Mike Ruddock’s Lansdowne launched their Ulster Bank League campaign with a 32-25 bonus point victory away to Garryowen on Saturday afternoon.
The Light Blues battled back for a late losing bonus point, but the visitors were full value for their win which builds on their early season Leinster Senior League Cup form.
Lansdowne were 26-10 and four tries to the good by half-time, Daniel McEvoy impressing with a brace and fellow winger John O'Donnell and Ireland Sevens international Alan Bennie also touching down.
The Wigan-born O'Donnell, who previously played for Sale Sharks, had an encouraging league debut and like Bennie, he was part of the Ireland Sevens set-up for much of the summer.
Lansdowne's early scrum dominance in Limerick set the tone for a productive day for the visiting pack. The starting front row of Peter Dooley, returning hooker Tyrone Moran and new captain Ian Prendiville won four penalties and a free-kick from the first five scrums.
A lineout steal paved the way for excellent scrum half Bennie to touch down in the third minute, marking his first league start for Lansdowne with a try. Off another lineout platform, an inside pass inviting the onrushing McEvoy through for his first score which Deasy converted for 14-0.
Out-half Deasy provided the assist and a cracking conversion for the visitors' third try. McEvoy did not break stride as he zoomed up to gather the Corkman's cross-field kick and score out wide, leaving Garryowen 21 points adrift.
The home side, who now have former Ireland star Denis Leamy coaching their forwards, got off the mark with a 40-metre penalty from scrum half and skipper Neil Cronin, and a somewhat fortuitous seven-pointer followed. The ball was hacked through and bounced away from the Lansdowne defenders and into the path of winger Hugh O'Brien-Cunningham who pounced to score against the run of play.
Lansdowne answered back to take a 16-point advantage into the break. Garryowen lost tighthead Mike O'Donnell to injury, his replacement Sean Seymour also picked up a knock and with a hooker coming on in his place, the game's subsequent scrums were uncontested.
After Garryowen loosehead Niall Horan stopped a maul illegally, picking up the first of the hosts' four yellow cards, Lansdowne kicked the penalty to touch, won the lineout and teed up debutant O'Donnell for a well-worked try and the bonus point.
Two barnstorming carries from Dooley and Moran kept Lansdowne on the front foot early in the second period, and with Cronin sent to the sin-bin for further Garryowen indiscipline, Deasy fired the resulting penalty through the uprights for 29-10.
Deasy's second successful penalty came just short of the hour mark, and Lansdowne might have had a fifth try by then. O'Donnell intercepted a midfield pass but was hauled down short of the try-line having injured his hamstring.
Continuing to infringe to protect their line, Garryowen were briefly reduced to 12 men but bounced back to score two tries in a five-minute spell. Industrious flanker Johnny Keane got over in the corner in the 65th minute and Munster's David Johnston, who started at inside centre, followed him over the whitewash soon after.
Garryowen's blitz of points – 15 in all – was topped off by a conversion and a penalty from Cronin, with the latter kick giving them a hard-earned losing bonus point that had looked highly unlikely just 20 minutes previously.
Lansdowne lost front rowers Moran and Prendiville to the bin in the closing quarter and while the headquarters club did take their foot off the gas, Garryowen can at least take some positives forward into next week's trip to Old Belvedere.
Referee: Sean Gallagher (IRFU)