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Historic Headquarters Win For Lansdowne

Historic Headquarters Win For Lansdowne

Out-half Craig Ronaldson was the scorer-in-chief for Lansdowne as they enjoyed a hard-fought and historic 22-18 victory over local rivals Old Belvedere.

It was a most enjoyable Ulster Bank League encounter – the first ever to take place on the main pitch at the redeveloped home of Irish rugby – and showed just how difficult Old Belvedere's attempt to defend their Division 1 title will be.

This was 'Belvo's third successive defeat since the new league campaign began and Phil Werahiko's men will look back on this game with nothing with frustration, given that they blew and early 10-0 lead.

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Determined to end their losing streak, the visitors made a statement of their intent in the opening five minutes. After Leinster's Leo Auva'a powered through the middle, they took the lead courtesy of an Andy Dunne penalty from 25 metres out.

This was followed up six minutes later by a try in the left corner by powerful winger Henry Bryce, who broke away from a ruck to give 'Belvo a dream start to the proceedings.

Dunne, who was pulling the strings at out-half, was also on hand to knock over the subsequent conversion from wide out, setting his side on course for a morale-boosting first Division 1A victory.

However, as the first half went on, Lansdowne started to grow into the contest with their forwards beginning to gain ground.

After a period of sustained pressure, they opened their account with a try from influential out-half Craig Ronaldson after 29 minutes, who touched down to the left of the posts after good work from his half-back partner John Cooney.

Ronaldson was unlucky to see his resulting conversion come back off the post, but he quickly made amends by landing two penalties in the 34th and 38th minutes to edge Lansdowne in front for the first time.

A third place-kick from the dynamic number 10 in stoppage time gave the hosts a 14-10 interval advantage.

It had been a very open and exciting first half and that pattern continued upon the resumption. The lively Cooney, who has lined out for Leinster this season, offloaded superbly to put flanker Kieran Essex over in the right corner.

19-10 down after 43 minutes, 'Belvo now found themselves in a slightly precarious position. Even though replacement out-half Conal Keane reduced the margin, his penalty effort was cancelled out by a 51st minute kick from Ronaldson.

The Anglesea Road outfit then received a lifeline straight from the restart. Their fleet-footed full-back Daniel Riordan showed great persistence to burst through a number of Lansdowne challenges and collect his side's second try in the left corner.

'Belvo were now right back in the contest, and could have regained the lead when Keane was presented with kicking opportunities from a conversion and a penalty, in the 53rd and 62nd minutes respectively. Yet, he was narrowly wide on both occasions.

Belvedere continue to battle until the final whistle and had Mike Ruddock's Lansdowne side on the back foot for much of the closing ten minutes. In the end though, they had to settle for a losing bonus point for the third game running.

This was a great advertisement for Ulster Bank League rugby. The IRFU website's live streaming of the game also brought it to a wider audience, with players like Sean Carey, Martin Moore and Aidan Wynne producing the goods in front of the cameras.

Referee: John Lacey (IRFU)