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McGrath Try Proves Decisive For Clontarf

McGrath Try Proves Decisive For Clontarf

Michael McGrath’s 63rd-minute try was the decisive score of Division 1A leaders Clontarf’s meeting with last year’s champions Lansdowne at Castle Avenue on Saturday.

The right winger's score helped the north Dubliners win 16-13 to retain their place at the summit of the table on the opening day of Ulster Bank League action in 2014.

Although this game was not quite as eye-catching as the clubs' encounter on the Aviva Stadium's back pitch last spring – when a victory for Lansdowne confirmed them as title winners – it was a gritty and fiercely contested tie nonetheless.

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With both teams eager to maintain the momentum that they had built towards the tail-end of 2013, it was no surprise that it was a tense opening to the proceedings.

Clontarf enjoyed the majority of possession during the early exchanges, but excellent work by the Lansdowne defence effectively kept them at bay.

On a day like this, discipline was always going to be crucial and Clontarf earned the first scoring chance through a 14th minute penalty after a Lansdowne scrum had been successfully turned over.

Their ever-dependable out-half David Joyce comfortably sent the close range effort between the posts to give the hosts a much-deserved lead.

Mike Ruddock's Lansdowne side restored parity just two minutes later when Joyce's opposite number, Scott Deasy, was also on target with a routine penalty.

'Tarf continued to pose problems for the visitors but although Evan Ryan and Colm O'Shea both threatened on occasion, the well-drilled Lansdowne defence proved to be a hard nut to crack.

As the interval approached Lansdowne did start to open up in attack themselves but despite their best endeavours, the teams were still on level terms (3-3) at the break.

The tit-for-tat nature of the game continued on the resumption as a 49th minute penalty by Joyce was cancelled out by a similar effort from Deasy.

The former Cork Constitution player superbly converted out on the left wing, but 'Tarf managed to restore their three-point advantage with a third Joyce score from the 22-metre line after 55 minutes.

Lansdowne were still very much in contention at this point, but they suffered a hammer blow just past the hour mark when influential winger Cian Aherne was sent to the sin-bin for an alleged high tackle.

His presence was certainly missed as Clontarf registered the score that eventually helped claimed their eighth victory of the campaign.

A fine move across the Lansdowne line led to Michael McGrath cutting in brilliantly from the wing and the powerful young winger broke through a number of tackles to reach over to the right of the posts.

An excellent conversion Joyce provided 'Tarf with considerable breathing space at 16-6, but Lansdowne forced their way back into the reckoning 13 minutes from time when centre Mark Roche drove over in spectacular fashion at the end of an enterprising passage of play.

Deasy's successful conversion set up a nerve-jangling finish for Clontarf, but rather than kick for the posts on 77 minutes, Lansdowne opted for touch in an effort to complete a stunning final quarter comeback.

However, they were unable to breach Clontarf's defence any further and had to settle for a losing bonus point in the end.

Referee: Sean Gallagher (IRFU)