Lansdowne J1 v Barnhall MU
Metro League Division 1
What a terrific match of J1 rugby this turned out to be. Between two sides who gave it their all, in a great advertisement for the game at this level.
The J1 outfit took to the field following two recent defeats over the past couple of weekends, they knew that this home game against Barnhall was a must win, if they were to stay in contention in Premier Division One.
What followed was a thoroughly entertaining game where the lead changed hands a number of times, and both sets of players deserve great credit for a combative game played in very good spirits with both sides trying their utmost to achieve victory. The day was cold, but the conditions were fine and with little wind it meant both teams could go after it from the start.
The J1 side started well, and the early skirmishes saw them get an early breakthrough after good work by Tom Roche, Rohan Van Der Akker touched down close to the right-hand posts, leaving an easy conversion for Billy Foley to make the score 7 – 0.
Barnhall reacted immediately and went on the front foot attacking the home side in rigorous fashion and probing for their own breakthrough. However, there were some fine defenses by the home team and the attacks were repelled. It was left to the Barnhall No.10 to slot over a penalty following an infringement from the home side, to leave the scoreline at 7-3.
Both sides then had their moments; there were chances missed with the territory battle being fairly even between the teams. It was the visitors who showed real grit and no shortage of skill in backline moves, gaining field position and eventually breaking through to allow their No.12 to score a fine try with a touchline conversion, giving them the lead at 10-12.
There was not much between the sides as the half went on, but the J1 forwards enjoyed a period of dominance and after some great work that allowed hooker Henry Godson to score from close in with Foley converting, giving them the lead at 14 – 10. This pattern continued from the restart and again the home side probed away, and it was that man again, that Oisin Devitt scored from a sniping run and a great offload, not for the first time this season. With Foley’s conversion, it left the half time score at 21 – 10.
This was hard on Barnhall who throughout the half had been competitive, and it was they who started the second half better and in fact for the writer, dominated the opening exchanges of the half. This led to two fine tries; one converted from their left winger and No. 12, along with a penalty from their outside half. This was a complete turnaround and from trailing from the break they now in the lead by 21 – 25 and deserved to be in front midway through the second half.
The J1’s did not play badly but were out fought during this period of the game. They say it takes a moment in a game to change it and following a yellow card for Lansdowne, that proved a wakeup call. The J1 forward pack started to pick and go and in doing so were gaining ground. There was fine performances in this regard by all of the forwards, particularly Stephen Walshe and Smiley Stephen Callinan.
This play served to drive the team forward, and back into the game, and from inside the Barnhall ’22, the ball was carried by prop Oscar Egan who with plenty to do showed real determination and strength breaking through the home defense to touchdown near the right-hand posts. With Foley adding the conversion, the lead had changed hands, and it was this time the home side who struck the front again with approximately 10 minutes to play at 28 – 25.
As hard as Barnhall tried the petrol tank had been emptied and they had to throw caution to the wind when they got possession, leading to errors which pinned them back in their own ‘22. It was from one of these periods of play, and in particular a reset scrum on a couple of occasions that the ball was lost by Barnhall at the back of the scrum allowing out half Billy Foley to poach possession close to their try line and he made no mistake in touching down giving the home side breathing space. With the conversion, pushed the scoreline out to 35 – 25.
There was still approximately 5 minutes to play, a lot of energy had been expanded by both teams and the remainder of the game petered out. At the final whistle it was relief for the home side who really needed this win which puts them in to 3rd place in the table over the Christmas break. They showed real character given the recent disappointing losses that they had suffered over the previous two weeks.
For the visitors, huge credit, they came to play, and you had to applaud them for their efforts in what turned out to be a really enjoyable game to be involved in. That completes the first half of the season and the J1 team sit third in the standings behind Trinity and Clontarf, in a very close division. The league will resume again at the end of January with a game at home to UCD. The J1 team are left with five games to play, four of which are at home.
I will finish this week by saying well done to Donnacha Cooke who played on Saturday and no doubt after having a few lemonades on Saturday night, dragged himself out of the scratcher and togged out on the bench for the J1 team on Sunday, showing what commitment is all about for the Jersey.
Match Report – John Kilroy