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Centres Star For Lansdowne In League Opener
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Centres Star For Lansdowne In League Opener

Centres Star For Lansdowne In League Opener

Centres Tom Farrell and Tom Daly starred behind a dominant scrum as Lansdowne began their Division 1A title defence with a 29-6 bonus point victory over Young Munster.

As burly Lansdowne loosehead prop Ian Prendiville looked at his fellow forwards as they lined up for the new season's kick-off, he would have been forgiven for thinking he had changed clubs. Of the eight Lansdowne forwards who had started last May's Division 1A final against Clontarf, he was the sole survivor.

Peter Dooley (Leinster), Tyrone Moran (London Scottish), Brian Moylett and Ron Boucher (injured), Stephen Gardiner, Joe McSwiney and Aaron Conneely (all emigrated) left behind a huge void that had to be filled before the season started.

There were, however, still some fairly familiar faces in the pack- back rowers Ross Deacon, Conor O'Donnell and Joe O'Brien all had some Ulster Bank League experience over the past several years, while prop Jack Barry was no novice and hooker Jack McKenna and replacement Ntinga Mpiko made sure that last year's successful Under-20s were represented.

There has been little disruption to the Lansdowne backs, with ex-Dolphin full-back Eamonn Mills, a nephew of former Ireland international Fergus Aherne, and scrum half Matthew D'Arcy, who previously played for St. Mary's, adding to the strength in depth.

For Young Munster's Australian head coach Anthony Mathison, this was a step into the unknown. And although he was without a number of injured players for his first league game in charge, there was a very good spine to the team with Craig O'Hanlon at full-back, Diarmaid McCarthy and the returning Mark Doyle combining in the centre, captain Ger Slattery at hooker and Sean Duggan, Diarmaid Dee and Tom Goggin part of a powerful set of forwards.

The visiting forwards sought to dominate proceedings through brute force as they rucked, mauled and carried aggressively early on. Indeed, during the first half, if their out-half Paul Downes had converted two relatively straight-forward penalty efforts, Munsters would have turned around with more than a 6-3 lead.

As it stood at the break, Downes had dropped a neat goal from 40 metres on 15 minutes and cancelled out an equalising penalty from Lansdowne skipper Scott Deasy after 37 minutes.

If the Cookies had looked the more physically powerful side during the opening period, Lansdowne had looked the more dynamic, and the aggressive ball carrying and general play of Buccaneers recruit Josh O'Rourke, in particular, stood out. He was ably supported in the second row by former Cork Constitution stalwart Philip Donnellan, while Barry, Prendiville and Deacon at number 8 were not found wanting in the forward exchanges.

During the third quarter of an always absorbing match, the Young Munster pack's efforts began to flag as the smaller but livelier Lansdowne eight started to systematically dismantle them. The artificial pitch always ensures a high tempo game, and the home forwards continued to play at a pace that the visitors simply could not match.

The scrums, relatively even at the start, became a source of Lansdowne dominance and penalties accumulated as Barry and Prendiville set about their business.

Once Lansdowne cut down on the unforced errors and their systems began to work, their greater cohesion paid dividends. Add to that the touch of sheer quality centre Tom Farrell brought to the proceedings in the 45th minute when his outside break from his own 22-metre line led to a mazy, darting run that had O'Hanlon tied in knots long before Farrell crossed for what was a smashing solo try. Deasy added the conversion and Mike Ruddock's charges were ahead for the first time – 10-6.

This was followed shortly afterwards by a great thrust by powerful left winger Foster Horan, who came in from the blindside and carved through the Young Munster defence. The move broke down close to the Cookies' line, but Lansdowne were now in full cry. With Munsters left winger Darragh O'Neill in the bin, creative use of possession and a compelling build-up of momentum saw Lansdowne cross for a pushover try scored by Deacon which went unconverted.

The Lansdowne machine continued its well-oiled progress, and they were rewarded in the 65th minute with a penalty try after a Young Munster forward kicked the ball out of an advancing five-metre scrum. Deasy stroked over the simple conversion and the home side were home and hosed at 22-6.

The bonus point came just moments later when Ireland Sevens captain Tom Daly intercepted a wayward pass on the 10-metre line and strolled over between the posts. Deasy once again tagged on the extras for a 29-6 scoreline.

An unfortunate injury to Young Munster centre Doyle saw play held up for almost 20 minutes, but thankfully he was given the all-clear at St. Vincent's Hospital and returned to Limerick late on Saturday night. While Mathison's men made valiant late efforts when play resumed, the steam had gone out of the game and Lansdowne ran out worthy 21-point winners.

Referee: Mark Patton (IRFU)

Lineups Scorers

Match Lineups

Home Team

Eamonn Mills; Mark Roche, Tom Farrell, Tom Daly, Foster Horan; Scott Deasy (capt), Paddy O'Driscoll; Ian Prendiville, Jack McKenna, Adam Boland, Josh O'Rourke, Philip Donnellan, Joe O'Brien, Conor O'Donnell, Ross Deacon.

Replacements: Jack Barry, Ntinga Mpiko, Eoin Walsh, Matthew D'Arcy, Ferdia Doherty.               


Away Team

Craig O'Hanlon; Warren Kelly, Diarmaid McCarthy, Mark Doyle, Darragh O'Neill; Paul Downes, Gary Fitzgerald; Ger O'Flaherty, Ger Slattery (capt), Evan Ryan, Sean Duggan, Mike Madden, Alan Ross, Diarmaid Dee, Tom Goggin.

Replacements: Paul Allen, David Begley, Yasin Browne, Michael Vaughan, Wayne Murphy.

Match Scorers

Home Team

Tries: Tom Farrell, Penalty try, Ross Deacon, Tom Daly; Cons: Scott Deasy 3; Pen: Scott Deasy

Away Team

Pen: Paul Downes; Drop: Paul Downes