Lansdowne got their 2019-20 season off to an excellent start on the Aviva Stadium back pitch with a comprehensive win against the students of UCD.
If ever there is a good time to play Collidge, it’s on a Leinster “A” weekend, and the students were duly stripped of some twelve players on account of the interprovincial “A” match.
Lansdowne, for their part, were also missing a few bodies, and had six players making their AIL debuts for the club. Of the six concerned, scrum half Ross Barron, whose Dad used to play for the club, and left winger James Reynolds were playing school’s rugby last season. Both acquitted themselves well.
A measure of the player turn-over this season, which saw the retirements of such great club stalwarts as Willie Earl and Scott Deasy and the (hopefully temporary) absences of Ian Prendiville and Aaron Conneely (both in Canada); Peter Sullivan (Connacht) and Ntinga Mpiko due to a long-term injury, saw only five players start out of the fifteen who played against UCD on 22nd of March last.
Conditions were poor, an incessant drizzle throughout the match making handling conditions difficult. Mistakes were therefore common, with one notable exception. Debutant out half Tim Foley, formerly of UCD and Old Belvedere, planted seven kicks out of seven on his first AIL outing for the club, most of them from difficult angles.
Foley’s truly stunning exhibition with the placed ball was largely responsible for the width of Lansdowne’s willing margin and made him a worthy winner of the season’s first Man of the Match” award, which this season is sponsored by Causeway Capital.
The difficult playing conditions made for a tight, close-in encounter, with possession sometimes proving more of a liability than an asset.
Lansdowne took an early lead through a Foley penalty on 6 minutes, which was matched by a similar effort from UCD’s out half, Matt Gilsenan, who was drafted in at the last moment to replace David Moran.
Foley’s accuracy began to whittle away at the Students, as he added two more penalties on 30 and 42 minutes to establish a 9-3 lead which the Headquarters side took into the break. Collidge’s cause wasn’t helped by two penalty misses by Gilsenan, one from almost in front of the posts.
The Lansdowne pack was slowly asserting its power approaching half time, and this dominance was stepped up after the break. Lansdowne could even carry the sin-binning of flanker Jack O’Sullivan on 35 minutes while, in contrast, UCD could ill-afford the “temporary absences” of tight head Evin Coyle and open side Alex Penny during the second half.
The line out maul had won valuable territory for Lansdowne during the first half; in the second the home scrum increasingly became the dominant force – and there were many scrums due to the conditions – and the scrum penalty count came close to double figures before the end.
Lansdowne plugged away after the restart, slowly building momentum and bringing greater continuity to their play, led up front by flanker Jack O’Sullivan and new second row Mark Flanagan, who brought all of his pro experience with the likes of Saracens to bear on proceedings. Captain Jack Dwan led by example in the engine room and came in with a huge tackle count.
Once again it was out half Foley who stretched Lansdowne’s lead, this time striking an excellent kick across the posts for 12-3 after 45 minutes. Lansdowne again surged into attack, with great clearing out on the part of front rows Greg McGrath, James Rael and Martin Mulhall setting the platform for the home team’s assaults.
The first try finally came after 58 minutes; from a penalty advantage, Tim Foley launched a bomb which came down behind the Collidge line. Three UCD men scrambled around in an effort to claim it; centre Fergal Cleary kept his head and touched down calmly for a pressure try.
There could only be one outcome from the kick, and Foley duly put Lansdowne in the armchair seat with a 22-points to 3 advantage.
The result was beyond doubt at this stage as Lansdowne emptied the bench. The tight pressure was kept up, however, and sub hooker Adam “Teddy” Boland availed of well-worked line-out drives to cross for two late tries, inevitably converted by the ever-reliable Foley (one from the touch line) as Lansdowne eased to a 33 points to 3 opening win.
With two away matches over the next two weeks against Garryowen on Saturday the 12th and Cork Con on the 19th, a solid opening win was a perfect preparation for Mick Ruddock’s young but well-drilled side. Hopefully, the taste of more to come.
On a final note, what a tremendous performance by our Under 20 side against the league-title holders, Clontarf, last Sunday. Down 15-3 at the break, this excellent young squad persevered and went on to score 26 unanswered points in a dominant second half. The future of the Club is secure for some time if this impressive group of young men fulfill their massive potential in the years to come.
They next play UCD at home next Sunday in a double-header with the Seconds.
Match Report: Michael Daly
Match Details: Energia All Ireland League Division 1A Round 1: Lansdowne FC v. UCD RFC
Venue: Aviva Stadium Back Pitch
Date: Saturday 5th October 2019
Referee: Eddie Hogan O’Connell
Score: Lansdowne 33 UCD 3
LANSDOWNE: Eamonn Mills; Daniel McEvoy, Harry Brennan, Fergal Cleary, James Reynolds; Tim Foley, Ross Barron; Martin Mulhall, James Rael, Greg McGrath, Mark Flanagan, Jack Dwan (capt), Jack O’Sullivan, Joey Szpara, Neal Moylett.
Replacements: Adam Boland, Shane Moynihan, Jack Dinneen, Tim Murphy, Conor Murphy.
UCD: Steven Kilgallen; Jack Ringrose, Colm Mulcahy, David Ryan, Tim Carroll; Matthew Gilsenan, Thomas Foley; Emmet Burns, Sean McNulty, Evin Coyle, Tom Treacy, Cian Prendergast, John Fairley, Alex Penny, Lorcan Feighery.
Replacements: Bobby Sheehan, Rory Mulvihill, Alec Byrne, Harry Donnelly, Andy Marks.