LANSDOWNE have gone 10 points clear at the top of Division 1A following a bonus-point success over another of the leading challengers Garryowen on the back pitch at the Aviva Stadium.
While second-placed Young Munster do have a game in hand, Mike Ruddock's Lansdowne outfit are clearly going to be hard to catch. This was another impressive victory against a Garryowen side that contributed handsomely to a highly entertaining game.
After conceding an early try, Garryowen scored two tries through JP Cooney and Cian O'Shea to go in level (15-15) at half-time.
Lansdowne responded with tries from full-back Ross McCarron and wing Cian Aherne, while their out-half Craig Ronaldson also landed one conversion and two penalties.
But Lansdowne were to have the better of it in the second half. They upped their intensity for centre Mark Roche to go over for a try shortly after the break, converted by Ronaldson, to make it 22-15.
After withstanding some intense Garryowen pressure, Lansdowne then made sure of the bonus point when the impressive Aherne went over for his second try. The other wing Matt Healy then added a further opportunist try.
The 34-14 scoreline was very unflattering to Garryowen but they did secure a consolation try in the dying minutes from Aaron McCloskey.
"That was a tough match." stressed Lansdowne coach Mike Ruddock. "We knew they would lift their game and they showed today that they are a good side.
"They caused us a lot of problems in the first half but we tightened our defence up in the second half. I think the try just after half-time, set up by the forwards, was crucial."
Unsurprisingly, Ruddock believes there remains a lot of work to be done if Lansdowne are to go on and take the title. "Well, there are still seven matches left and Young Munster still have to play us at the Aviva. Furthermore, we face a tough away match against Cork Con next weekend. They are the one side in the league I haven't coached a winning team against."
Garryowen coach Tom Tierney said his team would keep plugging away, although they are now in third spot some 12 points behind Lansdowne. "It's just a case of us hopefully getting back on the horse by beating UL Bohs next week.
"We were well in the game today for a long time but credit to Lansdowne. They play a very good brand of rugby and are now clearly going to take a lot of catching."
Lansdowne – R McCarron (capt); C Aherne, M Roche, S Morrissey, M Healy; C Ronaldson, J Cooney; R Liddington, T Sexton, D O'Reilly, M Feely, W Earle, C Ross, C Butterworth, R Boucher. Replacements: T Moran, I Prendiville, T Beirne, P O'Driscoll, F Doherty.
Garryowen – R O'Mahony; J McInerney, C Hircock, C Doyle, C O'Shea; M Jarvis, N Cronin; R Brosnan, D Rowley, JP Cooney, A McCloskey, M Melbourne, TJ Anderson, A Kavanagh, D Sherry (capt). Replacements: J Griffin, B Cullinane, A Kennedy, E Connolly, L Bourke.
Ref – G Clancy