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Lansdowne FC v Clontarf FC

Energia AIL Division 1A

Saturday 9th December 2023

Lansdowne Road

 

Lansdowne 27 – 31 Clontarf

 

Storm Fergus hadn’t yet arrived to Lansdowne Road, but his breezy little brother was stirring up quite the swirl in the shadow of the Aviva Stadium on Saturday afternoon.  The side which kept the ball tight was likely to prevail and for most of the contest that was the visitors from across the river. Apart from their shaky handling of kick outs, Clontarf were precise and ruthless in their execution. It was Lansdowne’s agility and opportunism that kept us in the game at all until the final quarter when we nearly snatched the victory … but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Even before Clontarf’s opening try, it was clear that they were a formidable force and worthy leaders of the league.  Their set pieces were faultless and their short running game bombarded our defences like Atlantic rollers smashing into the Cliffs of Moher. The first try came after ten minutes and set off a flurry of scores from both sides. Their first came from a lineout maul and there’s not much more to be said about that, except that before their second, an almost identical try on the other side of the pitch, we snatched one of our own from a brilliant piece of handling from winger Peter Sullivan, aided it has to be said, by “A Christmas Bounce”, according to one spectator with a keen nose for these things.  Having uncharacteristically miskicked a relatively easy penalty, outhalf Stephen Madigan converted both tries brilliantly from the touchline.  Just as ‘Tarf’s first and second tries were similar, our second was also finished by the rampant winger Sullivan. Another fluffed catch by ‘Tarf from the restart and the ball was captured and recycled by lock Ruari Clarke and spun out fast to the waiting charger, prop Greg McGrath. The next ruck ball emerged even quicker than the first with scrum half James Kenny linking up quickly with center Andy Marks who drew two tacklers and passed to Peter who dived over athletically for his brace of tries. 14 – 14 after 20 minutes.

Clontarf’s next lesson in clinical set piece work was on our scrum where they were awarded a penalty. With grim predictability they, kicked for the corner and, yes, you guessed it, another lineout maul try. 14 – 19.

Their next came less than five minutes later but this time they brought the ball infield slightly, creating openings on the blindside where their winger went over for the try.  14 – 24 and things were starting to look pretty grim. However, with only a few minutes remaining in the opening half, Lansdowne started to play with composure and confidence again. Our enterprise was rewarded with a penalty which Mads slotted over giving the scoreboard a more optimistic appearance at 17 – 24 as the orange segments arrived for the break.

For once the half time Pep Talk Stakes must have been won by the opposition, because they came out for the second half with all guns blazing, dominating the set pieces, as before, but now also moving the ball through the backs.  It took just five minutes for them to stretch their lead with a well taken try in the corner and an even better conversion in difficult conditions. 17 – 31.  But for a few merciful handling errors by ‘Tarf during this phase it could have been a lot worse.  It looked like the flood gates might be about to open, but captain Jack Cooke and his team had other ideas.

Lansdowne were awarded a scrum penalty as props Ben Popplewell and Greg McGrath seemed finally to have the measure of their much bigger opposition.  This felt like a turning point and heralded a purple phase of rugby from the home side.  As the game entered its final quarter, we turned up the tempo and ‘Tarf looked like they were tiring. “Credit to the Strength and Conditioning team led by Dan Moore who have these lads in such fine fetal that they can up the pace in closing stages, and credit also to the impact from the bench which gave a huge boost. Sub scrum half, Jack Matthews was sharp as a tack and lightning quick to distribute the ball, while sub lock Donough Lawlor also added a powerful shot in the arm, as well as an excellently taken try. 22 – 31

It was end to end stuff and if Roy of the Rovers had played rugby, he would have been honored to be part of this game.  A thrilling finish to an excellent game and with less than five minutes on the clock the breathless supporters from both sides revelled in the spectacle.  A match which seemed to be going very badly for us was now back within reach.  The pace and variety of a now resurgent Lansdowne left the visitors stumped and when an excellent move finished by that scoring machine Harry Van Eeden, we secured not one but two bonus points – four tries and staying within six of the opposition.  27 – 31 with three minutes on the clock and whatever injury time the ref saw fit to add.  But he didn’t add many extra minutes at all and the finishing line came just in time for Clontarf. They must have breathed, no gasped a huge sigh of relief when it did … another five minutes and who knows?  Full time 27 – 31.

It’s a measure of the competitive spirit in this 1st XV group that they left the pitch gutted that they didn’t get the win, though the home spectators were rejoicing in the quality of their comeback.  And we all kept rejoicing together well into the night in HQ for the excellent Christmas Party.  A cracking end to a great day’s rugby.

Last game of the year in Belfield this Friday to meet our other old friends, UCD.

 

Match Report – Brian Whelan

LANSDOWNE 27 CLONTARF 31, Aviva Stadium back pitch

Scorers: Lansdowne: Tries: Peter Sullivan 2, Hardus van Eeden, Donough Lawlor; Cons: Stephen Madigan 2; Pen: Stephen Madigan

Clontarf: Tries: Matt D’Arcy, Tony Ryan, Brian Deeny, Dylan Donnellan 2; Cons: Jack Murphy 3

HT: Lansdowne 17 Clontarf 24

 

LANSDOWNE: Cathal Eddy; Peter Sullivan, Andy Marks, Rory Parata, Sean Galvin; Stephen Madigan, James Kenny; Ben Popplewell, Tom Barry, Greg McGrath, Steve Walsh, Ruairi Clarke, Jack Cooke (capt), Barry Fitzpatrick, Hardus van Eeden.
Replacements: Henry Godson, George Morris, Liam Forster, Donough Lawlor, Jack Matthews, Steve McMahon.

CLONTARF: Noah Sheridan; Mark O’Sullivan, Tadhg Bird, Matt D’Arcy, Seni Reilly-Ashiru; Jack Murphy, Louis O’Reilly; Ivan Soroka, Dylan Donnellan (capt), Ben Griffin, Brian Deeny, Fionn Gilbert, Josh Murphy, Declan Adamson, Tony Ryan.
Replacements: Barry Gray, Alex Usanov, Ruadhan Byron, Sean Finlay, Stephen Ryan, Darragh Bolger.

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