This past Saturday the showpiece event in Irish club rugby took place in the Aviva stadium. The Division 1A League final between Clontarf and Lansdowne.
Both teams had successfully navigated themselves through the long season to finish in the top four and then through the playoffs. Clontarf with a nervy 9-0 win over Terenure, while Lansdowne left it late to clinch a victory over Young Munster with an injury time try to win the game.
The IRFU and Ulster Bank did their best to promote the event. Moving the final to The Aviva was a nice touch, giving the occasion a feeling of significance that it deserved. They put together some great footage of the occasion as well, evening gathering good luck messages to the teams from pro players. There was a surprisingly large amount of noise generated by the loyal pockets of supporters that attended.
Ulster Bank had erected inflatable goal posts for a special drop goal competition for those who wanted to try their hand at it. They also had photographers placed outside the ground that were on hand to take pictures of the younger supporters. These were then shown on the big screens in the stadium at halftime, no doubt making many of young child’s day.
The game itself lived up to expectations with some thrilling rugby being played by both sides. Lansdowne were dominated at times by the Clontarf team who put together some excellent passages of play only for the final pass to ultimately let them down.
Being without their first choice outhalf and top points scorer David Joyce, Rob Keogh stepped up and took over the goal kicking duties. Keeping his side in the game with a series of penalties.
Scott Deasy’s excellent cross field kick was gathered by Ian Fitzpatrick who did brilliantly to collect the ball and then feed Mark Roche who finished the try superbly. But Clontarf kept the pressure on Lansdowne, Colm O’Shea and winger Conor O’Brien worked fantastically down the right wing to create a break and had the line at their mercy only for the last pass to hit the deck and possession to be turned over. While stand out centre Matt Darcy made a break down the opposite flank off a midfield scrum only for a similar outcome to happen.
Darcy then intercepted an incredibly telegraphed pass from Scott Deasy to race over half the pitch to score for Clontarf after half time putting Clontarf in a commanding position. But Lansdowne were beginning to come back into the game, this lead to them marching into the Clontarf territory and ending up with a line out right on the opposition’s line. What followed was a well worked try from Man-of-the-Match, Joe McSwiney, from a maul close to the Clontarf line.
No doubt, the turning point of the game when Clontarf substitute Ariel Robles was sin binned for a fairly innocuous looking tackle on full back Cian Kelleher. But down to fourteen men Lansdowne took the upper hand. This eventually lead to Scott Deasy landing a tricky kick to give them a one point lead. And that was how the score stayed, Clontarf were awarded a late penalty on the halfway line that looked to be out of range for their kickers, instead opting to tap and go leading the ball to be turned over two phases later. This must have been a hard pill to swallow for the men from north Dublin, having already lost the Bateman (All Ireland Cup) to Cork Constitution. They will not doubt rue their missed opportunities that they had to put this game away.
Match report by Daniel Pim