St Mary’s College RFC V Lansdowne FC
AIL Division 1 A
Friday 25th November 2016.
Whenever Lansdowne calls there is a frisson of excitement in the air, and so it was tonight. It is always a reminder of old friends, old rivalries and old battles and of course, of the immediate challenge faced. Tonight was no exception. As would be expected of Lansdowne they brought a fine, well balanced team that played assuredly, with pace and accuracy, and deservedly won. They are not on the top of the table without reason and it showed.
Even after the game, the warmth and maturity of inter-club friendships showed in the clubhouse. It is when we play old rivals like Lansdowne, that nostalgia and sadness for the decline in rugby fortunes for some of our seminal clubs, like Monkstown, Wanderers, Bective, NIFC, Instonians, Malone, Bandon, Mallow and many more come to mind. These are the clubs that made our game and laid out the values and mores that we try to follow today.
With a score line (21 – 45) like that it would seem to have been a lopsided affair; it was not. Twice Marys crept up to within striking distance only for a disappointing mishap to stamp out the spark. These were the few signal moments that changed the game.
No one likes wailers or moaners. However, it has to be said that, having lost six backs to injury and forced withdrawals over the past few months, and then to lose two players in the pre-match warm up, (one a back), did not help matters, nor did it make it easy for Jamie, Peter, Paudge and Brian. How they have coped must be applauded. It will get better.
What kept the balance in some check, and has to be a great source of comfort and optimism, was the high performance of the Marys’ pack, lead valiantly by the unstinting captain, Brian McGovern, playing against a formidable Lansdowne eight. Generally, the lineout was as good as it has been it in several seasons. The close understanding and inter support play was excellent. The scrum, unusually, had some difficulty in the second half, due it is believed to law interpretation. The entire pack was bubbling, it was a real bonus to have the highly talented, Caelan Doris, back and it is impossible to quantify the unrelenting, quality, iron work done by David O’Connor in the tight and open. In a cohort of warriors he was tops. He was the SoftCo MoM
The back line had been badly disrupted and it was a difficult evening for them. The half backs worked hard and Conor Dean had a good night and kicked 11 points.
For all that, it must be said that our overall defence was found wanting on occasions, frequently the results of individual tackle errors and misjudgements.
The game started with a confident take from Kevin Sheahan, who had an excellent game. He took the ball up and made 25 metres to set up a period of severe pressure on the Lansdowne line. Lansdowne lifted the siege, they got into our half; it was four minutes gone. Marys won the ball back and were running out of defence when an unfortunate intercept changed the course, immediately. The home side rallied, battled hard and got two penalties, well converted by Deano on seven and ten minutes. Unfortunately, on 23 minutes fast ball saw Lansdowne’s Marc O’Keefe swing in, from the wing, into the midfield and straight through to score, 6 – 14. An entertaining, high grade grapple between the two sides ensued. To and fro it went, as tides of fortune ebbed and flowed. Lansdowne got into position and set up camp in our 22. They took it on forwards, backs, ones and twos, drove, surged, checked and jinked; still the defence held, determined and committed. Over and back, breaths were held and then, the ball into touch in the gate corner, whew, we took the lineout, and made a strong clearance to near the halfway line. A huge sigh lifted vapoured breaths into the chilly air. Salvation? Only for a moment! The visitors’ Two, lofted the ball sailing to the back of the lineout, a deftly redirected ball, Ninewards and on to wing in three whooshes. Carvill Corner saw the ball planted for a try. Now it was, 6 -19. But no buckling, by the home side, instead renewed effort and an offside gave Deano a chance and he made it 9 – 19, on 33 minutes. Marys continued to press and when a penalty was awarded on 37 minutes McGov opted for the corner. A well taken lineout and a maul was set up and, this proven Marys’ weapon was deployed. When it dispersed at the line, the pack kept patient and took the ball in drives towards the line with real venom, and after five drives, David O’Connor surged over to make it 14 – 19 and hope glowed. It was half time
The second half was three minutes old when Lansdowne’s reliable kicker Scott Deasy made it 14 – 22. Then, on 48 minutes, a kick from defence went straight into the hands of Lansdowne’s right winger, Daniel McEvoy and he ran through our defence at pace to score a very good try. It was 14 – 29. We then got a penalty on 51 minutes, it was put into the gate corner, and we formed our famed all-in maul; and weaved and wangled our way across the line, Caelan Doris securing the try, converted by Deano; 21 – 29. On 56 minutes a scrum penalty let Deasy make it 21 – 32, then, another enigmatic scrum penalty (with yellow card), on 72 minutes, saw it go to 21 – 35. They added another penalty on 76 minutes, 21 – 38, and finally ran in a converted try, from their own half; so final score was 21 – 45.
On a positive note, the entire management group know that the team is very close to fulfilment. There are areas that need addressing but, but hard work will correct these and we shall be getting payers back. Next Saturday is a most important game V Old Belvedere, at Anglesia Road. It is only down the road so we must make that special effort to get there and support. It is our last AIL game before the long Christmas break. To get a result would be a real boost for all concerned and put the wind firmly behind us at the restart in late January. Looking at the table, we are in ninth position, with 17 points, one behind UCD and Clontarf both on 18, and two behind our hosts next Saturday (19). Garryowen are a point further ahead on 20 points. One can see therefore, that a win could potentially move us up four places, so a lot to play for. Think about that, please, and do actually make that special effort and get there. PLEASE.
Team (including rolling replacements) 15 C Hogan, 14 I O’Neill, 13 D Fanagan, 12 P Lavelle, , 11 Z O’Hagan, 10 C Dean, 9 P O’Driscoll; 8 C Doris, 7 N McCarthy, 6 K Sheahan, 5 C O’Flaherty, 4 D O’Connor, 3 B McGovern (Capt), 2 R Halpin, 1 T O’Reilly, S O’Brien, E Ferron, C Ruddock P Starrett, M Fogarty.