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Metro League Division 4

Final

Lansdowne FC v Old Wesley RFC

Lansdowne Road, Back Pitch.

Friday April 5th 2024

 

Lansdowne 21 – 7  Old Wesley

 

The stage was set for yet another nail-biting clash under Friday Night Lights at HQ as the two clubs that have shared dominance of Leinster rugby at junior level in recent years met at the end of yet another competition. Lansdowne J3s, the holders of the League title from last year’s unforgettable 150th season, enjoyed an even better season this year, if that’s possible (with apologies to Dave Tunney and all the others in that golden era management team).  Coaches Mark “Face” Quinn, and Shane “Can a Coach Still get Carded?” D’Alton, guided by overall junior coaches Adam “Thai Green” Curry and Ed “Inky” O’Keefe, chaperoned the squad through the season with only one defeat (“a dead rubber”) on their record. Now it was time to undo the hurt of losing in the Moran Cup first round to this team, our old nemesis, Old Wesley.  Could the J3’s reach the glorious heights attained by the J2’s in their league final victory and bring more silverware home?  Let’s see …

Coach Mark Quinn sets the scene … “There was a big wind and Wesley opted to play with it after winning the toss. If we had won the toss, we would have chosen to start against the wind, so we were delighted with their decision. Wesley didn’t know how to avail of the wind they had.”  The game opened with a flurry of activity, or as Mark put it, “we came out of the blocks and just smashed them”. It wasn’t long before both teams’ followers noticed how handsome the Lansdowne number four, Michael Whelan was, but their attention probably also drifted towards the dominance of the scrum of the home side.  This secret weapon brought us into the visitors’ half as outhalf and captain JJ Walsh orchestrated the play by moving the ball deftly to centres Elliot Williams and Finn Cranston.

Early dominance led to a Lansdowne lineout deep in their territory and hooker Rory O’Donnell was spoiled for choice of magnificent jumpers, Angus Pigott and Will Sadlier sharing the catching duties with “Marvelous Mike” Whelan.  The maul was pristine and it was number 8, Hugo Fitzgerald who retrieved the ball and touched down near the corner.  Speedster winger Max Moore had the kicking duties for the day and he did the honours from near the touchline. 7 – 0 around ten minutes after kick off (just as Beanser arrived).

Lansdowne continued to dominate in the next period, but for a true sense of the excitement of the next play, we go to temporary pitch side reporter, Dave “On These Shoulders” Tunney. In a passage of sparkling prose reminiscent of the classic commentaries of Nigel Starmer-Smith or Bill McLaren, he captured the moment thus, “Try by a winger”.  Beckett couldn’t have been more succinct.

The try was from winger Max Moore, who went on to get conversion from the touchline. 14 – 0 on the half hour mark and it stayed that way till half time in spite of Wesley’s immense pressure.

The second half started with Wesley taking up the tempo where they left it at the close of the first. They knew they needed to score next and they brought a full season’s worth of frustration with them to their attack.  We defended defiantly, but not always legally and we conceded penalty after penalty, ultimately leading to two yellow cards in the second half, while Wesley got one of their own. We were also starting to lose players. The first casualty was hooker Rory O’Donnell, off with a broken nose. Then winger Tadhg Brennan seemed to limp off the pitch, but one quick application of physio Darragh Mangan’s magic sponge and Teak Tough Tadhg was back, filling the air with complimentary comments about the opposition.  Power bunny number 8, Hugo Fitzpatrick was also sidelined for repairs while scrum half Paul Kinney was helped ashore after leaving everything he had on the pitch.

But if one thing characterizes this team and teams across the club, it’s the strength of the bench and the seamlessness with which they slot into a game. Class acts like Cathal Boyle of no-fixed-abode position wise, stepped in, together with Luis Castro for Rory, Ireland’s most popular Englishman, Ben Purnell-Mullick in the back row and quietly confident, Conor Clery for Kinney.   Could these fresh legs add resolve to our defence? … Hell yeah!

Attack after attack we repelled them. Turnover ruck balls, scrum penalties and crunching tackles out wide were all the features of a bravura defensive display.  Wesley’s frustration showed when they started to opt to kick the balls to the wings or over the top of oncoming defenders, executing badly to give us another reprieve.  But our exits were also creative. JJ Walsh must have worn his magic boots for the occasion and, taking full advantage of the wind, hoofed massive clearances down the pitch, instantly replacing a lineout in our own 22 with one in theirs.  And he also used the short chip to turn them on their heels, supported by rampaging centres Finn and Elliot as he chipped through, with full back Senan O’Shea adding speed and aggression to many counter attacks.

One such lethal piece of opportunism led to our extending our lead to 21 – 0. Their lineout in their 22 was stolen (could it have been Mikey again? Probably) and the ball comes out on our side. JJ switches to the blind side after the ruck that follows and drawing defenders, sends a delicious grubber kick along the ground for Senan to chase over the line and touch down. Yummy.

As the game entered the last ten minutes and even with an extended injury time, it was over as a contest.  The visitors had tried everything, and we had answered them with change.  What a performance.

Credit to Wesley, pride kept them in the game, and they went over for a try deep into injury time.

Full time 21 – 7.

Another league cup and another medal for the club and these great representatives.  Looking at the courage, cohesion and will-to-win that they brought to the season, it’s no surprise that ten of this squad have been together all the way through the minis and youths, under Kieran Mulligan, winning the Under 17 League cup in a similar fashion as this victory.

But tonight belonged to the whole squad and its army of cheerful supporters. Another night of celebrations in the club house followed, with multi-tasking stalwart, Darragh Mangan adding comfort of a different kind now from behind the bar well into the small hours.  Bien joue!

Match Report – Brian Whelan

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