With Club Captain Ian Prendiville abroad on business, the honour of leading Lansdowne into this, their third match of the 2017-2018 Ulster Bank All Ireland League campaign, fittingly fell to former Club Captain Scott Deasy.
Deasy led his side from the front and was one of the dominant figures in a Lansdowne side that was entirely in control for almost all of this entertaining League match, which was played at a breakneck pace.
Prendiville was most ably replaced by Leinster prop Peter Dooley, a member of Lansdowne’s 2014-15 title-winning squad. Also making his seasonal debut was 2nd row Oisin Dowling, who put in a robust performance in the tight while also making his mark in loose play with some sterling tackling.
Unlike in previous weeks, Lansdowne hit the ground running. They were rewarded for their efforts with an early try, mid-way out on the left as winger Foster Horan drew his man neatly and sent full back Eamonn Mills – in a fine run of form currently – in for the try. Deasy, who kicked five out of seven (one of which hit the post) stroked over the conversion for an early tonic lead after only two minutes.
A Trinity attack was rebuffed from the restart, Dooley displaying the power generated by professional training when he ripped the ball of a student attacker to break up the momentum. Lansdowne then attacked through a Charlie Butterworth surge which was supported by the ever-willing Daniel McEvoy on the right wing, but the ball was held up over the line.
A series of scrums followed, which resulted in a penalty try awarded by referee Paul Haycock and Lansdowne were 12-0 up after 14 minutes. As the two conversion points following a penalty try are now automatic, Scott Deasy was deprived of the chance to add the kicking points to his personal tally.
Lansdowne went on the attack again off the restart and, following another scrum penalty, the ball was worked wide to the right and former Under 20 player Harry Brennan crossed for his first AIL try in only his second appearance. Brennan played throughout, indeed, like a man born to the occasion, and his lively pace, allied to a well-balanced running style, marks him out as one for the future.
Deasy made the conversion look easy, and the visitors were 19 points to the good within twenty minutes.
Peter Dooley showed that there’s more to propping with a sublime sleight of hand when setting an attack under way, and Brennan made good yardage before being hauled down. Foster Horan, Brennan and McEvoy were all playing well as the Headquarter’s side backline responded to the steady supply of good possession from the pack.
The lineouts, while not perfect, again showed a vast improvement as Tyrone Moran hit Dowling, Joshua O’Rourke and Willie Earle consistently to put the ball on a plate for the industrious Charlie Rock at the base.
A Trinity attack was stifled by a good covering tackle from McEvoy as the Dublin University men began to raise their game. Their forwards won a penalty in the scrum on 34 minutes and the ball was put into the corner. Lansdowne defended well through flanker Jack Dwan and Butterworth and eventually a scrum penalty relieved the pressure.
Trinity again took the play to Lansdowne, and 2nd row O’Rourke took one for the team with a yellow card on 40 minutes as the game entered first-half injury time.
19-0 up at the break, with the bonus point still to be played for. Lansdowne had blitzed the students early on, but there were signs of a revival from the home side as the high early tempo inevitably slackened a little and they came more into the match as the half wore on.
Although the Lansdowne restart went directly into touch, a strong counter-attack from McEvoy led to a penalty and a line-out 10 metres out from the home team’s line. A quickly-taken second penalty saw Deasy launch a beautifully-flighted cross-kick for McEvoy and Mills to combine with the latter crossing for his clinically-crafted second try on 43 minutes to secure the bonus point. Deasy tacked on the extras and the visitors were 26-0 up.
Even better was to follow for the Headquarter’s side, as Jack Dwan made a clean break and passed inside to tighthead Adam Boland, whose burst ended just short of the line as the ball went forward. Brennan was almost in, and Boland was once again only inches from the try-line. The pressure was irresistible, however, and moments later No. 8 Willie Earle arrived at pace and at a sublime angle to gather a difficult pass and crash over for a fantastic score, once again improved on by Deasy for 33-0 after 50 minutes.
Tinga Mpiko came on in the front row for Peter Dooley and Jack O’Sullivan, captain of the Lansdowne Under 20’s two seasons ago, also joined the fray, followed a few minutes later by Alan Bennie at 9 as Lansdowne rang the changes.
Lansdowne set up a great rolling maul attack, but were penalised; Horan set out on a great foraging run and Bennie was unlucky not to link up with Horan again following a strong cut by the lively scrum half.
The pattern of the game broke up as both sides attacked and counter-attacked. Such open-field mayhem usually suits university sides, and Trinity duly availed of this twice with good, long distance strikes from full back Michael Sylvester and centre and Captain Michael Courtney, both of whom showed good pace in finishing.
Their efforts were separated by a memorable second try from young tyro Harry Brennan, who showed both pace and power from 30 metres out to dot down for his second try of the afternoon. Scott Deasy was once again sure-footed with the conversion.
40 points to 5 up, then 40-12 following Courtney’s fine effort on 68 minutes, which was converted by sub-out half Tommy Whittle. Lansdowne weren’t finished yet, however, as they sought to punish the game students for their temerity in coming back at them.
First, sub-back rower Jack O’Sullivan, who impressed, gathered Alan Bennie’s Garryowen and crossed under the sticks to leave Deasy with his easiest effort of the afternoon – 47-12. Daniel McEvoy then scored a nice, well-deserved try in injury time after he was sent away by the elegant Mills off a scrum on the half way line and a 52-5 final score, Deasy hitting the upright with the missed conversion.
An eight try to two-fest in Lansdowne’s favour was a fair reflection on the match as Lansdowne’s power and precision up front proved too much for the inexperienced students.
Sterner tests lie ahead, however, and the visit of Cork Con next Sunday, who beat us with an injury-time penalty in last year’s semi-final, will present a challenge of different dimensions.
Certainly, Lansdowne’s propensity to concede penalty kicks will have to be curbed if we are to prevail against Con – their kicker, Tomas Quinlan’s six penalties off the tee were enough to see off UCD last weekend. Let the lesson be learned.
Match Report: Michael Daly
Round 3: Dublin University v. Lansdowne FC
College Park, Saturday 30th of September 2017: 2:30pm kick off
Referee: Paul Haycock
Dublin University FC 12 Lansdowne FC 52