Sunday 18 November 2018

Unbeaten Lansdowne pull away at top

AIL Round-Up

With the three teams directly below them all suffering defeats, unbeaten Lansdowne grasped the opportunity to enhance their standing at the top of Division 1A following a bruising 12-8 victory away to third-placed Terenure College yesterday.

Mike Ruddock's men are now 16 points clear and will have home advantage in the league semi-finals - barring a big collapse in the final third of the regular season. They chalked up win number 12 at Lakelands Park as influential forwards Josh O'Rourke and Aaron Conneely touched down late on in either half.

However, it was their toughest game of the campaign as Terenure pushed them all the way. Hooker and captain Robbie Smyth was driven over the line from a muscular 21st-minute maul to shoot James Blaney's side in front. Out-half Mark O'Neill was unable to add the conversion in windy conditions.

With the back-lines cancelling each other out, it was a day for the forwards. Lock O'Rourke found enough space to crash over five minutes before the break, with Scott Deasy's conversion giving Lansdowne a 7-5 buffer. But they were quickly back on the defensive during scrum half Alan Bennie's sin-bin period.

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A penalty from O'Neill nudged 'Nure ahead at 8-7 and the scoreboard remained untouched until Lansdowne turned another unrelenting bout of forward pressure into points with 68 minutes on the clock.

Blindside Conneely made the breakthrough to give his side a hard-earned four-point lead. Roared on by the sizable home crowd, it was all hands to the pump as 'Nure hunted for a late match-winning try, and although the game went right down to the wire, leaders Lansdowne dug deep in defence to take home the spoils.

Meanwhile, a brace of second-half tries from outstanding full-back Dave Fanagan helped St Mary's College claim a much-needed 18-16 win over defending champions Cork Constitution in Division 1A of the Ulster Bank League yesterday afternoon.

Con's challenge came to life in the second quarter as forward pressure and a series of powerful drives gave them momentum. Aidan Moynihan knocked over a penalty from in front of the posts, and the visitors' persistence paid off as they created space on the left wing for Rob Jermyn to sprint over.

Mary's turned around for the second half with an 8-6 deficit and facing into a stiff breeze. They fell further behind courtesy of a penalty from Moynihan. Heading towards the final quarter, some brilliant interplay between Moynihan and Michael Clune put full-back Joe White over for Con's second try out wide.

Crucially, Moynihan was unable to convert and this missed kick had a bigger bearing on the outcome than anyone could have anticipated. Suddenly, with 15 minutes remaining, man-of-the-match Fanagan powered over the line after breaking through a Con tackle, offering his side a new lease of life in the process.

The pacy full-back repeated the trick at the end of a prolonged move just five minutes later, and replacement Conor Dean, who is part of Noel McNamara's Ireland Under-20 Six Nations squad, stepped up to convert and sensationally fire Mary's back in front.

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