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Leinster Senior Cup
Clontarf RFC v Lansdowne FC

Thursday 7th September 2023

Clontarf 28 – 36 Lansdowne

 

If you were looking for a way to get in the mood for the feast of rugby heading our way from France, you wouldn’t have to go any further than Castle Avenue on Thursday evening, as Clontarf hosted us to a wonderful Nine try appetizer. It was full of enterprise, grit and of course at this time of the season, mistakes, but added up to a wonderful confection of rugby treats.

Lansdowne got off to a shaky start to put it mildly, conceding not one but two tries in the first ten minutes. We seemed to have the advantage from the kick off, working through the phases well inside their 22, but lapses of concentration were pounced on mercilessly and soon we were down on our own line defending desperately. ‘Tarf looked sharp and strong, running hard lines with impeccable handling. They stretched our defences to their limit and went over in the corner, their excellent kicking outhalf rubbing salt in the wounds with a conversion from the touchline. 7 – 0. Their second followed a worryingly similar pattern … pressure from us in their half squandered and the hosts pouncing on our inaccuracy to end up close to and then over our line. Another pinpoint accurate conversion and it was 14 – 0 before the game was ten minutes old.  Fassie was thrilled.

But he didn’t need to worry unduly. Apart from those cruelly punished errors, our fundamentals were sound. Our set pieces were excellent, the scrums dominant, with props George Morris and Adam Boland more than a match for last season’s AIL finalists.  And our lineouts were pitch perfect too. Hooker Tom Barry’s throws were linking up excellently with Clive Ross and whoever else he called as catcher. Those wearing double figures on their backs were warming to the task nicely too and in the second ten minutes we had most of the possession, working easily through the gears and forcing a penalty under the posts. But there was no way we were taking the points and the young and talented outhalf Steve McMahon put it in the corner for a lineout.  The maul that followed was brilliantly executed so the heavier home pack couldn’t defend and we went over in the corner for our first strike of revenge. Your correspondent couldn’t quite see, but I’m awarding the try to Tom Barry because I know his parents.  14 – 5.

Our comeback continued as we now entered a phase of excellent play.  The tempo was raised as forwards and backs became indistinguishable in attack, Steve calling the shots like a man ten years his senior. The renewed energy was best seen in openside wing forward George Kenny. He scrambled like a terrier for their ball, winning possession and breaking from the ruck and speeding down the middle of the pitch.  The ball was quickly recycled from the ruck formed by brother James Kenny at nine when George was tackled. It passed sweetly through a few hands before finding full back, Cathal Eddy on the charge. Cathal still had a lot to do, but his speed and athleticism saw him beat two defenders and go over for our second try.  Steve converted from the corner and it was 14 – 12. Four tries in 20 minutes and everyone at Castle Avenue was getting their money’s worth!

Still in the ascendancy, we pinned ‘Tarf down in their half for the next period, with the penalty count mounting up against them too.  When Tom Barry threw in from a ten metre line, it seemed inevitable that our maul would finish the move over the line again, but a series of fumbles and the ball tumbled out of the melee to be scooped loosely out to the backs to captain Cillian Redmond, who passed it to Cathal Eddy, still rampant.  With some sort of pirouette, Cathal somehow managed to confuse two defenders into tackling each other, leaving him free to score his second in ten minutes. Class.

Steve did the honours again and we went into the lead on the half hour mark. 14 – 19.  But that was to be Steve’s last act in the game, as the knocks took their toll and he was replaced by relative “veteran”, Stephen Madigan.

Though we were playing the better rugby, Clontarf were still dangerous and any lapse in concentration could cost us dearly. And so it did. A dropped ball in the middle on their 22 was fly kicked through and ‘Tarf won the ensuing ruck, moving the ball wide. Inexplicably it seemed, they kicked away possession again, but the bounce foxed our defenders and they snatched another try. 21 – 19 with five minutes to play in the half.

Back in their half following the restart, George Kenny again brought his fearsome energy to a ruck and won a penalty for us under the posts. This time, points were the wise option and Mads did the honours, sending us into the break narrowly ahead 21 – 22.  What a half!

The second half started with the roles being reversed between the sides. Now the hosts were piling on the pressure on our line for extended periods while we defended fiercely and scavenged for errors. One such mistake happened on our 10 meter line and the ball was kicked through by a grateful Lansdowne man. With a perfect piece of athleticism and opportunism, centre Rory Parata dived on the still bouncing ball and in midair, scooped it out to his charging centre partner, Cillian Redmond. Just on the halfway, Cillian still had a lung-bursting sprint to the line, but his chasers never got close and he scored just left of the posts. Against the run of play maybe, but we’ll take it.  21 – 29.

The next quarter was a comedy of errors on both sides. Maybe it was early season rustiness or both sides emptying their benches, but the rugby lost its shape. ‘Tarf took a yellow for repeated off sides, but before they were back to 15, we evened matters as one of ours was binned for a deliberate knock on. He was followed soon after by another for not rolling away and we were now 13 men against 15 with 10 minutes and change on the clock. Squeaky bum time.

Inevitably, ‘Tarf capitalized on their advantage with a try and conversion. 28 – 29. By now our shape was all but gone, with our line outs missing their earlier precision (Clive had gone off) and balls going to ground on each side. Whoever was fittest and wanted it more would prevail.  Then we were back to 14 when Clive was subbed back on when the sin bin time was up. His return made a difference. In injury time and hanging on by our fingertips, we were finally back to a full complement. And it showed. Slowly, we crept back up the pitch and for the last three or four minutes we camped on their line, hope beginning to creep into the visiting supporters that we might hold on.  Hope was soon replaced by certainty, when fresh legged sub, Barry Fitzpatrick finished off a heroic effort by all the men on the pitch, scoring in the corner. And to put icing on the cake, Stephen Madigan slotted over the conversion with an excellently taken kick.

Fassie asked for “quality points” and he got plenty of them.  Great performances and a great game.

Full time 28 – 36

Match Report – Brian Whelan

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