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The Killing Fields has never been an easy trip for Lansdowne, and so it proved once again as the home side gained some revenge for their Bateman Cup final defeat at the hands of the D4 side last month.

Lansdowne were a much-changed side from that which appeared in the All-Ireland Cup final, with 7 changes, 6 in personnel and one positional, from the cup-winning XV.

Playing with the support of a stiff breeze that lessened as the match progressed, Lansdowne played with the advantage of the elements in the first half but didn’t make great use of them. An early attack from deep in their own half in the third minute when the ball might have been better cleared downfield saw possession break down.

Young Munster wing Jason Kiely was quickest to respond, chipping over the top and gathering a kind bounce to run in for an early try beside the posts which out half Evan Cusack had no difficulty in goaling.

7-0 down and with hostilities scarcely under way, the visitors knuckled down to their task. Full back Eamonn Mills showed what could be done using the wind with a clearance from his own ’22 into touch 18 metres from the home line.

This helped launch a series of attacks, with big right winger James Reynolds prominent more that once as he was stopped just short of the line. From a penalty advantage, Lansdowne pummelled the Cookies defence until second row Joey Szpara rumbled over for  a pressure try. Out half Peter Hastie converted in the 18th minute, and the sides were level at 7-apiece.

Lansdowne were missing their two first choice centres, Kiernan and Marks, and the inexperience of the new midfield unit was exposed off a lineout on their own ’22 when Munster’s No. 7 Conor Maloney delivered a neat inside pass to the supporting Donnacha O’Callaghan. The scrum half romped home under the posts from 20 metres out. Cusack had little difficulty in popping over the convert.

Lansdowne’s possession was not good quality and far too often the backs were getting the ball under pressure. The scrum struggled and referee George Clancy penalised them several times.

Nor were the lineouts any better in terms of possession, with too much ball lost out of touch as the D4 side’s technique failed them. Munster’s second row Eoin O’Connor, who has just signed a full provincial contract for next season, did a lot of the turn-over damage.

Struggling for quality possession, Lansdowne were penalised again in the scrum on the half hour and Cusack took advantage with an excellent kick into the wind from the Lansdowne 10 metre line to stretch his side’s lead to 17 points to 7.

Lansdowne responded by launching a series of attacks which were well defended by the Limerick men, culminating in a penalty to the home side as the chance went a-begging.

Undaunted, Lansdowne took advantage of a quickly tapped penalty to spin the ball left. Some deft handling by the backs saw Mills put away on the outside. The full back still had a lot of work to do, but he checked his man and dived over in the corner for an excellent score in the 37th minute.

In an effort to improve Lansdowne’s tight play, Paul Boyle and Greg McGrath came on for the second half. Matt Healy also made an impact off the bench. The quality of the visitor’s possession did improve somewhat, but silly errors prevented continuity and they were unable to put enough phases together as a result.

The match turned on an incident in the 52nd minute, when Szpara received a red card for making head contact with a Munster’s player. The head movement appeared to be unintentional, but the second rower paid the highest sanction following the advice of the touch judge to referee Clancy.

Still reeling from this blow, Lansdowne conceded a third try when scrum half O’Callaghan linked with his outside backs off a scrum on the Dubliner’s 10 metre line to take an inside pass (which looked decidedly forward) and cross for his second try of the match in the 58th minute.

Once again Cusack added the extras with an excellent kick from the left-hand corner to stretch his side’s lead to double scores, 24-10.

Lansdowne heads didn’t drop, however, although they still struggled to win clean possession. A short lineout option or throwing to the front might have served their cause as possession out of touch all but dried up.

The home side forged further ahead with a neatly taken score by centre Conor Philips after a Lansdowne move broke down on the Cookies 10 metre line. This established a 31-12 lead following Cusack’s almost inevitable extra 2 points.

It appeared to be all over bar the shouting, in particular due to Lansdowne’s reduced numbers.  Some tidy play by the Lansdowne backs, however, saw lively winger Sean Galvin chip inside for replacement scrum half Jack Matthews, following up the middle, to gather and cross for a tonic try for his side which reduced the margin to 31-17.

It was all-out attack, and great entertainment from both sides, as play see-sawed up and down the pitch. Young Munster forged ahead again through a mauled try by hooker Shane Malone – 36 points to 17 in the 74th minute – as Cusack, for once, fluffed his conversion lines.

Undaunted, Lansdowne surged back down the pitch and a lovely pass in behind the defensive line saw Matthews feed Paul Boyle.  The replacement No.8 backed himself and made it to the line for a try bonus point for his side.

Out half Peter Hastie converted and the scores were now 36-24 after 75 minutes play.

Munsters were determined not to let Lansdowne gain a second bonus point, however, and opted for a Cusack kick at goal from a penalty in the dying moments to push this out of Lansdowne’s grasp as the match entered added-time.

A final score line of 39 -24 with 9 tries was a reasonable reflection and the Cookies deserved their win. There were some bright spots for Lansdowne and their fortitude when reduced to 14 men was a testament to the side’s character.

With Terenure losing to run-away leaders Clontarf, the prospect of a home semi-final berth is still very much on for Lansdowne. A pause in AIL action now until the 26th of March when we entertain the students of UCC as, hopefully, a hors d’oeuvre to the club dinner that night!

Finally, heartiest congratulations to Under 20’s captain Sean Walsh and his fantastic Under 20 squad on winning the Joe Fanagan League Trophy with an epic win against Clontarf last Sunday! A truly merited triumph for a great bunch of lads. The future of the club is healthy based on the talent on display at this level! Congrats to Fassie, Mark Mac and all the dedicated backroom staff, too!

Match Report: Michael Daly

Match Details: ENERGIA MEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE, ROUND 15: DIVISION 1A:

Venue: Tom Clifford Park, Limerick

Date: Saturday 5th March, 2022

Time: k.o. 2.30pm

YOUNG MUNSTER 39 LANSDOWNE 24, Tom Clifford Park

Scorers: Young Munster: Tries: Jason Kiely, Donnacha O’Callaghan 2, Conor Phillips, Shane Malone; Cons: Evan Cusack 4; Pens: Evan Cusack 2
Lansdowne: Tries: Joey Szpara, Eamonn Mills, Jack Matthews, Mark Boyle; Cons: Peter Hastie 2

HT: Young Munster 17 Lansdowne 12

YOUNG MUNSTER: Cian Casey; Jason Kiely, Conor Phillips, Harry Fleming, Stephen Lyons; Evan Cusack, Donnacha O’Callaghan; David Begley, Shane Malone, Conor Bartley, Eoin O’Connor, Sean Rigney, Alan Kennedy (capt), Conor Moloney, Bailey Faloon.

Replacements: Kean Sheehy, Paul Allen, Tom Goggin, Aidan Quinlivan, Adam Maher, Luke Fitzgerald.

LANSDOWNE: Eamonn Mills; James Reynolds, Corey Reid, Stephen Madigan, Sean Galvin; Peter Hastie, James Kenny; Frank Kavanagh, Luke Thompson, Ben Popplewell, Joey Szpara, Ruairi Clarke, Daniel Murphy, Jack O’Sullivan, Clive Ross.

Replacements: Tom Barry, Greg McGrath, Matthew Healy, Mark Boyle, Jack Matthews, Kyle Dixon.

Referee: George Clancy

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