17 May, 13:32
A selection of players from the Daughters of Charity in Munster recently took part in a challenge match at Garryowen Rugby Club.
Let’s be honest; losing at home to Garryowen is about as pleasant as being beaten about the head with a rusty pipe. You’re left battered, dizzy and more than a little sick. All the more reason then, to turn around 13 days later and right a few wrongs.
Lansdowne FC (not RFC, they’re that old) rolled into Greenfields having lost only once in six league outings. The boys from the banks of the Dodder also came armed with a Grand Slam winning coach, two Leinster Academy props, an implausibly tall pack, a nifty 10, a lively backline, and a track record of running in tries for fun. Just the kind of team who’d love a six-point head start, then.
With only eight minutes on the clock Lansdowne out-half Craig Ronaldson had his team a half-dozen to the good, the first penalty coming from a charged-down clearance, the second for hands in the ruck.
Still early doors but the visitors were dominating in the territory stakes and had it not been for some remarkably disciplined defence they could well have stretched their lead still further. Thankfully they didn’t, and when an over-anxious Lansdowne chaser got pinged for being ahead of full back Ross McCarron’s clearance kick the chance fell to scrum-half Brian Haugh to halve Lansdowne’s lead from just outside the 22. The former Rockwell star duly obliged and the Cookies had a foothold.
That foothold was to become parity within three minutes; this time Haugh’s predecessor in the No. 9 shirt (wearing 10 on this occasion) the evergreen Mike Prendergast slotted a snap drop goal from just outside the Lansdowne 22. The kick didn’t quite rival that which bounced off the crossbar and into history against UCD back in 2009 but this time it didn’t need to. This time Prendy slotted the kick from just outside the opposition’s 22, rather than his own. *
Having seen their lead pegged back, Lansdowne once again seized the initiative but for all their creativity and attacking acumen the home defence held firm. Credit must go to the entire XV whose discipline was unwavering and duly rewarded with a second Haugh penalty on the half-hour.
Not to be outdone, Ronaldson cancelled that effort out with one of his own after 33 minutes and when faced with a further penalty opportunity just shy of the break many would have expected the former Kilkenny College star to slot the kick and start again.
Not so, as Lansdowne tapped, went, and in their efforts to work the ball wide knocked on. There followed the game’s first bout of handbags and when the red mist had finally dissipated it was Ronaldson who this time took the points on offer.
Half-time: Young Munster 9 Lansdowne 12. All to play for, then.
The feeling at half-time in what was an evenly-contested, attritional game was that it would take a moment of magic or madness to separate the sides. It turned out to be the former. Step forward Dom Lespierre.
On 48 minutes, a Lansdowne knock-on was instantly fed wide to the right-winger who saw his opportunity and was gone before it had occurred to anyone to catch him. Raw speed took him past the first pair of would-be tacklers and a subtle step and change of direction left the full back and covering winger for dead.
To rapturous applause he touched down under the posts and embellished the try by skidding along the turf on his knees. Haugh did the needful from the kicking tee and for the next 20 minutes the gap remained as it was, Munsters leading 16-12.
A routine Ronaldson penalty cut the gap to the minimum with 5 minutes to play and there then began an endgame that could well have shortened the life expectancy of many on the sidelines.
Lansdowne did remarkably well to manoeuvre the ball from their own 22, right down to the Raheen Square end and eschewing the obvious drop goal pressed for what would have been a game-clinching try.
Lukas Kuntz was the grateful beneficiary when the ball was ultimately knocked on but even after a penalty had been dispatched to touch there was to be a sting in the tail.
A knock-on, a series of scrums, and some heart-stopping phases culminated in an ambitious Ronaldson drop-goal, which thankfully trailed to the right.
That was to be the last act and having begun the day 10 points adrift of the top of the table, the Cookies now face into the Christmas break with only seven points and two teams between them and the summit. All to play for, then. Roll on 2012.
* Upon mature recollection, Prendy slotted that drop-goal against UCD from behind his own try line, not his 22 as previously indicated.
Final score: Young Munster 16 – 15 Lansdowne
Young Munster: Craig O’Hanlon, Dom Lespierre, Mark Doyle, Lukas Kuntz, Darragh O’Neill, Mike Prendergast, Brian Haugh, Ger Flaherty, Ger Slattery, Hugh McGrath (capt), Seán Duggan, Darren Gallagher, Neville Melbourne, Luke Russell, Mark Rowley.
Subs: Daniel Montgomery, Darragh Cantillon, Colin Liston, Johnny Moroney, Gareth Quinn-McDonagh.
Lansdowne: Lansdowne: Jack O'Connell, Tom Sexton, Martin Moore, Willie Earle, Rob Hynes, Tadgh Beirne, Charlie Butterworth, Clive Ross, Paddy O’Driscoll, Craig Ronaldson, Matt Healy, Tom Daly, Foster Horan, Cian Aherne, Ross McCarron (capt).
Subs: Tyrone Moran, Richard Liddington, Steve Collins, Marcus Walsh, Sean Carey.
Elsewhere on Saturday the Thirds had a win over St Senan’s in the Gleeson League and the Under 21s team had a 17-10 victory over Dolphin.
Sunday 9th December
U13s League: Young Munster v Garryowen 11am Derryknockane
U12s Blitz: Young Munster 10.30 Tom Clifford Pk
Sunday 16th December
U19s North Munster League Semi Final: Garryowen v Young Munster 12.30 Dooradoyle
U13s League: Young Munster v Newcastle West 11.30am Derryknockane
Wednesday 26th December St Stephens Day
U12s Annual Lysaght Cup: Richmond v Young Munster 12 noon Canal Bank
U17s League: Young Munster 24 - 0 Shannon / St Mary’s
U14s League: Garryowen 14 - 10 Young Munster