Defending Division 1A champions Lansdowne ended their two-match losing streak with a 17-10 triumph at home to Garryowen, as captain Scott Deasy’s late penalty clinched an important result for Mike Ruddock’s men.
Lansdowne enjoyed their first outing of the season on the Aviva Stadium's main pitch in a match that served as a fine prequel for the Rugby World Cup final between New Zealand and Australia later in the afternoon.
Loosehead prop Peter Dooley returned from Leinster duty to anchor a dominant scrum, and the home lineout showed vast improvement over previous outings, providing a reliable source of good ball. Dooley exercised a strong stabilising influence on the Lansdowne pack, and he had an excellent match in all aspects of the game.
With dominance in the tight pretty much throughout, once they overcame early spirited resistance from a determined Garryowen outfit, the outcome was never really in doubt, and the seven-point winning margin in no way flattered Lansdowne.
The match started off at a frantic pace, but both sides lacked control and errors abounded. Lansdowne won a penalty in their first scrum, but were then penalised on Garryowen's first put-in.
The home backs were willing to run the ball from every position, and looked to have the edge over their opponents, with winger Mark Roche and centre Tom Farrell always threatening with ball in hand.
There was no score in the first quarter as defences were on top. Lansdowne lost flanker Joe O'Brien was sin-binned in the 20th minute for batting down a Garryowen pass.
Garryowen took advantage of their numerical superiority to open the scoring from the subsequent penalty – scrum half Neil Cronin slotted over from 37 metres out on the left.
Despite the absence of O'Brien, Lansdowne were beginning to crank themselves up, and they were unlucky to be called back following a clever blindside lineout move which would have resulted in a try.
Garryowen blindside Shane Buckley then joined his opposite number on the side line for 10 minutes as Lansdowne exerted strong pressure on the visitors' defence and, with home numbers restored, they duly scored the first try of the afternoon just before half-time.
Tallented Leinster Under-20 back rower Max Deegan went over off the back of an advancing five-metre scrum. Lansdowne's decision to take a scrum from a penalty against the Garryowen pack was thus rewarded and captain Scott Deasy duly added the extras for a 7-3 lead.
There was still time for centre Farrell to show his class with a fine cut and pivot out of the tackle, but the half-time whistle intervened, with Lansdowne having struck a strong psychological blow to carry over into the second period.
The headquarters club maintained their momentum after the restart, and kicked a penalty deep into the Garryowen half. From the subsequent lineout drive, Lansdowne were awarded a penalty in front of the posts, but again opted for the scrum. Two penalties later, referee Stuart Gaffikin walked under the uprights and awarded a penalty try which was again converted by Deasy.
Lansdowne's confidence was growing, and they launched promising counter attacks off two quick turnovers, with full back Eamonn Mills prominent. Farrell continued to threaten, and was unlucky not to link up with his centre partner Tom Daly with the Garryowen line in sight.
Second row Brian Moylett was not to be left out of the action, and set off on a barnstorming run through the Light Blues' defence, but the ball was lost forward.
With Dooley, hooker James Rael and tighthead Ian Prendiville delivering the goods at set piece time, Lansdowne continued to be in charge, but were unable to break down a stubborn Garryowen defence.
Out-half Deasy put in a great tackle to blot out a threatening attack in the 62nd minute, and winger Roche set up a great counter attack from deep in defence to again deny Garryowen.
The visitors rallied, but lost replacement Liam McMahon to a further yellow card after 72 minutes. Deasy was unable to capitalise from the subsequent penalty from 42 metres out.
Lansdowne were almost made to pay dearly when lively centre Andrew O'Byrne availed of a lapse in concentration by the home defence to cross for a 78th minute try which Cronin converted.
Lansdowne remained in control, however, and Garryowen failed to threaten again in attack. Skipper Deasy rounded off proceedings with a 35-metre penalty in injury-time to seal matters, with the visitors gaining a losing bonus point for their efforts.
Referee: Stuart Gaffikin (IRFU)