Prendergast: 'Ruthless' Lansdowne will take title
LANSDOWNE took another important step in their bid to capture the title with an emphatic bonus-point success over Young Munster on the back pitch at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.
The win extends Lansdowne's lead to 14 points ahead of Clontarf at the top of the table with just five games remaining. There would appear to be no chance of them blowing such an advantage. Significantly, they seem to be able to deliver with whatever team they put on the park. But there are a number of key performers and two of them – Craig Ronaldson at out-half and wing Cian Aherne – delivered in some style on Saturday.
Ronaldson contributed 17 points with a try, two penalties and three conversions, while Aherne weighed in with two of Lansdowne's five tries.
Three of them had arrived by half-time. By that stage, Lansdowne were 22-3 in front, second-row Willie Earle, Ronaldson and Aherne having crossed for tries.
Things got worse for Young Munster after the interval when Aherne and the impressive centre Forster Horan crossed for further tries.
With Ronaldson adding a penalty and conversion, Lansdowne surged into a 37-3 lead.
But Young Munster showed considerable character not to concede any further points and they put some respectability on the scoreboard with two late tries from Ger Burke and Darragh O'Neill, both of which were converted by replacement Shane O'Leary.
The victory was ample revenge for Lansdowne's 16-15 away loss to Young Munster, one of just two defeats the league leaders have suffered this season.
Despite their 14-point advantage at the top of the table, their coach Mike Ruddock isn't taking anything for granted.
"Sure, I'm very pleased to get that result; I would have settled for 37 points before the game. We were missing some players, but they were as well.
"The good thing is that whatever combination I put out, the people coming in are doing their job. It's a good squad."
Good enough to go on and take the title? "There's no question of us getting ahead of ourselves. There are five games left and we still have to play two of the in-form teams in St Mary's and Clontarf.
"We just have to do what we are doing, which is turn out every week and play to the best of our ability."
Mike Prendergast, the Young Munster player-coach, will be amazed if Lansdowne do somehow slip up.
He said: "They are quality side, they have quality across the park. They are ruthless and accurate in their finishing. Once they make a line-break, they generally score.
"So, they are going to take a lot of stopping. For us, it's about finishing the season on a high, we are still fourth in the table.
"We still have five Munster derbies to come, two Cork and three Limerick. So, there's plenty to keep us interested."
Lansdowne – R McCarron (Capt); C Aherne, M Roche, F Horan, M Healy; C Ronaldson, P O'Driscoll; I Prendiville, T Sexton, D O'Reilly, W Earle, T Beirne, C Ross, C Butterworth, R Boucher. Reps: S Collins, R Liddington, M Feely, M Walsh.
Young Munster – C O'Hanlon; S McCauley, M Doyle, L Kuntz, D O'Neill; M Prengergast, D Bannon; G Flaherty, G Slattery (Capt), A Cotter, M Madden, S Duggan, C Liston, M Rowley, M Melbourne. Reps: G Burke, H McGrath, D Gallagher, T Goggins, S O'Leary.
Ref – K Barry.