled to get back into the match after the interval but were frustrated by a series of errors and mistakes which all too often halted the momentum they threatened to build up. Young Taylor contributed to his side’s defence too, with some booming kicks into the left- hand corner which kept Lansdowne on the turn.
Lansdowne missed a good chance to reduce the arrears with a Deasy penalty from the ‘22 in front after 49 minutes, but the normally accurate out half pulled his effort wide.
Instead, it was the home side who stretched their lead with another cross-kick try from a Taylor kick. This time it was right-winger Michael Clune who was the beneficiary of Taylor’s pin-point accuracy as he dotted down in the 60th minute to give his side an eight- point margin entering the final quarter.
Lansdowne endeavoured to raise the tempo, led by the excellent Ronan Kelleher at hooker, tight-head Ian Prendiville and the ever-reliant Earle. It was Kelleher who struck the vital blow with a counter-attacking burst that saw him fend off several student tacklers to cross in the corner for a fine individual try.
Lansdowne thus gained two points – a try bonus and a losing bonus one. A final effort to steal the game in injury time was frustrated by a crooked throw into the line out off a penalty on the UCC ’22 – something which somehow encapsulated the visitor’s afternoon.
Certainly, there is much to ponder for Head Coach Mike Ruddock and has assistant, Mark McHugh, before we take on Shannon in the Aviva on the 16th of February.
Match Report: Michael Daly
Match Details: Ulster Bank AIL Division 1A Round 11: University College Cork FC v. Lansdowne FC
Venue: The Mardyke
Date: Saturday, 26th January 2019, k.o. 2:30pm
Referee: Nigel Correll
Score: UCC 25 Lansdowne 22
Scorers: UCC: Tries: Matt Bowen, Brian O’Mahony, Michael Clune; Cons: James Taylor 2; Pens: James Taylor 2
Lansdowne: Tries: Willie Earle, Daniel McEvoy, Pen try, Ronan Kelleher; Con: Pen try con
HT: UCC 20 Lansdowne 17
UCC: Rob Hedderman; Michael Clune, Cian Bohane, Peter Sylvester, Matt Bowen; James Taylor, John Poland; Shane O’Hanlon, Travis Coomey, Bryan O’Connor, Cian Barry, Andrew Davies, Daire Feeney (capt), Lee McSherry, Ryan Murphy.
Subs: Paidi McCarthy, Daragh Fitzgerald, Brian O’Mahony, Cian Fitzgerald Adam O’Connor.
LANSDOWNE: Eamonn Mills (capt); Daniel McEvoy, Harry Brennan, Tom Roche, Peter Sullivan; Scott Deasy, Alan Bennie; Martin Mulhall, Ronan Kelleher, Ian Prendiville, Willie Earle, Jack O’Sullivan, Joe O’Brien, Tom Murphy, Aaron Conneely.
Subs: James Rael, Adam Boland, David O’Connor. Tim Murphy, Conor Murphy.