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Friday 14 October 2022

Metro League Division 5

Terenure College RFC  15 – 21 Lansdowne FC

Ross Farrell’s Drive and J3s’ Excellent Defence Gives us a Big Win in Terenure

The J3s were already off to a strong start in the league with a convincing win over Monkstown at home, but no one doubted that their metal would be truly tested in this away fixture to last year’s League champions, Terenure.  It was and they passed the test with flying colours.

From the warm-up it looked like Terenure were still the same tightly organized unit that took the honours last year and from the first scrum, it was also painfully apparent that they had a roughly 10kg advantage man for man on us (“Except for me!”, conceded Conor Byrne later!)

But if Terenure ruled the scrum and in the early stages the lineouts too, our passing and opportunistic counter attacking in the open evened the balance. What tipped it in our favour in the end was energetic, intelligent and courageous tackling.  Terenure threw everything in their toolbox at us, but we held out, notably in the last ten minutes.

It was a perfect evening for rugby. Cool, dry and not a puff of wind. We were wearing our shiny new 150th Anniversary jerseys and we were honoured to play on the Lakelands’ pristine grass pitch.  The scene was set.

In the early stages, both sides tested each other out with Terenure making regular crash balls down the middle, while we spread the ball wide. Both sides matched attack with equally committed defence and the game was nearly half an hour old before the score board was called into service.  We had a few tantalizing forays to the Terenure danger zone, but most of the first half was spent defending our own line. But acting captain Luc Van Cauwelaert’s men never panicked in defence and over time seemed to come to understand the pattern of Terenure’s attack.  So alert were they, in fact, that they responded with lethal efficiency when opportunity presented itself. Ever-busy Flanker Matthew Whelehan turned over a ruck ball ten meters from our own line.  Scrum-half Alex Dillon took it on the blind side, and offloaded it to full back, Shane O’Sullivan, powering into the line and sprinting 20 meters before delivering a perfectly timed pass to speedy winger Max Moore. Max pushed the after burners for another 20 meters but was covered well by his opposite number, forcing him into a gravity-defying pass back inside to O’Sullivan following up. Sean cut inside, but he too was about to be cut off ten meters from their line when out-half Stephen (“Stewie”) Morris appeared out of nowhere calling for the ball. Sean managed to scoop it up as he was felled by their covering flanker and Steve went over for an extraordinary try.  Max converted as the bewildered Terenure side gathered under their own posts, wondering how they had ended up back there.  0 – 7 on the half hour mark.

The game returned to its earlier pattern with the home side dominating most set pieces and accounting for over 60% possession. Our cause wasn’t helped when lost our prop Eduardo Moffitt to a nasty cut from a head clash.  The champions resumed their attack and just moments before half time, their efforts were rewarded with a try and a conversion.  7 – 7 at the break.

And it was the same after the restart. Terenure’s superior weight in the pack was taking its toll, but while we struggled even on our own ball, we conceded few, if any scrum penalties. And as the bout wore on, we even regained control over our own lineouts.  But after another extended period of pressure Terenure scored again, roughly 20 minutes into the second half. But they didn’t convert, so we were still well within reach on 12 – 7.

For all the hosts were dominant up front, they were less comfortable moving the ball wide. Almost immediately after the restart out-half “Stewie” Morris read this weakness and tracked a Terenure ball being moved from the centre of the pitch by their replacement scrum half to centre and intended for their wing. But before it reached the winger, Morris deftly intercepted and ran the half of the pitch to score under their posts. 12 – 14.

Within five minutes, Terenure were back in our strike zone but perhaps it was a sign of the turning tide that when they won a penalty in the centre of the pitch about 40 meters out, they opted to kick the points rather than attack our line, regaining the narrowest lead. 15 – 14 with 15 minutes to play.

For the first time in the match, we took up a sustained attacking position in their defensive zone and looked threatening. Our pack now owned the lineouts, were about even in the scrums, but were getting to the breakdowns quicker and more effectively than the opposition.  While Terenure’s energy seemed to be running low, our young newbies were just getting going. Excellent performances at this stage were notable from hooker Fintan O’Malley, centre JJ Walsh and replacement back row, Saul Nicholson. And we also had the benefit of some old hands on the bench.  It was one of those legends, Ross Farrell who brought his war-horse experience to proceedings when he came on for the last quarter. Confidence in our pack restored, we retained short balls and on one of those attacks, Ross went over the line for his second successful drive of the day (sideline sources revealed that earlier that day Ross had passed his driving test!)  Max did the honours again and it was 15 – 21 with a nail biting ten minutes to go.

Impressive as our performance had been for the other 70 minutes, the last ten were possibly our best, perhaps even season-defining.  In previous years we might have capitulated under the renewed Terenure attack, but the combination of fitness, “heads-up” rugby and some complicated defensive maneuvers second row Jacques Chapeau tried to explain to this correspondent, we held out.  In particular, the way we counter mauled their lineout on our 10 meter line was a thing of beauty and was enough to knock the last ounce of fight out of the champions.

The whistle blew and we celebrated our new jerseys with a very big win.

 

Match Report: Brian Whelan

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