If Lansdowne manage to win the Ulster Bank League title against champions Clontarf at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday (1pm), they will be eternally grateful to Young Munster for giving them a timely wake-up call.
Lansdowne finished top of the league and secured a home semi-final against the Limerick side, who travelled to Dublin as rank outsiders only to force the game to extra-time before succumbing (19-23) to a last-minute try.
Thankful for that late reprieve, Lansdowne’s head coach Mike Ruddock said he hoped ultimately that the fright they got from a dogged Young Munster would help them in their quest to win a second title in three years.
“It was a massive examination for us and, don’t forget, from the side that won the title two years ago, I think 13 players have gone; that was a reasonably hardened team then so we have had to rebuild the team and a lot of those boys would not have had to come through such a game over the past year or so.
“That was a very different type of game for them, it was a one off, we topped the table to get the home semi-final but this suddenly became a cup game and for many of the players, it became a new dimension. I think we learned a hell of a lot from that game because Young Munster were very good on the day and it took everything we had to get a result.
“The preparations this week have not been perfect (because of exams) but the ferocity of that game and the competitiveness of that game is a perfect lead in before this game. It’s a bit like playing in Europe if you like before an international season; it’s exactly the level you want to be at. It would have been a much more difficult task had we had to play them away so they deserve a big clap for what they brought to the semi final.”
His sentiments were echoed by Lansdowne skipper Ron Boucher. What has he taken from the outcome of the semi-final? “Gratitude really, we were really lucky to beat them, they played fantastically well and they executed their game plan and punished us when we switched off.
“What it did show us is that you have to concentrate for 80 minutes, we were caught napping for a try and for one of their penalties as well and it just shows that when you get to knock out games against the best teams then you’ve got to really stay switched on for the entire game, and hopefully that’s something we will bring with ut to the final on Saturday.”
Although impressive in their semi final victory (9-0) against Terenure, holders Clontarf recognise the need to improve also. Head coach Andy Wood revealed there is a chance that injured out-half David Joyce might make it back in time. He suffered a shoulder injury in the last play of the recent Bateman Cup final at Temple Hill, a match Clontarf lost to Cork Constitution despite being hot favourites to lift the title.
Wood hopes his side will have learned from that defeat in Cork.
“For us it was a lot of games in a row and it would have been great going into this final with another trophy under our belt, we didn’t get it and it was disappointing so we had to bounce back fairly quickly, and I am very pleased we did that in the semi-final in a very difficult game, a game of attrition in which conditions dictated a lot of how we had to play but we had to bounce back and thankfully we did.”
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