AIB LEAGUE DIVISION 2 FINAL:
Lansdowne 17 Bruff 10, Anglesea Road
Willie Clancy's Lansdowne side had just about enough in their armoury to repel Bruff in the AIB League Division 2 final at Anglesea Road this afternoon.
Early on, Bruff failed to heed the warning sign when Lansdowne winger Matthew Healy almost got away down the left. He was not about to pass up a second opportunity when his full-back David Hewitt drifted outside one defender and took another out with a pass.
There was still plenty for Healy to do. He shrugged off centre John Malone with a stiff hand-off before scampering to the line. Out-half Andrew Geraghty landed the conversion from wide on the left for a 7-0 lead in the fifth minute.
This drew a positive response from the Limerick club. But they were frustrated when being held up over the whitewash and whistled for crossing in the shadow of Lansdowne's posts.
The Dubliners were back in business when Geraghty wheeled around the outside of Bruff's defence, his dangerous kick snuffed out by full-back Pat Thompson.
Then, Thompson launched a massive counter kick, prompting calamitous errors from Hewitt running out of defence and a hack of a clearance from winger Shane Gahan which landed behind his own try-line for Bruff winger John Moore to pounce on the ball and score in the 22nd minute.
From a lineout, the Lansdowne forwards were too slow to roll away for referee Simon McDowell's liking, once a maul had been turned into a ruck. Yet Bruff captain Brian Cahill skied the penalty right and wide.
Immediately, a destructive Bruff scrum forced the Lansdowne front row to pop up under pressure. Cahill was short of the target from way out on the left. Then, Moore hared onto a short ball but was snuffed out by a vigilant defence.
Those missed chances proved costly. Former Connacht and Leinster prop John Lyne showed up in the unusual position as first receiver from a ruck to confuse Bruff, swiftly moving the ball on to Geraghty and Hewitt eventually exposed a soft shoulder for a sweet try, converted by Geraghty. That made it 14-5 on the cusp of half-time.
There was a tepid start to the second period with a number of injuries and replacements preventing either side from generating momentum. Perhaps, it was not a surprise on a warm afternoon. The onus was on Bruff to make something happen out of nothing given the nine-point gap.
The persistence of Lansdowne flanker Ben Horan and prop Jack O'Connell in grappling with Bruff's David Gardiner forced a penalty from holding on too long on the deck. Geraghty first kicked for position and then for three points when Bruff came in from the side at a ruck in the 53rd minute.
Full-back Thompson was twice involved in a superb movement as Bruff hit back with a try. For the first time, Eoin Cahill's charges showed clarity of movement for Brian Cahill to almost break clear. The quick recycle allowed Thompson to shred an out of kilter defence and reduce the arrears to 17-10 at the end of the third quarter.
Bruff were committed to coming forward at this stage, taking Lansdowne on around the sides. But they saw their only obvious opening fail when Moore could not hold onto a high pass in the dying minutes, and the Dublin 4 outfit were left to celebrate a deserved victory.
LANSDOWNE: David Hewitt; Shane Gahan, Kieran Lewis, Greg Stafford, Matthew Healy; Andrew Geraghty, Brian O'Riordan; John Lyne (capt), Paddy Flood, Jack O'Connell, Neilus Keogh, Willie Earles, Aidan McCullen, Ben Horan, Brian McKeever.
Replacements used: Ron Boucher for McKeever (half-time), Rhys Jones for Boucher (80+2 mins).
BRUFF: Pat Thompson; Andrew Cashman, John Malone, John Carroll, John Moore; Brian Cahill (capt), Tony Cahill; David Horan, Cathal O'Regan, Stephen Foster, Alan Bourke, Maurice O'Connell, David Gardiner, John Shine, Michael Carroll.
Replacements used: Peter Malone for O'Connell, Diarmuid Murnane for M Carroll (both 45 mins), Nigel Riordan for Thompson (47 mins, temp), Eoghan Maher for J Carroll (77).
Referee: Simon McDowell (IRFU)
Scorers: Lansdowne: Tries: Matthew Healy, David Hewitt; Cons: Andrew Geraghty 2; Pen: Andrew Geraghty
Bruff: Tries: John Moore, Pat Thompson