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Young Munster RFC v Lansdowne FC

Energia AIL Division 1 A

Saturday 6th April 2024

Tom Clifford Park, Limerick

Young Munster 22 – 29 Lansdowne

 

“Blow winds and crack your cheeks! Rage! Blow!”* And blow it did. But as well as the challenges presented by Storm Kathleen, another interesting feature of this contest in Limerick on Saturday was how it celebrated the quality and interchangeability of the current Lansdowne 1st and J1 squads.  Several young J1 players getting their first “caps” and a few seasoned legends returning to the top tier, all worked seamlessly within the system set up by head coach Declan Fassbender, Damien McCabe, Phil Horan, and Mark Flanagan. It was an excellent and entertaining display in testing conditions, and whatever happens in the playoffs, this and all the other wins on the weekend, was evidence of the whole club in a state of rude good health.

We had a dream start. Facing into the wind from the off, the “Cookies” struggled to control the ball and we pinned them down inside their 22 and kept it close within the pack. After a lineout in their 10m line, hooker Luke Thompson defied the wind to find jumper Conor McMenimen and as the maul edged closer to their line, Donough Lawlor took the initiative and powered over for our first try within three minutes.  0 – 5

We kept the hosts pinned inside their 22 for an extended period, with clearance kicks an impossibility and powerful tackling from Lansdowne adding to their frustration. Notably effective defenders were flanker Donough Lawlor, centre Dan McEvoy and wing Peter Sullivan allowing no quarter. This period might have yielded more points were it not for the wind blowing last passes off course and pushing the ball over the deadball line.  But to their credit, Young Munster clawed their way up the pitch, their big pack still mobile (they would flag somewhat later) and their almost equally big backs starting to eat up the metres.  A rare missed tackle allowed them into our half and a scrum penalty inside our 22 gave them confidence to open up their full attacking arsenal. Excellent half backs and powerful centres did their best work now and it wasn’t long before their enterprise paid dividends and they scored. Their kicker also struggled to convert and so it was all square at 5 – 5 as we entered the second quarter.

If conventional wisdom is to keep the ball tight when playing into a hurricane, no one told the Cookies.  They ran everything at us and tested our defences to the limit. We spent a good period defending inside our 22 when we might have expected to be using the elements to set up camp inside theirs. And so it was against the run of play when they were going through their phases that eagle-eyed centre Tom Monaghan saw his opposite number needed to make a long pass and he stepped in to intercept it. He sped down the pitch, almost taking flight with that wind behind him, but was grounded enough to pass it to Peter Sullivan who covered the last 5 meters and scored just right of the posts.  5 – 12

We regained our share of possession but struggled to take full advantage with balls going out of bounds. However, we did keep the scoreboard moving as lightning-fast prop, Adam “Teddy” Boland gathered a loose ball off the back of one of their lineouts, sold a dummy to their outhalf and went over for our third try. We would need a good margin as we faced into the wind in the second half, so with Charlie Tector’s conversion making it 5 – 19, we looked in good shape.  But not for long.  Minutes later, they came back fighting and their big inside center found a soft shoulder and made good ground before passing inside to his supporting flanker who scored.  12 – 19.

The hosts are on fire now and if it weren’t for excellent and well organised collective defending and brave individual efforts from outhalf Charlie Tector, flanker Daragh Murphy and Sean Dunne, we might have gone into the break all square, or worse. But we held out till half time.

As the debate rages in club bars all around the country – do you choose to play with or against the wind in the first half – this second half added a new twist to the discussion:  each side actually played better when the wind was in their faces!

The second half resumed as the first had begun: they struggled to get full measure of the wind behind their backs and kicked out of bounds a couple of times; but we too took time to adjust to the challenges of passing while facing into a gale.  But they adjusted quickly and within five minutes of the restart, they went expertly through the phases and created some space out wide for their winger to go over in the corner. Now the gap was a mere two points 17 -19 and with “Kathleen” building even more, our lead looked precarious.

But against the odds and the elements, now we started to dominate, holding on to possession and finding gaps in their defences.  Scrum half and first cap, Oisin Devitt, giving away about 30 kilos to his opposite number, was moving the ball quickly, short and long but always fast, and also probing and finding space behind their rucks. He took one break and ate up 20 meters, runners inside and outside him, but buffeted by the wind perhaps or hitting a divot, he nose-dived. Unfair to mention it perhaps, but to his credit, it didn’t faze him as moments later he was behind the next try when he took another similar break, bringing us back inside their 22. The quick ball that came out was passed by second row, Steve Walsh to Tom Monaghan standing at 10. Inexplicably, it seemed to those of us innocents on the sidelines, Tom opted to chip across the pitch to Peter Sullivan standing in space on the wing.  But what did we know, as Peter took it in the air and sauntered over the line for his second and our fourth (and bonus point, for what that’s worth now) try.  17 – 24.

As we approached the final quarter, our fitness started to give us an edge. Their forwards now populated fewer rucks and some opportunities were appearing. Spending most of the time in their 22, we looked in control.  Our set pieces were more solid and we had stopped giving away penalties. No doubt they hoped to clear the ball following a lineout on their 22, but we disrupted the maul that followed, sub hooker Henry Godson making a thorough nuisance of himself. Unable to get their clearance kick away, they went through the phases for a better angle, but there was still space behind their ruck.  Oisin was unsighted on one side, but winger Sean Galvin saw the opportunity and came in from the touch, stealing the unprotected ball and speeding with it over the line.  17 – 29 as we entered the last ten minutes.

In truth, the final stages of the game were a bit scrappy but as injury time approached, Young Munster eventually made it down the pitch to score on the full time mark.  The final and official score says 24 – 29, but this correspondent is pretty sure the kicker was distracted and scuffed the conversion, so in a Last-Match-Report-of-the-Season scoop, I can reveal that the final score was really 22 – 29.

*King Lear (Act III, Scene 2) … as if you didn’t know.

 

Match Report – Brian Whelan 

 

YOUNG MUNSTER 24 LANSDOWNE 29, Tom Clifford Park
Scorers: Young Munster: Tries: Fionn Gibbons 2, Harry Fleming, James Horrigan; Cons: Tony Butler 2
Lansdowne: Tries: Donough Lawlor, Tom Monaghan, Adam Boland, Peter Sullivan, Sean Galvin; Cons: Charlie Tector 2
HT: Young Munster 12 Lansdowne 19

YOUNG MUNSTER: Aidan Shortall; James O’Brien, Fionn Gibbons, Harry Fleming, Oisin Pepper; Tony Butler, Jack Lyons; David Begley, Arron Roulston, Conor Bartley, John Foley, Alan Kennedy (capt), Stephen McLoughlin, James Horrigan, Bailey Faloon.

Replacements: Mark O’Mara, Paul Allen, Darragh Keogh, Gearoid Mulcahy, Marcus Lyons, Cian Casey.

LANSDOWNE: Hugo McLaughlin; Peter Sullivan, Daniel McEvoy, Tom Monaghan, Sean Galvin; Charlie Tector, Oisin Devitt; Sean Dunne, Luke Thompson, Adam Boland (capt), Steve Walshe, Conor McMenamin, Darragh Murphy, Donough Lawlor, Lucas Culliton.

Replacements: Henry Godson, Oscar Egan, Clive Ross, Robbie Kidney, Cian Moloney, Tom Gavigan.

Lansdowne 1st XV v Young Munster 6th April 2024-126

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